Why Do Anxiety Attacks Cause These Physical Symptoms
One of the most common reasons that anxiety attacks are such a frightening experience is because they cause physical symptoms that mimic more serious diseases. This causes many people to become incredibly fearful for their health, believing that there is no way something like anxiety can lead to such a physical response.
But anxiety causes a host of different physical reactions that can explain most of the anxiety symptoms, and the most common cause is hyperventilation.
Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
This page is also available in Welsh.
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Focus On What You Can Change
Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that havent even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones.
Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you cant always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.
Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one’s safety, spend time with them, or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.
At times, your anxiety may actually be caused by a real circumstance in your life. Perhaps youre in a situation where it is realistic to be worried about losing your job due to high company layoffs or talks of downsizing.
When anxiety is identified as being caused by a current problem, then taking action may be the answer to reducing your anxiety. For example, you may need to start job searching or scheduling interviews after work.
Read Also: Is Anxiety And Depression The Same
Introduction To Anxiety Attacks/panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks are not a psychological term, so their definition can vary a bit depending on the speaker. But anxiety attacks are often used either synonymously with the term “panic attacks” .
Panic attacks are short term moments of anxiety so severe, it can feel like you are about to die. During an anxiety attack, you’ll often experience a host of physical and mental symptoms that can leave you severely frightened and incredibly drained once they pass. These include:
It’s not uncommon to experience other unusual symptoms during an anxiety attack that all contribute to further fear. Anxiety attacks tend to peak around 10 minutes in and then slowly fade over the course of a few hours, often leaving the individual drained and anxious, and in some cases wondering what went wrong.
These panic attacks are rarely just feelings of nervousness or worry. They are very physical and mental events. Those that have never had a panic attack before dont always realize that they had an anxiety attack. Some people have first-time anxiety attacks so severe that they call the hospital because they think something is going horribly wrong.
Spend Time With Friends And Family
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called tend and befriend, and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response .
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety .
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
Its hard to feel anxious when youre laughing. Its good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:
- Relieving your stress response.
- Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.
In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted (
Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.
Find the humor in everyday life, spend time with funny friends or watch a comedy show to help relieve stress.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.
One way to do this may be to say no more often.
Also Check: Can Anxiety Cause Balance Problems
Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness
Are you extremely afraid of being judged by others?
Are you very self-conscious in everyday social situations?
Do you avoid meeting new people?
If you have been feeling this way for at least six months and these feelings make it hard for you to do everyday taskssuch as talking to people at work or schoolyou may have a social anxiety disorder.
Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition. It is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can affect work, school, and your other day-to-day activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends. But social anxiety disorder doesnt have to stop you from reaching your potential. Treatment can help you overcome your symptoms.
How Do I Get Help
Talking therapies, like counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, are very effective for people with anxiety problems, including Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which takes you through a series of self-help exercises on screen. Visit your GP to find out more.
Drug treatments are used to provide short-term help, rather than looking at the root of the anxiety problems. Drugs may be most useful when they are combined with other treatments or support.
You can learn a lot about managing anxiety from asking other people who have experienced it. Local support groups or self-help groups bring together people with similar experiences so that they can hear each others stories, share tips and encourage each other to try out new ways to manage themselves. Your doctor, library or local Citizens Advice bureau will have details of support groups near you.
Recommended Reading: How To Reduce Anxiety Long Term
How Can I Get Help If I Think I Have An Anxiety Disorder
You should make an appointment to talk with your GP if you are worried about your symptoms. Or they are causing problems in your day to day life.
Your doctor will look at different things when deciding on your treatment such as the following.
- Your diagnosis and symptoms.
- Any other conditions you have.
- Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence .
Talking therapiesThe NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme has made psychological therapy more available on the NHS. IAPT services mainly provide support for low to moderate anxiety and depression.
The service can be run by the local NHS Trust or a non-NHS agency, like a charity who work with the local Trust.
IAPT should be available in your area. You can often self-refer or ask your GP to refer you.
To find your local the IAPT service you can search online here:
You can also ask your GP or PALS service for details of local IAPT services.
You can get more information about:
- GP: What to expect from your GP by clicking here.
- Medication. Choice and managing problems by clicking here.
- Talking therapies by clicking here.
What Triggers An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks are unusual, in that they can be triggered under moments of heavy stress or fear, or they can be triggered by nothing at all. Often the first anxiety attack comes at a moment in a person’s life when they’re experiencing a lot of stress . But future panic attacks can be caused by almost anything:
- Worry that theyll have another panic attack.
- Paying too much attention to how the body feels.
- Absolutely nothing.
