You Actually Might Not Be Having An Anxiety Attack
It’s crucial to remember that just as anxiety attacks can mimic other medical conditions, other medical conditions can mimic anxiety attacks. As Michael J Formica, MS, MA, EdM explains in Psychology Today, there are a variety of un-psychiatric illnesses that share symptoms with anxiety and panic disorder. One of these is hyperthyroidism, which can present itself in the form of “heart palpitations, breathlessness and trembling hands,” as well as difficulty concentrating and extreme fatigue.
The answer, of course, is to rule out the possibility that you have an underlying condition that may be causing your distress. 300,000 people are diagnosed with hyperthyroidism annually, and women are more likely to develop the condition than men. Diabetes can also cause extreme anxiousness, and seeking treatment for it can therefore alleviate many anxiety-related symptoms. Having simple blood work done to test for a range of maladies is advisable, if only to rule out other concerns.
Drug Dependence And Withdrawal
When taken regularly, benzodiazepines lead to physical dependence and tolerance, with increasingly larger doses needed to get the same anxiety relief as before. This happens quickly—usually within a couple of months, but sometimes in as little as a few weeks.
If you abruptly stop taking your medication, you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Increased anxiety, restlessness, shaking.
- Depression, confusion, panic attacks.
- Pounding heart, sweating, and in severe cases, seizure.
Many people mistake withdrawal symptoms for a return of their original anxiety condition, making them think they need to restart the medication. Gradually tapering off the drug will help minimize the withdrawal reaction.
Changes In Digestive Function
Cortisol blocks processes that the body considers nonessential in a fight or flight situation.
One of these blocked processes is digestion. Also, adrenaline reduces blood flow and relaxes the stomach muscles.
As a result, a person with anxiety may experience nausea, , and a feeling that the stomach is churning. They may also lose their appetite.
suggests that stress and are linked to several digestive diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome .
One , of outpatients at a gastroenterology clinic in Mumbai, reported that 30–40 percent of participants with IBS also had anxiety or depression.
How Does Medication Treat Anxiety Disorders
Medications can’t cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include:
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry. They work quickly, but you can build up a tolerance to them. That makes them less effective over time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the short-term, then taper you off or the provider may add an antidepressant to the mix.
- Antidepressants can also help with anxiety disorders. They tweak how your brain uses certain chemicals to improve mood and reduce stress. may take some time to work, so be patient. If you feel like you’re ready to stop taking antidepressants, talk to your provider first.
- Beta-blockers, usually used for high blood pressure, can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. They can relieve rapid heartbeat, shaking and trembling.
Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the right medication combination and dosage. Don’t change the dose without consulting your provider. They’ll monitor you to make sure the medicines are working without causing negative side effects.
Try A Book Or Online Course
When you are diagnosed with GAD, your GP may recommend trying self-help treatments before having more intensive psychological therapy or medication.
This will usually involve working from a book or computer programme for around six weeks or longer. In some cases, you may be closely supported by a trained therapist who you will speak to every week or two, although some treatments only involve minimal or occasional contact with a therapist who will monitor your progress.
There are a number of different books and courses available that can help you learn to cope with your anxiety, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence only recommends trying treatments based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy .
CBT is a type of psychological treatment that can help you understand your condition better and how your problems, thoughts, feelings and behaviour affect each other. The aim of CBT-based treatments is to help you learn ways to manage your anxiety by modifying negative or unhelpful behaviour and thoughts.
Find out more about Living Life – a service which offers appointment-based telephone support based upon cognitive behavioural therapy.
What If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment
If you are not happy with your treatment you can:
- talk to your doctor about your treatment options,
- ask for a second opinion,
- get an advocate to help you speak to your doctor,
- contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service and see whether they can help, or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below.
You should first speak to your doctor about your treatment. Explain why you are not happy with it. You could ask what other treatments you could try.
Tell your doctor if there is a type of treatment that you would like to try. Doctors should listen to your preference. If you are not given this treatment, ask your doctor to explain why it is not suitable for you.
A second opinion means that you would like a different doctor to give their opinion about what treatment you should have. You can also ask for a second opinion if you disagree with your diagnosis. You don’t have a right to a second opinion. But your doctor should listen to your reason for wanting a second opinion.
