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How To Know If It’s Anxiety Or Something Serious

How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety Or Something Else

Is This Really “Just” Anxiety? – or is it some Other Illness?

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Panic Attack Vs Heart Attack: How To Tell The Difference


Your heart suddenly begins racing. You feel pain in your chest and you are short of breath.

Are you having a heart attack? Or could it be a panic attack?

“Any of these symptoms can be extremely frightening,” says Patricia Tung, MD, of Arrhythmia Services at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Although they share a number of similarities, the two conditions result from very different disease processes. Panic attacks arise when stress hormones trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, often resulting in racing heart, chest pain and shortness of breath.

In the case of a heart attack, a blockage in a coronary artery may result in the same symptoms. “Chest pain, rapid heartbeat and breathlessness may result when an insufficient amount of blood reaches the heart muscle,” says Tung.

One of the key distinctions between the two is that a heart attack often develops during physical exertion, whereas a panic attack can occur at rest.

A heart attack is more likely to develop when the work load of the heart increases, for example while a person is shoveling snow or running up the stairs, especially in people who do not routinely engage in physical exertion.

Another difference is duration: Panic attacks tend to gradually subside and resolve on their own within about 20 minutes. A heart attack, however, will often continue and may worsen over time.

When Your Heart Skips a Beat
Heart Attack

Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain

Certain anxiety disorders can cause feelings of chest pain.

Chest pain is not a common symptom of the general anxiety you feel here and there.

However, if you suffer from a type of anxiety disorder called panic disorder, you may experience feelings of chest pain during a panic attack.

The most important consideration any time youre experiencing chest pain is the possibility of heart attack, which is a medical emergency.

Unfortunately, panic attack symptoms and heart attack symptoms can feel similar. So, whether you have a history of panic attacks or not, you should go to the emergency room if youre experiencing chest pain.

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Experiencing Panic Attacks Doesnt Mean You Have Panic Disorder

I frequently have people come to me having already self-diagnosed themselves as having Panic Disorder because they have panic attacks. Although some people are right, just as frequently, theyre wrong.

Briefly, a panic attack is a sudden rush of acute fear and anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, tightness in the chest, tingling, nausea and other stomach distress, shaking, and sweating. During a panic attack, someone may be aware of thoughts spinning in their head and they likely have some type of behavioral reaction .

Panic attacks usually come on quite quickly, build to a peak in approximately five to 20 minutes, and then subside. Its not uncommon to hear people say that their panic attacks last a lot longer however, its probably the after effects of the attack that theyre feeling, such as residual anxiety and increased alertness to bodily sensations, rather than the panic attack itself.

So, if a person is experiencing panic attacks, and its not Panic Disorder, what else might it be?

Sometimes it helps to have a psychologist help you sort this out. But it can also be good to gather some data on your own. One good way to do this is to keep a thought diary. You can read a whole post about keeping thought diaries here. Briefly, you just note the situation you had the panic attack, what thoughts were going through your mind, and any other variable you can think of that might be pertinent

The Symptoms Of Anxiety Can Be Hard To Detect Here Are The Ones You Need To Pay Attention To And How To Know If You May Have An Anxiety Disorder

How To Deal With Everyday Anxiety

A Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer, Stephanie Booths stories have appeared in print magazines like Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Psychology Today, and Parents newspapers like The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times websites like Healthline and WebMD, and the occasional digital health app. When not writing, shes reading, hiking, doing yoga, and wishing she had a million dollars to donate to Best Friends Animal Society.

Everyone can expect to have the occasional bout of anxietymaybe you get nervous before an interview or a first datebut sometimes, that anxiety doesn’t subside, which may indicate an anxiety disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health , there are a few different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related anxiety disorders, but they all hinge on one important aspect: when overwhelming feelings of worry or fear impinge on a person’s daily life.

Researchers believe that anxiety disorders can stem from both genetic and environmental factors, and these anxiety disorders are typically treated through a variety of interventions, including psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two, according to the NIMH.