Once again, it is because anxiety attacks can seem and feel so random that not everyone that has them even knows or believes that theyre having an anxiety attack. Those that have panic attacks too often may even start to develop other anxiety conditions, such as health anxiety, because of how difficult it is to feel like their anxiety attacks are real.
Not everyone that has an anxiety attack once will have it again, however. Some people only experience an anxiety attack because they are under profound stress and exhaustion, or theyre faced with a dangerous situation. For example, if you almost got into a car accident you may experience a panic attack, but only because your anxiety in that situation was so strong that it was uncontrollable.
But many that have panic attacks will have them again. It depends on the individual.
Recommended Reading: When To Know You Need Anxiety Medication
Understand The Connection Between Anxiety And Depression
While not a specific strategy, understanding the connection between anxiety and depression can help you determine if what youre dealing with is temporary or a sign of something more serious.
According to Leela R. Magavi, MD, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, anxiety and depression are intertwined and frequently exacerbate each other. Part of the reason, she said, is because the same neurochemicals are implicated in both conditions.
More specifically, MD, a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry, explained that since decreased serotonin causes both depression and anxiety, its common for someone with depression to also feel anxious at the same time. Thats why its critical to acknowledge feelings of anxiety and share them with an expert, especially if youve been diagnosed with depression or are showing signs of depression.
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.
Also Check: How To Cope With Anxiety
Quick Ways To Cope With Anxiety
If your anxiety is sporadic and getting in the way of your focus or tasks, there are some quick natural remedies that could help you take control of the situation.
If your anxiety is focused around a situation, such as being worried about an upcoming event, you may notice the symptoms are short-lived and usually subside after the anticipated event takes place.
What Causes Sudden Onset Of Anxiety
A sudden onset of anxiety can be triggered by a plethora of thingsfrom a major event, like a death in the family, to everyday stressors, such as work or budget worriesbut sometimes it can be caused by seemingly nothing at all or issues we arent aware of.
Our brains are designed to monitor for danger and let us know when these signs appear, says Karin Kassab, MA, psychologist and CEO of Clarity Counseling Center. Although it can feel like it at times, anxiety is not your enemy. Its your brain trying to keep you safe. Think about your anxiety as a security system thats just a little too sensitive.
Abrupt feelings of nervousness and apprehension are often caused by a specific anxiety trigger. It could be a conversation or a place or a smell that triggers anxiety, says Silvi Saxena, MSW, LSW, a licensed therapist at Choosing Therapy. It can be a result of focusing thoughts on something that is stressful and worrisome, something that doesnt have a solution or worrying about worst case scenarios. Major life events can trigger a series of anxiety attacks and it can become easy to get into a pattern of negative thinking, which worsens anxiety. As a result, its crucial to try to understand your anxiety triggers, in order to find ways to manage it.
Anxiety And Depression: What Are The Possible Links
Although clearly not identical emotional states, mental health research suggests that depression and anxiety often coexist because they can be caused by the same or similar factors. According to an article published May 2020 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, those overlapping causes can include:
- Genetic Factors Genetic factors contribute to 40 percent of the predisposition to depressive and anxious symptoms, with 60 percent being attributed to environmental, noninherited factors. “Especially with anxiety, more so than depression, there often is some family history, and so therefore we think that there may be some genetic predisposition to this,” Connolly explains.
- Environmental Factors Also referred to as social factors, these include experiences like trauma or neglect in early childhood, and current stressors such as relationship difficulties, unemployment, social isolation, and physical illness. People who have post-traumatic stress disorder , an anxiety disorder, are particularly likely to also develop depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health .
- Pain Chronic pain, and particularly disabling pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome , low back pain, headaches, and nerve pain, are closely linked to psychological distress, including both anxiety and depression, notes Harvard Health. In fact, they say, research suggests that pain shares some biological mechanisms with anxiety and depression.
How Does Anxiety Build Up
Anxious thoughts chase each other like a dog chasing its tail.
Imagine a guy who thinks, What if my hair is thinning?’ suggests Dr. Bea. That creates anxious energy. He feels his head, checks in the mirror and asks his wife, who says, Youve got a nice head of hair.
That feels good for about 20 seconds, until he thinks, She wasnt really listening to me. Next thing you know, hes online, searching for baldness cures. One of them looks good until he sees its side effects include ED and thinks, Thats no good! Now hes back to square one.
This is one small example of how trying to quell anxiety with reassuring thoughts, or to fix anxious thoughts with other thoughts, just doesnt work.
Its also exhausting. Reassuring thoughts are like a short-acting drug they wear off quickly, says Dr. Bea.
Read Also: How To Get Over Generalized Anxiety Disorder