An advocate is independent from the mental health service. They are free to use. They can be useful if you find it difficult to get your views heard. There are different types of advocates available. Community advocates can support you to get a health professional to listen to your concerns. And help you to get the treatment that you would like.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service
You can find your local PALS’ details through this website link:
Treatment Of Anxiety Disorders
The two main treatments for anxiety are psychotherapy and medication, and many people benefit from a combination of the two.
- Psychotherapy: Talk therapy is effective in helping people identify, process, and cope with their triggers of anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a highly effective, short-term treatment that helps people learn specific skills to target their specific triggers.
- : Antidepressants generally have some mild side effects but help alleviate some symptoms of anxiety. Antidepressants can be used for an extended period of time. Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medication that can also be used on an ongoing basis. Benzodiazepines can be used on a limited basis to mitigate anxiety symptoms, but they can be habit-forming. All medications should be thoroughly discussed with your healthcare provider. Any side effects should be reported immediately. Never discontinue the use of these medications without supervision from your healthcare provider.
- Lifestyle changes: There are several changes you can make at home before you try medications. Daily exercise, good sleep hygiene, healthy eating, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol are all home remedies that can decrease symptoms of anxiety.
Find What Relaxes You
There are already things in your life that relax you. You may find it beneficial to make a list of things you enjoy and that help you to relax so you can reference it when symptoms of anxiety arise. When you notice your anxiety rising turn to those activities to help stop symptoms before they escalate.
For example, if you find that a warm bath is relaxing, don’t wait, draw a bath, maybe light some candles or add a few nice scents and get in. Whether it’s a bath, a shower, skipping stones at a park, getting a massage – if it works, do it right away, rather than allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by your anxiety.
If Someone Has A More Serious Anxiety Problem Avoid Stigmatizing Them
What can we do for folks with more serious issues? People experiencing things like panic disorder, depression mixed with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or obsessional thinking may fear that they’re literally going crazy. Helping them may feel beyond your ability.
You can still be supportive in many ways. When someone is experiencing significant anxiety, it’s helpful to reassure them that your overall perception of them hasn’t changed. They’re still the same person; they’re just suffering a temporary problem situation that has become out of control. They’re not broken and who they are hasn’t changed. To the extent possible, you can help the person stay connected to positive aspects of their identity by participating in or encouraging their interests and hobbies.
Sometimes, individuals who have chronic anxiety problems aren’t interested in changing. For example, you might be friends with someone who has agoraphobia or an eating disorder, but their condition is long-term and stable. In these cases, you can be accepting of that person so that they don’t feel isolated. Being matter-of-fact about their limitations without excessively shaming them or insisting they should pursue becoming “normal” is often the best strategy.
Who Can Diagnose Anxiety Disorders
If your provider finds no signs of physical illness, they may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They may use specially designed interview and assessment tools to figure out if you have an anxiety disorder. Typically, the provider bases a diagnosis on:
- Your reported symptoms, including how intense they are and how long they last.
- Discussion of how the symptoms interfere with your daily life.
- The provider’s observation of your attitude and behavior.
Providers also consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The American Psychiatric Association publishes the DSM-5. It’s the standard reference manual for diagnosing mental illnesses.
Tips To Manage Anxiety And Stress
Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity , or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.
If you are the parent of a college-aged child with an anxiety disorder, here are some to help with managing his or her anxiety.
Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
In addition to the primary symptom of excessive and irrational fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread.
- Watching for signs of danger.
- Anticipating the worst.
- Feeling like your mind’s gone blank.
But anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, it also involves a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Pounding heart.
- Shaking or trembling.
Because of these physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is finally recognized.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Physical Symptoms
Whether you’re dealing with anxiousness or a diagnosable anxiety disorder, it can manifest in your body in multiple ways. “From head to toe, almost every system can be impacted just by nature of your body releasing a lot of stress hormones,” Mona Potter, M.D., medical director at McLean Anxiety Mastery Program in Boston, tells SELF. But why does it happen?
