Symptoms of an Anxiety AttackIt is designed to protect you, and everyone experiences anxiety at some stage in their life. Whenever you are facing a challenging or stressful situation- whether that means you’re about to take a job interview or an exam, or whether it’s the day before a first date- you might feel anxious.
But sometimes the psychological and physical effects of anxiety can occur suddenly and intensely. If you feel overwhelmed by feelings of worry and panic you may be experiencing what is known as an anxiety attack.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks
It is important to point out that anxiety attacks are not dangerous- but they can feel incredibly frightening. An attack can manifest in many different ways, and despite what some people think the effects are not just psychological.
A bad rush of anxiety can cause a whole host of different physical reactions in the body, none of which feel very pleasant. In severe cases an anxiety attack can even feel like a heart attack, and it is not that uncommon for sufferers to be convinced that they are dying when in the grip of an episode.
This is not something that anyone would want to experience, especially considering that stress is the central issue. So here are some of the main mental and physical symptoms of anxiety attacks to be mindful of.
- Overwhelming feelings of apprehension, worry and stress
- Intense feelings of fear
- Feeling like you’re losing control
- Feeling detached from your life and the things around you
- Increased sweating
- Trembling or shaking uncontrollably
- A racing heartbeat
- Feeling faint, light-headed and dizzy
- Shortness of breath or quickened breathing
- A tingling feeling, especially in your fingers or lips
- Feelings of nausea
This list is not definitive. Everyone experiences anxiety in slightly different ways, so you may get other symptoms. But these are the most common, and the most frightening.
Causes of Anxiety Attacks
There are lots of different triggers for anxiety attacks. Unfortunately, you are much more likely to experience an attack if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you live with a disorder such as GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) or PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) then your body exists in a near-permanent state of heightened anxiety.
This means that stressful situations are more likely to overwhelm you, and it is also possible that you might experience an uncomfortable surge of panic for no discernible reason.
If you find that your state of anxiety is constant and that it interferes with your relationships and everyday life, the best thing to do is contact your GP and try to get a diagnosis.
Of course not everyone who suffers an anxiety attack also suffers from an anxiety disorder, and even for those who do there can be other more immediate triggers.
One of the most common triggers of anxiety attacks is sudden bad news. An upsetting health diagnosis such as cancer can bring on an attack, as can unexpected and serious financial difficulty such as a surprise bill or redundancy. This type of trigger is particularly powerful, because the sense of danger is stemming from a very present and unavoidable source.2
Conflict is another common trigger. Relationship problems and heated arguments can catalyse an anxiety attack. If you are a naturally anxious person and you are in a troubled or failing relationship, constantly worrying about it can further aggravate your stress, and a sudden or explosive disagreement could easily bring on an attack.
To an extent it is impossible to fully prevent arguments and disagreements from happening, and you cannot just shut off your emotions and reactions when they do occur.
If conflict is a particular trigger for you, it’s a good idea to talk with a therapist or counsellor so that you can learn healthy conflict resolution strategies, and learn how to better manage the feelings that conflict causes you. You should also broach the subject with your partner, friend or family member (if possible and safe), so that they can try to avoid placing undue stress on you.
If your anxiety is the result of trauma, then your triggers are likely to be incredibly personal to you. Personal triggers are generally environmental and can be as diverse as a specific smell, place, song, or even just a memory
Sometimes environmental triggers can be difficult to identify. Anyone can suffer an attack as a result of relived trauma, but environmental triggers are the main source of panic attacks among long-time sufferers of PTSD
If you are struggling to overcome trauma and you are experiencing anxiety attacks as a result of environmental triggers, it is important that you seek the help of a mental health specialist in order to identify and address these triggers.
How to control Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks are difficult to prevent. By their very nature they come on suddenly and unexpectedly. So if you are prone to attacks it is important that you know how to manage them.
Anxiety attacks are not life threatening, but they can feel that way in the moment- especially if you experience breathlessness as a symptom. The mental health charity Mind provides the following advice to help calm yourself during an attack:
- Focus on your breathing. You can bring your breathing back under control by breathing slowly whilst counting to five
- Stamp on the spot. Some sufferers have reported that this helps them to control their breathing
- Focus on your senses. Focussing on your senses can help to ground you. If there is something soft nearby, touch or cuddle it, and focus in on that sensation.
There are also a few lifestyle changes you can make to help lessen the risk of anxiety attacks, or to at least ensure that the symptoms are not as severe as they could be. Below is the advice given by NHS Inform:
- Doing breathing exercises daily can help to prevent the onset of attacks and to make them more manageable if they do occur
- Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can reduce your stress levels and release building tension
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking. While these rarely trigger attacks by themselves, all of these substances can make your anxiety much worse
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help to identify and stop the negative thought patterns that can spiral into anxiety attacks
John Gillen - Author - Last updated: December 14, 2021
John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.
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