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What Is An Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks are a combination of physical and mental symptoms that are intense and overwhelming. The anxiety is more than just regular nervousness. The anxiety is often a feeling of immense, impending doom that makes many people feel theyre about to die, or that everything around them is breaking down.

It creates physical symptoms that are so severe they actually mimic legitimate, serious health problems.

Those that havent had an anxiety attack before often have no idea that what theyre experiencing is anxiety. Thats because the symptoms of anxiety attacks and panic attacks mimic extremely serious issues, such as:

  • Heart attacks and heart failure.

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You Avoid Social Situations

Not everyone who has anxiety fears social situations. Still, for those with social anxiety disorder, the fear of being judged negatively or humiliated in front of others can be so debilitating that social situations are avoided altogether.

If you have social anxiety, you may feel extremely fearful in large groups of people or when meeting someone new for the first time. You are likely to appear extremely shy, and you may talk in a hushed voice or find that you are excessively self-conscious.

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What Causes Anxiety Disorders

We dont fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety.

Genetics. Some people seem to be born more anxious than others. You may get anxiety through your genes.

Life experience. This could be bad experiences such as being abused or losing a loved one. It could also include big changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.

Drugs. Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs can also have an effect.

Circumstances. Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your anxiety.

What Is An Anxiety Disorder

How To Know The Difference Between Anxiety and Stress

An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating.

Its normal to have some anxiety. You may feel anxious or nervous if you have to tackle a problem at work, go to an interview, take a test or make an important decision. And anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so we stay safe.

But an anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:

  • Anxiety interferes with your ability to function.
  • You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
  • You cant control your responses to situations.

Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get through the day. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for anxiety disorders.

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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 minds gone blank.

But anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the bodys 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.

Ms Hentz Is Associate Dean Of Undergraduate Nursing Programs At The Thomas Jefferson University School Of Nursing In Philadelphia


1. Stern TA, Herman JB, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Update and Board Preparation. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing 1999:395-419.

2. Hedeya R. Understanding Biological Psychiatry. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company 1996:100-204.

3. Stein MB. An epidemiologic perspective on social anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 67 Suppl 12:3-8.

4. Culpepper L. Social anxiety disorder in the primary care setting. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 67 Suppl 12:31-37.

5. Davidson JRT. Pharmacotherapy of social anxiety disorder: what does the evidence tell us? J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 67 Suppl 12:20-26.

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What Are The Signs Of A Panic Attack

If you’re having a panic attack, you may experience:

  • tingling fingers
  • ringing in your ears

Some people think they are having a heart attack because it feels like their heart is beating fast or irregularly, or even that they are going to die.

Panic attacks usually last somewhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Although it may feel like something is seriously wrong, they aren’t dangerous and shouldn’t harm you.

You wont usually need to be admitted to hospital if you have had a panic attack.

Anxiety Disorders: Beyond Normal Fear And Worry

Anxiety  Are You Suffering in Silence

Fear and worry are normal emotions. And when appropriate for the situation, these emotions create the drive, energy, and motivation needed to respond to the demands of the moment. For example, fear, with its associated adrenaline rush, is helpful if one is in danger. An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when the worry and fear are excessive in terms of intensity, frequency, and duration and when the fear and/or worry are disproportionate precipitating factors. Thus, abnormal fear could be characterized by the tendency to be overly fearful of a specific object, as seen in phobias, or fear related to a situation, as seen in social anxiety. In the case of GAD, the individual is overly fearful a large percentage of the time, and the fear or excessive worry tends to be about anything and everything.

There are several anxiety disorders, and it is very common for a patient to present with more than one. Anxiety disorders also occur concomitantly with other mental illnesses, such as bipolar and personality disorders, major depression, and substance abuse.

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Do Anxiety Disorders Also Cause Physical Symptoms

If you have normal anxiety, your heart rate may pick up. You could get a little sweaty and have a bit of an upset stomach. When it starts crossing over into pathological anxiety, you might start having more headaches. You could also develop symptoms that resemble irritable bowel syndrome , such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

When Anxiety’s Getting Worse

If you’re trying to manage severe anxiety alone, it may be time to seek professional care. Your healthcare provider or insurance company can help you to find a mental health professional. If you’re already receiving treatment but feel anxiety is getting worse, tell your provider right away. It may be necessary to change your current medication or type of therapy.