Well, you have your fight-or-flight response to thank for your physical anxiety symptoms. Typically, it’s supposed to help you survive a threat by escaping or fending it off. In way-back-then cave-people days, that threat might have been something along the lines of a lion. If you have anxiety, though, your fear and worry are that threat, prompting your sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary processes like your breathing and heart rate, to kick into high gear. This leads your adrenal glands to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to the Mayo Clinic. This domino effect is behind anxiety’s physical symptoms.
“When a person experiences anxiety, it’s essentially the fight-or-flight system kicking in and saying, ‘Danger!’” Neda Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Anxiety Disorders Clinic, tells SELF.
So what are the physical symptoms of anxiety to look out for?
Talk To Someone Friendly
Another very effective technique is to talk to someone you like and trust, especially on the phone. Don’t be shy about your anxiety – tell them you feel anxious and explain what you’re feeling.
Talking to nice, empathetic people keeps your mind off of your symptoms, and the supportive nature of friends and family gives you an added boost of confidence. If you’re suffering from a panic attack, it also helps you feel more confident that if something were wrong, you’d have someone that can watch over you.
Ssri Antidepressants For Anxiety
Many medications originally approved for the treatment of depression are also prescribed for anxiety. In comparison to benzodiazepines, the risk for dependency and abuse is smaller. However, antidepressants take up to 4 to 6 weeks to begin relieving anxiety symptoms, so they can’t be taken “as needed.” Their use is limited to chronic anxiety problems that require ongoing treatment.
The most widely prescribed for anxiety are SSRIs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa. SSRIs have been used to treat generalized anxiety disorder , obsessive-compulsive disorder , panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Common side effects of SSRIs include:
- Increased sweating
What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder
This section provides an overview of the most common types of anxiety disorders.
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Generalised anxiety disorder
GAD is common. The main symptom of GAD is over worrying about different activities and events. This may feel out of your control. You feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel ‘on edge’ and alert to your surroundings.
This can affect your day-to-day life. You might find that it affects your ability to work, travel places or leave the house. You might also get tired easily or have trouble sleeping or concentrating. You might have physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and sweating.
It is common to have other conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders if you have GAD.
GAD can be difficult to diagnose because it does not have some of the unique symptoms of other anxiety disorders. Your doctor is likely to say you have GAD if you have felt anxious for most days over six months and it has had a bad impact on areas of your life.
Panic disorder symptoms can include the following.
Certain situations can cause panic attacks. For example, you may have a panic attack if you don’t like small places but you have to use a lift. This doesn’t mean that you have panic disorder.
Social anxiety disorder
Some common situations where you may experience anxiety are the following.
You may be worried that you will do something or act in a way that is embarrassing.
Major Effects Of Anxiety On The Brain
#1. Anxiety Floods Your Brain with Stress Hormones
- When you feel anxious, your body goes on alert, prompting your brain to prepare itself for flight or fight mode. In an attempt to help you fight off whatever has made you anxious, your brain floods your central nervous system with adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones tell your body that something scary is about to happen. Their role is to help you cope with danger. In order to do that, they sharpen your senses and make your reflexes faster. In a non-anxious brain, when the danger is gone, the sympathetic part of your nervous system takes over and calms you down. But when you suffer from anxiety, you may not be able to reach that sense of calm. Instead, the rush of stress hormones causes your brain to release even more stress hormones until you’re simply overwhelmed.
#2. Anxiety Makes Your Brain Hyperactive to Threats
#3. Anxiety Can Make It Hard for Your Brain to Reason Rationally
#4. Anxiety Can Train Your Brain to Hold Onto Negative Memories
How Can I Get Help If I Think I Have An Anxiety Disorder
You should make an appointment to talk with your GP if you are worried about your symptoms. Or they are causing problems in your day to day life.
Your doctor will look at different things when deciding on your treatment such as the following.
- Your diagnosis and symptoms.
- Any other conditions you have.
- Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence .
Talking therapiesThe NHS’ ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ programme has made psychological therapy more available on the NHS. IAPT services mainly provide support for low to moderate anxiety and depression.
The service can be run by the local NHS Trust or a non-NHS agency, like a charity who work with the local Trust.
IAPT should be available in your area. You can often self-refer or ask your GP to refer you.
To find your local the IAPT service you can search online here:
You can also ask your GP or PALS service for details of local IAPT services.
You can get more information about:
- GP: What to expect from your GP by clicking .
