Symptoms Of Anxiety Attacks
It is normal to feel anxious in response to certain situations or experiences. Our bodies have a natural fight-or-flight response when faced with danger or stress. Anxiety attacks go beyond feeling butterflies in your stomach when youre nervous and extend to an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.
The signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack can vary from person to person but are generally experienced as both physical and psychological indicators. Many times the symptoms occur in response to a trigger that the person perceives as a threat or possible danger. Other times, the symptoms can occur spontaneously.
A person experiencing an anxiety attack could have any number of the following signs and symptoms:
Regain Control With Meditation
Meditation is another common intervention that can be helpful not only as a preventative measure to reduce anxiety on an ongoing basis, but also as a tool to re-establish your relationship with your thoughts, which becomes important during an attack.
It can help clients become an observing witness to the fluctuations of thought, realize they are not controlled by them, and consequently reduce symptoms, says Meredith Strauss, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating anxiety and depression. By focusing on the breath, or the mantra, clients are distracted from disturbing thoughts dictated by the mind. They also learn to become non-judgmental of negative and distracting thoughts as they become a witness to their own thinking.
She also notes there are meditation apps available that help calm an anxious and overactive mind. Also, writing thoughts in a journal can also help the client vent and understand the origin of their feelings.
Why Do Anxiety Attacks Cause These Physical Symptoms
One of the most common reasons that anxiety attacks are such a frightening experience is because they cause physical symptoms that mimic more serious diseases. This causes many people to become incredibly fearful for their health, believing that there is no way something like anxiety can lead to such a physical response.
But anxiety causes a host of different physical reactions that can explain most of the anxiety symptoms, and the most common cause is hyperventilation.
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How To Stop A Panic Attack
If a panic attack occurs, what do you do?
Duval suggests grounding yourself or becoming aware of your surroundings and sensory experiences. This can be achieved by deep breathing, for example.
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A big part of stopping a panic attack is to ride out the initial intensity and let it come down, she says. Sometimes being present in the moment can be helpful. Orient yourself to your surroundings.
While panic attacks arent uncommon, you shouldnt have to live in fear. Frequent attacks become a problem when they are causing distress and causing you to withdraw from activities or responsibilities.
Sometimes people will become afraid they might have another panic attack and will begin avoiding doing activities that might bring one on, Duval says. This can cause significant impairment.
If panic attacks or anxiety are making it difficult to live life the way you want, or if theyre causing distress, it might be time to seek out professional help.
How Are Anxiety Attacks Diagnosed And Treated
- There is no test that can say for sure that you have an anxiety disorder. An anxiety attack can feel like symptoms of other health problems, so these problems need to be ruled out. For example, chest pain and shortness of breath during an anxiety attack can feel like a heart attack.
- Repeated anxiety attacks are a real health problem that needs to be treated. You may need to see a counselor. A counselor may help you understand what is causing the anxiety or fear. A counselor may help you learn relaxation techniques to decrease your anxiety. Medicine may also be needed to help your anxiety. It may take many months of treatment to make sure your anxiety attacks do not come back.
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Remember That It Will Pass
During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.
Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety, and that it will be over soon.
Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their onset, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.
Is Someone Else Having The Panic Attack
If your friend or family member has panic attacks, some things that you can do to help include the following:
- Stay calm to let the person know that everything is and will be ok. The person might be scared – try to remember that a panic attack is just an intense response to stress. Dont act panicked or voice their fears instead be a soothing voice of encouragement
- Stay with the person as they ride out the panic attack remind them you are there to support them and that it will pass
- Be understanding and empathetic dont act embarrassed, ashamed or ask them to stop, as they cant help what they are going through. Instead be positive, tell them how well they are doing and that you know they can get through this
- Try to help through deep breathing or guided imagery to help redirect a persons focus
You may also want to encourage them to seek help. If their panic attacks are having an impact on their home or work life, they may want to get the support of a mental health professional.
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Introduction To Anxiety Attacks/panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks are not a psychological term, so their definition can vary a bit depending on the speaker. But anxiety attacks are often used either synonymously with the term “panic attacks” .
Panic attacks are short term moments of anxiety so severe, it can feel like you are about to die. During an anxiety attack, you’ll often experience a host of physical and mental symptoms that can leave you severely frightened and incredibly drained once they pass. These include:
It’s not uncommon to experience other unusual symptoms during an anxiety attack that all contribute to further fear. Anxiety attacks tend to peak around 10 minutes in and then slowly fade over the course of a few hours, often leaving the individual drained and anxious, and in some cases wondering what went wrong.
These panic attacks are rarely just feelings of nervousness or worry. They are very physical and mental events. Those that have never had a panic attack before dont always realize that they had an anxiety attack. Some people have first-time anxiety attacks so severe that they call the hospital because they think something is going horribly wrong.
Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
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Ways To Prevent Panic Attacks
“You need to try to work out what particular stress you might be under that could make your symptoms worse,” says Professor Salkovskis. “It’s important not to restrict your movements and daily activities.”
- Doing breathing exercises every day will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening
- Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence
- Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking these can make panic attacks worse. Panic support groups have useful advice about how you can effectively manage your attacks. Knowing that other people are experiencing the same feelings can be reassuring. Your GP can put you in touch with groups in your area
- Cognitive behavioural therapy can identify and change the negative thought patterns that are feeding your panic attacks
Advice On What To Do During A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense anxiety that happens without warning. It is often accompanied by powerful physical symptoms and can be so frightening that people can believe that they are having a heart attack, collapsing or even dying.
