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What causes anxiety attacks?

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Quick Answer

The exact causes of anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders are unknown, but evidence suggest that two major causes include changes in the brain and environmental stress, according to WebMD. Severe stress and long-term stress issues change the way the brain responds to such situations, which may cause any of four anxiety disorders.

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Full Answer

Mayo Clinic indicates anxiety can be caused by underlying health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, drug abuse and alcohol withdrawal. Traumatic events and stress may trigger anxiety attacks in people who are already prone to anxiety disorders. A patient with an anxiety disorder is more likely to have a medical cause if that person does not have a family history or personal history of such conditions.

Anxiety affects millions of Americans, and some of them have symptoms that begin in childhood and adolescence. These disorders affect women slightly more than men, and all races are diagnosed equally, according to WebMD. There are no laboratory tests to confirm anxiety disorders, but psychiatrists and psychologists interview patients to assess which anxiety disorder may be present.

The four basic types of anxiety disorders include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias and generalized anxiety. Panic disorder occurs when someone has a sudden feeling of terror. Social anxieties are present in people who overly worry about normal social situations. Phobias are strong, irrational fears, such as arachnophobia, or a fear of spiders. Generalized anxiety disorder is marked by excessive tension even if there is nothing to worry about in a situation, according to WebMD.

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