- Medication. Choice and managing problems by clicking .
- Talking therapies by clicking .
How Anxiety Disorders Affect People
For people dealing with anxiety disorders, symptoms can feel strange and confusing at first. For some, the physical sensations can be strong and upsetting. For others, feelings of doom or fear that can happen for no apparent reason can make them feel scared, unprotected, and on guard. Constant worries can make a person feel overwhelmed by every little thing. All this can affect someone’s concentration, confidence, sleep, appetite, and outlook.
People with anxiety disorders might avoid talking about their worries, thinking that others might not understand. They may fear being unfairly judged, or considered weak or scared. Although anxiety disorders are common, people who have them may feel misunderstood or alone.
Some people with anxiety disorders might blame themselves. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed, or mistakenly think that anxiety is a weakness or a personal failing. Anxiety can keep people from going places or doing things they enjoy.
The good news is, doctors today understand anxiety disorders better than ever before and, with treatment, a person can feel better.
Are There Tests That Diagnose Anxiety
A single test can’t diagnose anxiety. Instead, an anxiety diagnosis requires a lengthy process of physical examinations, mental health evaluations, and psychological questionnaires.
Some doctors may conduct a physical exam, including blood or urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to symptoms you’re experiencing.
Several anxiety tests and scales are also used to help your doctor assess the level of anxiety you’re experiencing. Reach about each of these tests.
Anxiety: What It Is What To Do
While anxiety symptoms vary widely, odds are good that at some point you’ve experienced occasional physical and emotional distress signals such as panicky breathing, your heart pounding in your chest, trouble sleeping, feelings of dread, or even loops of worry. That’s normal.
“Experiencing anxiety is normal,” says Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. “A certain amount of anxiety can even be helpful. The problem is that sometimes the systems underlying our anxiety responses get dysregulated, so that we overreact or react to the wrong situations.”
Help Someone Who Is Anxious To Temper Their Thinking
You’ll be a more useful support person if you educate yourself about cognitive-behavioral models of anxiety, which you can do by or attending a therapy session with your loved one. But, in lieu of that, you might try using some techniques that can be helpful to people suffering from anxiety.
Typically, anxious people have a natural bias towards thinking about worst-case scenarios. To help them get some perspective on this, you can use a cognitive therapy technique where you ask them to consider three questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- What’s the best that could happen?
- What’s most realistic or likely?
So, if your loved one is anxious that they were supposed to hear from their parents hours ago but haven’t, you can suggest they consider the worst, best, and most likely explanations for the lack of contact.
Take care not to overly reassure your loved one that their fears won’t come to pass. It’s more useful to emphasize their coping ability. For example, if they’re worried about having a panic attack on a plane, you could say, “That would be extremely unpleasant and scary, but you’d deal with it.” And, if your loved one is feeling anxious that someone else is angry with them or disappointed in them, it’s often useful to remind them that you can only ever choose your own actions and not completely control other people’s responses.
You Answered Yes To Question
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, you might have an anxiety disorder. Most people deal with stress in their lives, but when stress begins to significantly interfere with our functioning and/or causes impairment, it might be more problematic than â€œeveryday stressâ€?. The good news is that anxiety disorders can be successfully treated. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and think that they are negatively interfering with your life, it might be time to seek treatment!
It will be important to begin with a structured clinical evaluation by a professional to see if you meet criteria for an anxiety disorder, which will inform your treatment plan. Our mental health impacts many aspects of our lives, such as our physical health and our quality of life, which is why it is so important to address any mental health problems with effective treatments!
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. To begin your search for a mental health professional, go to the ADAA’s Therapist Directory.
Anxiety As A Warning Sign
Anxiety may be just the warning sign you need to bring awareness to your current situation and make some necessary changes in your life. Recurrent worry and nervousness can be an indication that some areas of your life are off track and need adjusting.
For example, you may find that you have a relationship that is no longer working, perhaps your job is causing a great deal of , or maybe financial issues have you losing sleep and feeling anxious.
Your symptoms can be difficult to manage, but exploring and coping with your anxiety can be a real opportunity for self-growth.
The next time anxiety strikes, consider what message it has for you and the possible adjustments you may need to make in your life.