No one knows with certainty why some people experience panic disorder and why others do not. Several theories have been presented to explain the cause of panic attacks. Three of the most often cited explanations are the biological theory, the behavioral theory, and the psychodynamic theory.
Biological theory states that there is a genetic predisposition to experience panic attacks. Research has established that there is, in certain families, a clear genetic disposition to experience panic attacks.
The behavioral theory states that we experience panic attacks from the way we learn to adapt and to deal with our emotions and our thinking. We also come to anticipate and fear further panic experiences which quickly results in our experiencing more fear and more attacks.
The third theory is psychodynamic theory. This theory states that the predisposition for panic attacks was created in our childhood. Experiences of childhood abuse and neglect, issues of self-esteem and how we learned to deal with upsetting feelings, ie. psychological defenses, determine why certain people experience panic attacks in adult life.
Based upon my 35 years of experience treating patients with panic attacks, it is my opinion that all three theories are correct. That is, based upon my observations of hundreds of patients, without a genetic predisposition, panic attacks will not occur regardless of other learned experiences.
Without exception, all patients I have treated with panic attacks have what is known as cognitive distortions otherwise known as "stinking-thinking."
The way we think determines how we feel. For example, if you hear a noise in the living room at three in the morning and you think, "Oh, that is the cat," you experience an emotional calming and you return to sleep. If you hear the exact same sound and you say to yourself, "That is a burglar!," you experience a high level of anxiety and fear. People suffering panic attacks often times think rationally and repress their feelings. These repressed feelings act like steam pressure in a geyser; when the pressure becomes too high, a geyser of anxiety shoots through to the surface.Although it is very terrifying and emotionally debilitating, nevertheless, it will not hurt you!
Treatment for panic attacks is highly successful. If you are suffering from panic disorder (frequent occurence of panic attacks and worry about having them) or other anxiety disorders, please click on the link below and call me for an evaluation.
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