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What Is An Anxiety Attack

Risk Factors For Experiencing A Panic Attack

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

Although anyone may be affected by a panic attack, a range of factors may increase the likelihood for certain individuals. People who have a disorder that leads to elevated levels of anxiety are more likely to experience a panic attack. This includes:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder . A form of chronic anxiety that is often unrelated to a particular cause.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder . In the case of OCD, a person experiences recurrent unwanted thoughts and compulsive behaviors. This can lead to panic attacks in some people, although, according to DSM-5 criteria, OCD is no longer listed as anxiety disorder.
  • Post traumatic stress disorder . Although PTSD is a trauma and stressor-related disorder rather than an anxiety disorder, panic attacks may relate to anxiety from PTSD, that develops after first or second-hand exposure to a traumatic event.
  • Social phobia. In people with social phobia, everyday situations regularly cause debilitating levels of anxiety.

Other mental health conditions, such as depression, can also cause the anxious kinds of thinking that may precipitate a panic attack.

Other factors, which increase oneâs likelihood of experiencing a panic attack, include:

Conditions which increase the likelihood of experiencing a panic attack include:

Cut Out Problematic Food And Substances

Drugs, medications, and even foods can lead to palpitations. If you identify a substance thats causing palpitations or sensitivities, remove it from your diet to stop palpitations.

For example, cigarette smoking can lead to palpitations. If you discover that you have more heart palpitations when you smoke, stop smoking for a period of time and see if the sensation ends. We reached out to readers for real and practical tips to stop smoking.

Treatment Of Anxiety And Panic

There is plenty that can be done for people who have problems with anxiety and panic.

Treatment can include:

Getting professional support is always a good idea. Its important to find the right health professional for you. And there are plenty of online self-help programs, support and ways to get therapy, too.

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Symptoms During A Panic Attack

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , four or more of the following physical and psychological symptoms must be present:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Paresthesias numbness or tingling sensations
  • Derealization or depersonalization
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying

If four or more of the above symptoms are present, it is known as a full-symptom panic attack. The Ada app can help you check your symptoms. or find out more about how it works.

What Are The Differences

How Anxiety and Panic Attacks Differ

Here are some of the features that distinguish them.

An anxiety attack, or anxiety:

  • can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
  • is not a diagnosable condition
  • is less severe than a panic attack
  • usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
  • involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or knot in the stomach

A panic attack:

The term anxiety attack is not listed in the American Psychological Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition .

Panic attacks, however, are a symptom of panic disorder in the DSM-V. Only a licensed professional can diagnose panic disorder.

Read Also: Can Depression And Anxiety Be Genetic

Envision Your Happy And Safe Place

Worry is using your imagination to scare yourself, which is a common cause of anxiety attacks. Imaging your happy and safe place will calm the body down and end an anxiety attack. If you dont have an imaginary happy and safe place, take some time an create one. Once created, you can use your imagination to calm yourself anywhere and anytime you want.

Have A Plan Then Work Your Plan

As you learn about anxiety and anxiety attacks, make a plan to deal with an anxiety attack should it occur. For example, if you feel one coming on, you may want to leave the room and go for a quick walk to settle yourself. Once you feel better, you can return to what you were doing.

Or, you might want to call a friend for reassurance as you are learning to overcome anxiety attacks.

Or, you might want to listen to an MP3 that helps you calm down or music you find helpful in feeling calm.

You could also come up with a mantra to recite, such as, Fear activates the stress response and its changes but calming myself shuts them off. Or, Relax, Im going to be ok. This is just a stress response, it will end, and I’ll feel better once the hormones have been used up. Or, for short, Keep calm. I’ll be ok.

You could also recall how relaxed you feel during your deep relaxation experiences and then use that feeling to override the anxious feelings. Remember, making yourself feel calm will shut off the stress response and its changes.

There are many ways to develop a plan. Then, use it when you need to.

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Whats The Outlook For People With Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can often go undiagnosed and untreated. Fortunately, treatment can help. The right treatment can help improve your quality of life, relationships and productivity. It can also support your overall well-being.

You dont need to live with constant worry and fear. If you notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Its best to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Doing so can limit the problems that anxiety disorders can cause. Often, a combination of medications and counseling for anxiety can help you feel your best.

What Causes Anxiety Disorders

What causes panic attacks, and how can you prevent them? – Cindy J. Aaronson

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.

Read Also: How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Adults

What Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have anxiety or were recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, consider asking your doctor these questions at your next visit.