It is important to know what to do in the moment when a panic attack arises and recognise that there is help available to support in the longer term.
No-one wants to experience panic attacks. At Priory Group, we know that they can stop a person from being able to live their life to the full. With the right treatment, panic attacks can be controlled and prevented, allowing a person to take steps towards living a healthy and fulfilling life.
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How To Cope With An Anxiety Attack
Lets start with the immediate, quick hacks to help you freeze your anxiety attack once it kicks into your life. No matter how scared or helpless you feel at that moment, try to do the following things:
Do a Simple Stretch
When you have an attack, your breath is too short and shallow, meaning it worsens further symptoms. Once you feel the panic stand up and start doing some simple stretching. If you manage to squeeze in a yawn, that will help you tame the attack even faster. Stretching and yawning instantly helps you relieve muscle tension and interrupt the vicious cycle that is just about to roll in full strength.
Focus on your breathing.
No need to master the art of meditation for this. Simply inhale for three counts and exhale for five. Repeat the exercise for as long as you need to.
Drink a glass of ice-cold water.
To regulate your bodys temperature and reduce the escalating cycle of panic, slowly drink a glass of icy water. Take small sips and focus on every gulp you make. While drinking, imagine how your body and mind is cooling down.
Focus on using peripheral vision
To activate your parasympathetic nervous system, use this simple meditation technique: focus your gaze on an imaginary point in front of you relax your focus and use your peripheral vision, as if you are trying to take in everything around you with soft focus. It signals to your brain to relax. The more you practice this technique the faster it will help you to relax in any situation.
Panic Attack Treatment And Prevention
Cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the first-line, evidence-based treatments for anxiety. These treatments can be used separately or in combination.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and addressing anxiety-related thoughts and behaviors. It often involves meeting with a therapist weekly and practicing hands-on strategies each day to manage anxious thoughts and behaviors.
SSRIs are taken daily and can help adjust levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which can affect mood and anxiety. There are many types of SSRIs. A medication provider will determine which one is best for you and will meet with you regularly to monitor benefits and side effects.
Duval doesnt recommend avoidance strategies or using substances such as drugs or alcohol to cope with or abstain from anxious feelings or panic attacks. Incorrect use of substances, including prescriptions, can interfere with relationships and work.
It is a way to mask or avoid the anxiety were not giving ourselves ways to manage it that are going to decrease it long term, Duval says.
Instead, she suggests finding strategies to manage the attacks or reduce the anxiety around having a panic attack.
The challenge is that oftentimes the more we try to prevent something, the more it will happen, Duval says. A big part of managing anxiety and panic is finding ways to face it.
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Anxiety: What It Is What To Do
- By Francesca Coltrera, Editor, Harvard Health Blog
While anxiety symptoms vary widely, odds are good that at some point youve 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. Thats 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.
Dos And Donts When Someone Is Having An Anxiety Attack
Do not ask them to calm down but do listen to them with empathy.
Since the start of pandemic, there has been an exponential rise in people experiencing mental health challenges across the world. According to a study, there were 375,000 Google searches for anxiety between March and May of last year alone. This is because for many, this is the first time theyre confronted with challenges like anxiety and depression, and dont know what to do when they or someone close to them is experiencing it.
An anxiety attack can be a very scary experience and handling it correctly can go a long way in calming the person down. With the help of Panneer, Re:Set has put together a list of dos and donts to help calm someone having an anxiety attack.
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To Relieve Anxiety Talk Out Loud To Yourself
Give yourself permission to have an anxiety attack by saying the words out loud. Remind yourself that the attack will end, and it wont kill you or cause you to faint.
Carbonell says that understanding the physiology of fainting and reminding yourself of it is important. People faint when their blood pressure drops. A anxiety attack can make you feel like youre going to faint, but you wont because your blood pressure doesn’t drop during an attack. Remind yourself out loud of truths like these to counter your fears.
How To End An Anxiety Or Panic Attack
An anxiety attack can be terrifying, but it wont kill you. If you want to overcome it, take a deep breath and know it will end soon.
“Anxiety” is a general term that describes a variety of experiences, including nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry, that are common in several mental health disorders. While most of us have anxiety at some time, this is completely different from an anxiety attack or anxiety disorder. Normal feelings of nervousness, worry, and fear often have a known trigger . But when you’re having a full blown panic attack or anxiety attack, the symptoms chest pain, flushing skin, racing heart, and difficulty breathing can make you feel as though you’re going to faint, lose your mind, or die. The reality is, you wont. The key to surviving is to learn all you can about anxiety attacks and practice the skills you need to get through them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of an anxiety attack include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Feeling of unreality or detachment
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Trembling or shaking
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers practical strategies in how to deal with stress and anxiety attacks, including:
- Accept that you cannot control everything.
- Do your best.
- Maintain a positive attitude.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety.
Here’s how to stop an anxiety attack and recover.
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Who Gets Panic Attacks
At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder both conditions classified as anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , about 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women as in men. Panic disorder typically affects individuals when theyre in their 20s but is also seen in young children, adolescents, and older adults.
Panic Disorder Treatment Options
Panic attacks and panic disorders are treatable once the underlying cause is identified. Usually medical conditions and other factors are ruled out before making the diagnosis, says Flo Leighton, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and therapist with Union Square Practice in Manhattan. Getting to the root cause typically takes a couple of sessions, says Leighton. Here are some options that may be recommended to you :
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