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What Is An Anxiety Attack And What Causes It

Diagnosing And Treating Anxiety

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Its important to differentiate normal anxiety from the more severe type. Does the anxiety interfere with your family life or keep you from being productive in your professional life? Does it restrict you from engaging in the activities you like? If the answer is yes, then its the kind of anxiety that may require some degree of therapy or medical attention.

Depending on the duration, severity, and type of anxiety, treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. A common and effective method of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves three main components:

Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders

A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a persons risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:

  • Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
  • Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
  • Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
  • Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias .

Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from womens hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too men have more, and it may ease anxiety. Its also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.

Panic Or Anxiety Attack

Panic or anxiety attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or stress without true danger. Symptoms usually peak and then decrease within minutes. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart. A panic attack can be a very scary experience and should be taken seriously.

Rarity: Common

Symptoms that always occur with panic or anxiety attack: anxiety or anxiety/panic attacks

Urgency: Primary care docto

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Mental Health Treatment Program Locator

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.

Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders:

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Anyone may experience these symptoms during stressful times. However, individuals with anxiety disorders may experience them in absence of stress, with more severe symptoms and/or with several symptoms appearing together.

  • Inability to relax
  • Rapid pulse or pounding, skipping, racing heart
  • Nausea, chest pain or pressure
  • Feeling a “lump in the throat”
  • Dry mouth
  • Feelings of dread, apprehension or losing control
  • Trembling or shaking, sweating or chills
  • Fainting or dizziness, feelings of detachment
  • Thoughts of death

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How Is Anxiety Diagnosed

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms. Often they will use a detailed questionnaire to do this. The more detailed answers you can give about what you’re experiencing, the better.

You may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder if the symptoms are affecting your ability to function in some way, either at work, school or socially. The questionnaire may also pick up if you have depression and how severe the problem may be.

Your doctor will diagnose the type of anxiety disorder you have based on recognised criteria such as those listed in the DSM-5 .

How To Get A Sudden Spike In Anxiety Under Control

Whether you live with an anxiety disorder or have found the events of 2020 affecting your mood, managing your mental health is more important than ever. Experiencing a sudden spike in anxiety is a common issueone thats being experienced by more and more people.

Tonya Crombie, Ph.D., author of Stop Worrying About Your Anxious Child, points to a poll released by the American Psychiatric Association that reveals that 62% of Americans feel more anxious than they did at this time last year. That marks a sizable increase over APA polls of the past three years, in which the number has ranged between 32% and 39%.

When you consider the significant stressors brought on by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, social unrest, bitter political divisions, and a contested presidential election, Crombie says, it is completely understandable why so many more people are feeling more anxious than ever before.

Here, learn what causes a sudden onset of anxiety, and how can it be managed.

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What Are The Most Common Causes Of Anxiety

Anxiety is a response to uncertainty and danger, and the trigger can be almost anything, or nothing in particular, just a generalized, vague sense of dread or misfortune. High on the list of anxiety-generating situations is having to give a talk or presentation or being called on in class, where people risk loss of social standing by being judged negatively.

People can feel anxious because their neural circuitry has become so sensitized it perceives threat where it doesnt exist. Too, there are substancescaffeine is oneand medications that stimulate the same physical sensations as anxiety. People differ in their susceptibility to anxiety, as a result of their biological makeup, their parental inheritance, their own life history, personality factors, and the coping skills they acquire or cultivate.

Where To Find Help For Anxiety

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Whether youre already in recovery for an anxiety disorder or just want to have a better understanding of what its like to live with these conditions, Dr. Gould recommends checking out the following resources:

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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.

Are There Risk Factors For Anxiety

There are multiple factors that create vulnerability to anxiety under stressful circumstances. On a purely psychological level is the ability to manage negative emotions. People lacking emotion regulation skills are at heightened risk of both anxiety and depression. Having a history of adverse life experiences during childhood, such as intense maltreatment or bouts of serious illness, also predisposes people to anxiety. It doesnt change the makeup of genes but it can permanently alter their level of activity so that that the brain is constantly on the lookout for and perceiving potential threats. Perhaps the strongest risk factor for anxiety is having the personality trait of neuroticism. It denotes the degree to which the negative affect system is readily activated. People high in trait neuroticism are dispositionally inclined to find experiences distressing and to worry.

