Anxiety attack causes are numerous. The National Institute of Mental Health in the US has been examining in depth the causes of major mental disorders and as part of its findings it has found valuable pointers that help answer the question.
According to their findings the following are the main causes of Anxiety Attacks and panic disorders: –
(2) Brain Malfunction
(3) Biochemical Abnormalities
(4) Environmental Stress
Genetics: Clinical investigation into the causes of anxiety disorders has thrown up the fact that genetics plays a part insofar as a large number of families in the studies have been found to be prior to the disorders. This would underpin the long held belief that mental illness can be genetic in origin also.
Brain Malfunction: The researchers also found that the parts of the brain responsible for the organization of data received from external stimuli, known as the hippocampi and the locus ceruleus (part of the brain stem), appear to become over reactive when exposed to certain stimuli . This malfunction may result in anxiety disorders. As part of their work the scientists used a number of different techniques to induce pandemic attacks. One of these included giving the subjects large doses of caffeine. Those people who were sooner to having panic attacks did in fact have such attacks in varying degrees, though the severity was muted because the subjects knew in advance that the caffeine might have an adverse effect on their brain functions. The subjects who had no history of anxiety attacks inflicted no ill effects.
Biochemical Abnormalities: As part of the tests subjects were also given doses of sodium lactate intravenously. Sodium lactate is a naturally occurring chemical that builds up in the body during heavy exercise. This was found to induce anxiety attacks also. As many foods, especially dairy foods, use lactic acid for conservative purposes it may well be a factor in inducing the biochemical abnormality that results in anxiety or panic attacks. It was also found that people who inhale high levels of carbon-dioxide may also succumb to anxiety or panic attacks.
Environmental Stress: It is a well known fact that one of the main anxiety attack, Post Traumatic Syndrome, results from a person's interaction with their environment. Soldiers returning home from a war zone are very prone to these attacks. People who have survived natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes or volcanoes, suffer from such attacks also.