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Causes Of Anxiety Attacks

Causes of anxiety attacks vary and range from situational emotions, to physical disorders. But how is anxiety related to headache, specifically migraine?

Most migraineurs (about 85%) have some degree of anxiety from mild to severe. Why is this? Well the receptor sites that are responsible for migraine are called 5HT receptors. Guess what the anxiety ones are..yes you got it..the same ones. Both types are subsets of the 5HT receptor in the brain, and when one is firing off, the other fires off. This is why symptoms of mild anxiety attack may cause a migraine.

Many parents might be surprised to learn that anxiety attacks in children are not uncommon. At times we may have trouble realizing that children can be afflicted with adult syndromes.

Unfortunately, as a headache profile worsens and you have more and more migraine headache symptoms you may start to have increased anxiety, even outside the migraine phase.

Generally, there are four basic causes of anxiety attacks:

  • Psychological where a combination of external and internal stressors become overwhelming.
  • Genetic. Up to 50% of people with panic disorder have at least one relative with anxiety.
  • Biological. Numerous studies support the theory of dysregulation of several receptors in the brain incluing GABA, seratonin and norepinephrine.
  • Medical. Cardiovascular illness such as a heart attack can cause anxiety, as can any chronic disease.

There are other causes of anxiety, some of which will respond to lifestyle changes. These include:

  • chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • malfunctions in brain chemistry
  • migraines
  • surges in adrenaline
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • marijuana use
  • high levels of caffeine and/or nicotine

Why Do I Have Anxiety Attacks?

anxiety We are all born different right? Well that includes your brain. Every person is born with certain genetic factors and we now know that migraine is genetically associated. Therefore, so is anxiety.

Many times I will see patients with mood complaints and in reviewing their history, many members of the family also have the same problems.

Often, cases of mild and even moderate anxiety can be brought under control through lifestyle changes. Medical causes of chronic fatigue need to be ruled out and sleep issues corrected. Excercise goes a long way to correct lower levels of seratonin and endorphins in the brain, both of which help you feel good. Nutritional deficiencies include vitamin deficiencies, especially B12. Low vitamin B12 worsens anxiety. Whether you want to believe it or not, chronic use of marijuana causes changes in the brain and can worsen anxiety. Caffeine and nicotine bind to nerve tissue and cause a sense of nervousness so cutting back or eliminating both of these will improve your mood.

There are also different types of anxiety and anxiety attack symptoms including:

Tests For Anxiety

The Beck Anxiety Inventory is actually a test you can take yourself. This may help you decide whether or not you need to seek professional help and perhaps are hesitating. Don't forget that finding the proper support when searching for answers about causes of anxiety attacks is very important. You can find this kind of support from Sound-Mind.org.

One thing to remember with causes of anxiety attacks is to keep an open mind. Treatment can involve many venues such as psychotherapy with a counselor, psychiatric services to monitor medications and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise. Symptoms of mild anxiety may respond to natural remedies for anxiety.

There are two medications I recommend for mild to moderate anxiety, Paxil or Lexapro. Both of these drugs can ease symptoms and Lexapro is quite nice in that it begins to work in about 10 days. Sometimes patients will ask me 'Can seroquel be used for anxiety?


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