  • How did I get anxiety? Is there a chance I passed this on to my kids?
  • Are there any underlying medical problems that could be causing my anxiety symptoms?
  • What are my treatment options for anxiety? Will I need to take an anxiety drug? Will I take it every day or as needed? How long will I need to take it?
  • What side effects can I expect from medications? Is there a way to minimize or prevent side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of medication?
  • Should I begin therapy sessions? Which type and for how long?
  • How long before I can expect to feel better?
  • Once treated, how likely is it that my anxiety symptoms will return?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to help me feel better?
  • How will alcohol or other drugs interact with my medication or affect my anxiety?
  • Learn To Recognize The Signs Of Anxiety

    Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

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    Who Can Diagnose Anxiety Disorders

    If your provider finds no signs of physical illness, they may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They may use specially designed interview and assessment tools to figure out if you have an anxiety disorder. Typically, the provider bases a diagnosis on:

    • Your reported symptoms, including how intense they are and how long they last.
    • Discussion of how the symptoms interfere with your daily life.
    • The providers observation of your attitude and behavior.

    Providers also consult the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . The American Psychiatric Association publishes the DSM-5. Its the standard reference manual for diagnosing mental illnesses.

    Signs And Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

    When Anxiety Attacks

    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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    What Causes Anxiety Attacks

    • Caregivers do not know for sure what causes anxiety attacks. Sometimes they are caused by being in a situation that you find upsetting. You may have them due to a stressful life event, such as getting divorced. You are more likely to have anxiety attacks if you also have another mental health problem. Other mental health problems include depression , or alcoholism . Anxiety attacks may happen for no reason. Anxiety attacks can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender.
    • Some health conditions or medicines may cause anxiety attack symptoms. Using or withdrawing from alcohol or illegal drugs may also cause symptoms. Some people have anxiety attacks that are triggered by the fear of having a future anxiety attack. You are more likely to have anxiety attacks if someone in your family also has them.

    How To Stop Panic Attacks At Night

    Stopping panic attacks at night is no different than stopping a panic attack alone, or any panic attack no matter where it occurs. You can stop them by reframing anxious thinking so that you stop voluntary panic attacks, and reducing stress so that you stop involuntary panic attacks both of which you can do by yourself anywhere and at any time, including at night.

    Once you learn how to stop panic attacks using the strategies we mentioned previously, you can stop them any time, even if they occur at night. For instance, the moment you feel panic coming on, you can use any of the strategies to stop it, such as acknowledging an attack is starting, remaining calm, recognizing you dont have to be afraid, diaphragmatic breathing, reframing thinking to calm and soothing thoughts, relaxing your body, envisioning your happy and safe place, and so on. Since all of these strategies are within you and go everywhere you go, you dont need anything or anyone else to calm yourself and end a panic attack.

    Some people find it helpful to make a cheat sheet of reminders to help them stop panic attacks, such as itemizing a list of all of the things you can do to calm yourself and stop a panic attack.

    You might find it also helpful to have an audio track handy that walks you through the process of calming yourself.

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    What Is An Anxiety Disorder

    Severity of symptoms and a persons ability to cope separate everyday worries or anxious moments from anxiety disorders. National surveys estimate nearly one in five Americans over 18, and one in three teens ages 13 to 18, had an anxiety disorder during the past year.

    If anxiety is persistent, excessive, or routinely triggered by situations that arent an actual threat, tell your doctor, who can discuss treatment options or refer you to an experienced mental health professional.

    What Is A Panic Attack

    What is a Panic Attack?

    Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear. Theyre accompanied by very challenging physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.

    The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognizes panic attacks and categorizes them as unexpected or expected.

    Unexpected panic attacks occur without an obvious cause. Expected panic attacks are cued by external stressors, such as phobias.

    Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but having more than one may be a sign of panic disorder.

    Symptoms of anxiety include:

    • distress
    • fear

    Anxiety is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, experience, or event. It may come on gradually.

    The lack of diagnostic recognition of anxiety attacks means that the signs and symptoms are open to interpretation.

    That is, a person may describe having an anxiety attack and have symptoms that another person has never experienced despite indicating that they too have had an anxiety attack.

    Read on to find out more about the differences between panic attacks and anxiety.

    Panic and anxiety attacks may feel similar, and they share a lot of emotional and physical symptoms.

    You can experience both an anxiety and a panic attack at the same time.


    It may be difficult to know whether what youre experiencing is anxiety or a panic attack. Keep in mind the following:

    • a stressful job
    • anxiety symptoms
    • panic attacks
    • panic disorders

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    Differences In How They Start

    Anxiety can be a response to a specific worry or fear. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe. There may be a sense that if only this problem can be solved, everything will be all right.

    A panic attack can happen without warning, and there is no way to prevent it. It can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and even during sleep. There is often no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger. In fact, according to the APA, the reaction is unrelated to the situation.

    How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed

    If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Theyll start with a complete medical history and physical examination.

    There are no lab tests or scans that can diagnose anxiety disorders. But your provider may run some of these tests to rule out physical conditions that may be causing symptoms.

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