What is “” about?

Hi Hannah! Thanks for writing in!

We R Native is a health resource for Native youth. We want to make sure you have factual information on the topics you’re interested in. We want to help you live your best life possible and hope that we can help.

What causes panic attacks?

For your question about panic attacks, they are a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends.


It’s not known what causes panic attacks or panic disorder, but these factors may play a role:

  • Genetics
  • Major stress
  • Temperament that is more sensitive to stress or prone to negative emotions
  • Certain changes in the way parts of your brain function

Panic attacks may come on suddenly and without warning at first, but over time, they’re usually triggered by certain situations.

Risk factors

Symptoms of panic disorder often start in the late teens or early adulthood and affect more women than men.

Factors that may increase the risk of developing panic attacks or panic disorder include:

  • Family history of panic attacks or panic disorder
  • Major life stress, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one
  • A traumatic event, such as sexual assault or a serious accident
  • Major changes in your life, such as a divorce or the addition of a baby
  • Smoking or excessive caffeine intake
  • History of childhood physical or sexual abuse


There’s no sure way to prevent panic attacks or panic disorder. However, these recommendations may help.

  • Get treatment for panic attacks as soon as possible to help stop them from getting worse or becoming more frequent.
  • Stick with your treatment plan to help prevent relapses or worsening of panic attack symptoms.
  • Get regular physical activity, which may play a role in protecting against anxiety.

When to see a doctor

If you have panic attack symptoms (like, sense of impending doom, rapid pounding heart rate, sweating or chills, chest pain, dizziness, hot flashes, etc.), seek medical help as soon as possible. Panic attacks, while intensely uncomfortable, are not dangerous. But panic attacks are hard to manage on your own, and they may get worse without treatment.

Panic attack symptoms can also resemble symptoms of other serious health problems, such as a heart attack, so it’s important to get evaluated by your primary care provider if you aren’t sure what’s causing your symptoms.

  • Check with your tribal clinic
  • School counselor or nurse
  • Mental Health America has a zip code locator to help you find clinics near you

If you want to talk to someone immediately, please text START to 741741.

Thanks for writing in and I hope this helps!

Take care,

Auntie Manda

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