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When Is Anxiety An Emergency

Severe anxiety can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and other symptoms. Some of these symptoms are common to other serious health conditions and should be evaluated. If your anxiety is so severe that it prompts thoughts of suicide or self-harm, seek professional help immediately.

How Can I Best Cope With An Anxiety Disorder

What Is Anxiety – Is It Good or Bad?

There are several steps you can take to cope with anxiety disorder symptoms. These strategies can also make your treatment more effective:

  • Explore stress management: Learn ways to manage stress, such as through meditation.
  • Join support groups: These groups are available in-person and online. They encourage people with anxiety disorders to share their experiences and coping strategies.
  • Get educated: Learn about the specific type of anxiety disorder you have so you feel more in control. Help friends and loved ones understand the disorder as well so they can support you.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine: Many people with anxiety disorder find that caffeine can worsen their symptoms.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider: Your provider is your partner in your care. If you feel like treatment isnt working or have questions about your medication, contact your provider. Together, you can figure out how to best move forward.

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Possible Medical Reasons For Anxiety

A useful mnemonic device, THINC MED, developed by Georgetown University psychiatrist Robert Hedeya, MD, helps doctors determine potential medical causes of anxiety:

T : Brain tumors cause a wide range of psychological symptoms, including anxiety, personality changes and hallucinations, along with physical symptoms. Adrenal gland tumors produce excess adrenaline, which can trigger anxiety, along with headache.

H : Thyroid problems are among the most common medical causes of anxiety, either because the gland is overactive or underactive . Parathyroid and adrenal gland conditions can trigger anxiety, too. The female hormone estrogen can also prompt anxiety when the menstrual cycle fluctuates and during menopause.

I :Lyme disease from tick bite infections can trigger anxiety and other psychological symptoms. Untreated Strep infections can cause the neurological tics sometimes seen with anxiety disorders. Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that can follow a viral infection, may trigger anxiety as well .

N : The symptoms of vitamin deficiency/overload, malabsorption and poor nutrition can mimic emotional disorders. For example, anxiety may be the first symptom of B12 deficiency.

C : Head trauma, even when mild, can trigger anxiety and other psychological symptoms. Anxiety is also seen with chronic or progressive neurological conditions, such as Alzheimers, myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barre.

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What Anxiety Feels Like & Why It Happens

Generally speaking, we all have a lot going on in our lives: School, work, family, finances, health, relationships, friendships. And while your specific priorities may differ from someone else’s as well as shift over time the one prevailing constant we all seem to be bound to is that there’s almost always something to stress about or worry over.

“The various situations and events happening in your life greatly affect your overall mood. So when something is causing you to feel stressed or worried, it can impact your entire life from personal to interpersonal to professional,” says Dr. Ali Sawal, primary care practitioner at Houston Methodist.

And while anxiety may seem like some amorphous state-of-mind that you’re either prone to experiencing or you’re not, you may be surprised to find that anxiety is much more common than you think.

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What Is The First Step

Anyone struggling with anxiety should first talk to their primary care doctor and ask, “Am I worrying too much or is this normal?” At that time, they could have a physical, which would help rule out medical conditions that can present as anxiety. It’s a good, safe place to begin. The first step is having the conversation.

For more information about behavioral health services at Methodist Hospital | Specialty and Transplant, please call or visit us online.

Mental Symptoms Of Anxiety

202 best Anxiety images on Pinterest

Many symptoms of anxiety cannot be seen by others and offer no outward signs of distress. Since people can’t read the minds of others, concerning thought processes and worries need to be shared to be understood.

Some common mental symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

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Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder

If you identify with any of the following seven signs and symptoms, and they just wont go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder:

  • Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
  • Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but cant shake?
  • Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things arent done a certain way?
  • Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
  • Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
  • Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
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    • 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.

    The link between anxiety symptoms and depression

    Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse , its important to seek treatment for both conditions.

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