Why Do I Have Panic Attacks?

A panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms: palpitations, accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling, shaking, or shortness of breath. Most people who experience panic attacks ask the question, ‘Why do I have them?’ While there is no known exact reasons for panic attacks, here are some common underlying causes:


1) Genetic predisposition

You can be genetically predisposed to panic attacks (research link). While your environmental factors also play a huge role in developing panic attacks, it can be genetic. It may be beneficial to speak with your immediate family members to see if someone else also experiences them. They may even be able to give you tips on how they help to manage them.


2) Anxiety throughout childhood

Another reason you may have developed panic attacks is growing up in an environment where you did not always feel safe. If a child is not taught that they can pursue enjoyment out of life, they can grow up believing the world is a dangerous place. This could happen if there is a death in the family, severe illness, alcoholism, or divorce. Sometimes in these environments, children learn to spend too much time caring for others and not taking care of themselves.


3) Responding to challenges in adulthood

The third underlying reason you may have developed panic attacks is that you experienced stressful challenges for a year or so prior the onset of the attacks. It could even be positive events, but ones that had a big impact or a stressful effect. This could cause panic attacks when one does not have positive coping skills for managing stress.


The commonality of these factors is that none of them are in your control. They are developmental events in life that happen, which means being predisposed to panic attacks is not something controllable by the individual. This is why no one should be made to feel guilty or ashamed about having panic attacks.


If you are struggling with panic attacks, click here to work with a therapist who can help.