How To Tell If You’re Having An Anxiety Attack
If you feel like you had severe anxiety, then you had an anxiety attack. Any form of severe anxiety can count as an attack. But for those that are experiencing something more like panic attacks, the experience tends to be similar between different people.
Recall that anxiety attacks can mimic other health problems. If you haven’t been to a doctor, it’s a good idea to go at least once to rule out any more serious issues. Make sure your doctor knows about anxiety, however. Not all doctors are aware of the severity of anxiety attack symptoms. Some may not believe that anxiety can cause so many physical symptoms and sensations, but it absolutely can. Thats why its so important to find the right doctor.
The symptoms below are often experienced differently by different people. During an anxiety attack, your body experiences a wave of stress that is so profound, it’s difficult to know exactly how your individual body will react. Yet below are some of the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack:
You may not experience all of these symptoms at once either, and each one may cause various degrees of severity. You may also feel as though there is no way that it is an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are often so severe that the sufferers live in constant fear of the symptoms coming back.
Anxiety attacks also tend to peak around 10 minutes . Then as they dissipate, they often leave you feeling fatigued and drained, possibly fearful of another attack.
What Is A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are a type of fear response. They’re an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. This page covers:
“My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body would tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.”
What Helps To Manage Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be frightening, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope. It could help to print off these tips, or write them down, and keep them somewhere easy to find.
During a panic attack:
- Focus on your breathing. It can help to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out while counting to five.
- Stamp on the spot. Some people find this helps control their breathing.
- Focus on your senses. For example, taste mint-flavoured sweets or gum, or touch or cuddle something soft.
- Try grounding techniques. Grounding techniques can help you feel more in control. They’re especially useful if you experience dissociation during panic attacks. See our page on self-care for dissociation for more information on grounding techniques.
After a panic attack:
- Think about self-care. It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly, or eat or drink something.
- Tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack. It could be particularly helpful to mention how they might notice if you’re having another one, and how you’d like them to help you.
Also Check: How To Help A Teenager With Anxiety
How To Tell If An Attack Is Anxiety Or Something Else
The biggest question people have is whether or not they suffered from an anxiety attack or something more physically serious, like a heart attack.
Unfortunately, the symptoms are so close to each other that the only way to tell is to talk to a doctor. The important thing to realize is that anxiety attacks are quite common, and heart attacks/serious health issues in those that are younger and are generally in good health are less common. There are a few differences as well:
- Although both may cause vomiting, heart attacks are more likely to lead to vomiting.
- Chest pains during heart attacks tend to radiate more throughout the shoulder.
- Anxiety attacks are more likely to have a âpeakâ at about 10 minutes.
It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor at least once.
What Is It Like To Have Panic Disorder
One day, without any warning or reason, a feeling of terrible anxiety came crashing down on me. I felt like I couldnt get enough air, no matter how hard I breathed. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I thought I might die. I was sweating and felt dizzy. I felt like I had no control over these feelings and like I was drowning and couldnt think straight.
After what seemed like an eternity, my breathing slowed and I eventually let go of the fear and my racing thoughts, but I was totally drained and exhausted. These attacks started to occur every couple of weeks, and I thought I was losing my mind. My friend saw how I was struggling and told me to call my doctor for help.
Also Check: Is Overthinking A Sign Of Anxiety
You’re Frozen You Can’t Move You Think The End Is Coming
Corky Klein, 63, Laguna Beach, Calif.
Courtesy Corky Klein
Corky Klein knows she’s about to have an anxiety attack when her whole body breaks out in a sweat.
“I even get sweaty on the balls of my feet, she says.
She gets light-headed, and a little dizzy. Then the headache and the panic hit.
“You forget about everything around you, Klein says. Your heart is beating horribly, and that brings on more panic. You get this scared feeling and you want to run. But you’re frozen. You can’t move. You think the end is coming.”
Klein began having panic attacks after her mom died when she was 16. Over the years, she says her anxiety led her into dark bouts of alcoholism and addiction, into long periods of isolation, and on many trips to the emergency room.
Ten years ago, at age 53, she was still having frequent panic attacks, even though she had kicked her addictions. Concerned, her doctor persuaded her to try therapy, and she began seeing a cognitive behavior therapist who specialized in anxiety.
The therapist helped her process the trauma in her past and taught her how to cope with her anxiety before it escalated.
“I learned that I had never dealt with the stuff that had happened to me, Klein says.
Her panic attacks became less frequent, and she focused on exercising, enjoying her retirement and spending time with her son and other family members.
How she copes: She exercises every day , and she uses an app called Calm for meditation and deep-breathing exercises.
Phobias And Irrational Fears
A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger. Common phobias include fear of animals , fear of flying, and fear of heights. In the case of a severe phobia, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the object of your fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.
Recommended Reading: Does Anxiety Cause Night Sweats
How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
Serious health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid disease and respiratory problems, cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. Your healthcare provider may run tests to rule out a physical problem. If theres no physical cause, your provider may make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and risk factors.
Who Is This Anxiety Quiz For
Below is a list of questions designed for people who are experiencing anxiety-inducing thoughts. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder .
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
Read Also: Can I Join The Military With Anxiety
Causes Of Anxiety Fear And Panic
There are many different causes of anxiety, fear or panic and it’s different for everyone.
When you’re feeling anxious or scared, your body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
This can be helpful in some situations, but it might also cause physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate and increased sweating. In some people, it might cause a panic attack.