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When Might One Or The Other Occur

Warren: So if youre walking down a dark alley, you are probably thinking that there could be potential danger that anxiety of anticipation, the feeling in your stomach, the elevated heart rate. But if youre walking down that alley and somebody jumps out with a knife, then youre ly to have a panic attack an overwhelming urge to escape a situation that is dangerous.

Panic attacks also can be triggered by subtler cues, certain bodily sensations. A person could have a pain in the chest and interpret that as a heart attack. Or they feel lightheaded and think theyre having a stroke.

Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

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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.
  • Irritability.
  • 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.
  • Insomnia.

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.

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How To Reduce Anxiety Symptoms In Your Daily Life

Even if youre already in treatment for your anxiety disorder, it can still be helpful to incorporate lifestyle changes to help reduce some of the anxiety that you may experience on a daily basis. So here are some expert tips on how you can reduce anxiety symptoms in your daily life, one mindful moment at a time.

Grounding exercises can be a simple and effective way to bring your mind back to the present when youre feeling anxious, explains Dr. Gold.

She recommends trying something like the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, which involves using your five senses to identify: five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can help combat the physical effects of anxiety, such as increased heart rate and muscle tension. Some people like deep-breathing skills and can use them in the short-term, Dr. Gold finds.

But she explains that this skill needs to be practiced regularly, rather than relied upon simply in the moment. So taking a few moments each day to focus on your breathing can be a useful tool to reduce anxiety.

Muscle tension is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety, and many of us feel it in ways we dont even realize, such as the tightness in your chest or the pain in your shoulders. And muscle relaxation can be as simple as taking a deep breath and relaxing your clenched jaw or even your hands.

Is Anxiety Ever Good

Anxiety is the reason your ancestors survived, enabling you to be reading these words now. Anxiety reflects the sensations that are triggered in body and brain in response to perceiving a threat theyre intended as an alarm, to jolt you into paying attention and taking appropriate action to head off possible danger. In short, anxiety protects you. But the system is built to err on the side of caution, which is why we feel anxious even in the absence of a real threat. The sensitivity of the alarm can be reset by traumatic experience so that it is always on. Further, the threats can be wholly invented by your own imaginationthoughts of ways any situation could possibly go wrong. Neither flaw in the system diminishes the value of anxietyto keep you alive.

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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.

See our pages on self-care for anxiety and treatments for anxiety for more information on what could help.

What Is A Panic Attack

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A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear. These can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension. Panic attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to any external threat. A panic attack can last from a few minutes to half an hour. However, the physical and emotional effects of the attack may last for a few hours. Panic attacks are common. Up to 35% of the population experience a panic attack at some time in their lives. A panic attack can also be called an anxiety attack. Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be severely disabling. The person may choose to avoid a wide range of situations for fear of experiencing an attack.

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Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack

Know the differences between panic attack and anxiety attack.

    You may have heard people using the term panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably. Though there are a few symptoms that do overlap but the conditions are completely different from one another.

    According to PubMed, panic attack may come on suddenly and is higher in intensity, but anxiety attacks generally have triggers involved.

    Treatment For Panic Attacks

    You might experience one or two panic attacks and never have another. If you experience panic attacks more often, and they begin affecting the way you live your life, you could have a panic disorder. Once you recognize a panic attack for what it is, you can begin getting real and lasting help.

    Treatment will depend on whats best for you personally. Sometimes panic disorders occur with depression or substance abuse, so you might need more time to develop the coping skills you need to get back on track. Other times, your anxiety might respond more quickly to treatment.

    Therapy can help you look at your panic attacks in a more realistic light, so you dont spend much of your time worried about what will happen when panic strikes again. You can learn skills to cope with the worry about having an anxiety attack as well as the anxiety itself. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn tools for managing stress that reduce your risk of having another panic attack.

    In addition, relaxation techniques can show you how you have control over your body, even when anxiety strikes. Regularly engaging in relaxing activities such as breathing, yoga or meditation can help train your body to relax, especially when stressed.

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