Regular anxiety, fear or panic can also be the main symptom of several health conditions. Do not self-diagnose speak to a GP if you’re worried about how you’re feeling.
How Is Panic Disorder Diagnosed
Panic disorder is diagnosed by a health care professional, says Philip R. Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. The provider will ask the person to describe their symptoms, which can include sweaty palms, dizziness, a cold sweat, and numbness around the lips. The person fears losing control and fears going crazy, Dr. Muskin says.
To receive a diagnosis of panic disorder, you must also have anticipatory anxiety, Dr. Muskin says. You may have one panic attack and then be afraid to leave the house because you are so afraid of having another, he says.
Also Check: How To Get A Job When You Have Social Anxiety
Some People May Develop Panic Disorders
For many people, the feelings of panic occur only occasionally during periods of stress or illness. A person who experiences recurring panic attacks is said to have panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder. They generally have recurring and unexpected panic attacks and persistent fears of repeated attacks.
How Do I Know If I’m Having A Heart Attack
Your arteries carry blood, oxygen and nutrients to the heart and to the rest of the body. A heart attack occurs when an artery of the heart is suddenly closed or blocked by a blood clot.
Although the closure happens suddenly, it often results from plaque that has built up in the arteries over time. This process is called atherosclerosis. It is also known as hardening of the arteries. When the artery closes, the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart drops suddenly and sharply. This lack of oxygen causes damage to the heart.
Recommended Reading: Can Anxiety Make You Cry
What Causes Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are like other forms of mental illness. They dont come from personal weakness, character flaws or problems with upbringing. But researchers dont know exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They suspect a combination of factors plays a role:
- Chemical imbalance: Severe or long-lasting stress can change the chemical balance that controls your mood. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to an anxiety disorder.
- Environmental factors: Experiencing a trauma might trigger an anxiety disorder, especially in someone who has inherited a higher risk to start.
- Heredity: Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. You may inherit them from one or both parents, like eye color.
Always Seek Professional Advice
Always seek medical advice if you are not sure whether your symptoms, or another persons symptoms, indicate a panic attack. In an emergency, dial triple zero for an ambulance. Its important to see your doctor for a check-up to make sure that any recurring physical panic-like symptoms are not due to illnesses, including:
You May Like: What Vitamins Should I Take For Anxiety
How Are Panic Attacks Managed Or Treated
Psychotherapy, medications or a combination are very effective at stopping panic attacks. How long youll need treatment depends on the severity of your problem and how well you respond to treatment. Options include:
- Psychotherapy:Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. You discuss your thoughts and emotions with a mental health professional, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist. This specialist helps identify panic attack triggers so you can change your thinking, behaviors and reactions. As you start to respond differently to triggers, the attacks decrease and ultimately stop.
- Antidepressants: Certain antidepressant medications can make panic attacks less frequent or less severe. Providers may prescribe serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors , serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants . SSRIs include fluoxetine and paroxetine . SNRIs include duloxetine and venlafaxine . TCAs include amitriptyline and doxepin .
- Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication to treat and prevent panic attacks. They help with anxiety but have risks of addiction or dependence. These medications include alprazolam and lorazepam .
How Can I Help Someone With Anxiety
Knowing the symptoms of anxiety can help you realize and act when someone you care about is in distress. Common anxiety behaviors include avoidance of feared situations or events , seeking reassurance, second-guessing, and irritability. The person may be engaging in all-or-nothing thinking or catastrophizing and demonstrating their belief that the worst will happen. If you notice these symptoms, avoid telling the anxious person not to worry or downplaying their feelings, which may leave them feeling misunderstood and belittled. Instead, be an active listener, express your concern, and recognize how difficult this is for them. Kindly encourage them to talk to a mental health professional or to draw on the techniques they have learned in therapy, if they are already in treatment.
You May Like: Can You Have Anxiety And Depression
What Are The Warning Signs Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack can feel like a hand is sliding around your throat, says Philip R. Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. Your heart pounds, you can feel sweaty and shaky, and you can feel a sense of dread and doom, he explains. Other symptoms can include chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea.
It’s As If A Vice Is Squeezing Me
Anita Lesko, 61, Pensacola, Fla.
Courtesy Anita Lesko
Anita Lesko has always been a germaphobe, so her anxiety started to build when she first read about the coronavirus in early 2020.
A certified registered nurse anesthetist , Lesko knew she was at higher risk of exposure because of her job administering anesthesia to patients before surgery. When she began hearing about the nationwide lack of personal protective equipment for health-care workers, Lesko really began to worry.
“The prospect of going to work, getting exposed and ending up on a ventilator or dead that’s what pushed me over the edge, she says.
One morning in March, when she was between patients at the hospital, Lesko developed a deep feeling of impending doom. She began to hyperventilate, her heart started racing and she broke out in a sweat. Pressure began building in her chest.
“I got a gripping sensation in my whole chest and throat area, as if a vice was squeezing me, she said. Then I started shaking literally to the core of my body.
Lesko asked to leave early and fled to her car. She collapsed into the driver’s seat and burst into tears.
“I was just sitting there trying to talk myself out of it, and trying to make myself breathe normally, she recalls.
It took about 30 minutes before she was calm enough to drive. When Lesko got home, she was so exhausted she had to sleep for a few hours before she could do anything.
Read Also: How To Fix An Anxiety Disorder