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What’s An Anxiety Attack

What Should I Do If I Am Having An Anxiety Attack

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

If you think you might be having an anxiety attack, the first step to handling it is to recognize that you are having one. This is why knowing about triggers and symptoms of an attack is important in the long-run. Once you can identify that youre having an anxiety attack, you can carry out steps to help you cope with it.

After recognizing that you are having an anxiety attack or are about to have one, you should take deep breaths. Deep breaths can help prevent hyperventilation and slow a racing heartbeat. Try to relax your muscles at this time and dont tense up too much. By taking deep breaths and allowing your muscles to be loose, you can encourage your body to be more relaxed and decrease the feeling of losing control.

Because anxiety attacks happen in response to a certain situation or circumstance, removing yourself from that situation, if possible, can be helpful in moving past the symptoms of an attack. Symptoms usually subside once the stressor has been removed.

Overall, the most important idea in helping yourself during an anxiety attack is to try a variety of techniques to keep yourself calm. Taking deep breaths is one of the most widely used relaxation techniques. It is also useful to take some time to understand how you respond to anxiety and develop ways to lower anxiety and promote calm.

After an attack has passed, take some time to reflect on any circumstances or stressors you think could have been triggered.

Complementary And Alternative Therapies

Complementary and Alternative Therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional therapies to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. There is a growing interest in these types of alternative therapies since they are non-invasive and can be useful to patients. They are typically not intended to replace conventional therapies but rather can be an adjunct therapy that can improve the overall quality of life of patients.

Stress Management

A collection of activities focused in which an individual consciously produces the relaxation response in their body. This response consists of slower breathing, resulting in lower blood pressure and overall feeling of well-being. These activities include: progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and self-hypnosis and deep-breathing exercises.

Meditation

A mind and body practice in which individuals are instructed to be mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations in non-judgmental way. It has been shown to be useful in reducing the symptoms of psychological stress in patients with anxiety.

Yoga

A mindfulness practice that combines meditation, physical postures, breathing exercises and a distinct philosophy. It has been shown to be useful in reducing some symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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.

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When Should I Call The Doctor

Some panic attacks have signs that can be confused with a physical problem like a heart attack. If you have chest pain or trouble breathing or lose consciousness, seek emergency medical care.

You should call your healthcare provider if you have panic attacks and experience:

  • Chronic anxiety that interferes with daily life.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Panic Attack Is The Official Term Anxiety Attack Is Informal

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It may seem like trivia, but its not. Eric Patterson, a licensed professional counselor at Choosing Therapy, explains why terminology matters:

A panic attack is a diagnosable mental health issue observed within disorders like panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. On the other hand, an anxiety attack is a term non-professionals use to describe increased anxiety symptoms. Experienced mental health clinicians will only use the terms panic attack and anxiety. They will not use the term anxiety attack because it will confuse clients and their families.

After all, they are distinct from each other. If someone is feeling extreme fear, worry, and a host of physical symptoms like flushed skin, sweating, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest, it could be a panic attack. When someone has periods of higher stress and anxiety, people may label it as an anxiety attack. Note that it will be less intense and generally last longer than a panic attack. In contrast, panic attacks are short-lived, more intense, and have a clear beginning and end.

Panic attacks are sudden and short-lived. Anxiety attacks are gradual and long-lasting.

Dr. Rashmi Parmar, a psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry, says that although they seem similar, they are notably different.

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Listen To Good Mood Music

Music can have a powerful effect on your mood and on anxiety. They key however is to not just choose songs you like. but also make sure that you are listening to music that represents the way you want to feel. Happy or relaxing music can directly impact your mood and the way you feel.

While many people find it soothing to listen to angry music when theyâre angry or sad music when theyâre sad, the truth is that this type of music will only help you get in touch with those negative emotions. That won’t help you feel better. When you’re trying to stop anxiety, you should listen to music that will help you feel the way you want to feel.

Do Empaths Have Anxiety Attacks

It is believed that when empaths are overwhelmed or experience distressful emotions, they might experience feelings of anxiety along with panic attacks.

According to the nature of empaths, they tend to internalize the feelings and the pains of others without being able to differentiate themselves from them leading to heightened levels of fear, anxiety, and discomfort.

Everyone has a natural tendency to feel empathy however in the case of empaths they experience very high levels of empathy such that they take on the feelings of others making them more vulnerable to anxiety and anxiety attacks.

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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.

How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed

What is the difference between Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder?

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.

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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 Are Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks

Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks cause you to feel intense, overwhelming emotions. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, theyre not exactly the same thing. Both panic and anxiety attacks activate your nervous system to send you into fight-or-flight mode, causing physical and emotional symptoms. Their differences lie in what causes the attack.

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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have panic attacks, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • Why am I having panic attacks?
  • What is the best treatment for panic attacks?
  • How long will I need therapy?
  • How long do I need to take medications?
  • Should I look out for medication side effects?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable. Although theyre not physically harmful, they can take a toll on your mental health and stop you from doing the things you love. Dont be embarrassed to tell your healthcare provider that you have panic attacks. Your provider can help you overcome fears and anxieties that trigger attacks. You can get better with treatments like psychotherapy and medications.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2020.

References

Introduction To Anxiety Attacks/panic Attacks

What are the symptoms of a panic anxiety attack ...

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.

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Anxiety Attacks Arent A Sign Of A Medical Emergency

If your anxiety attack or panic was caused by apprehensive behavior or chronic stress, and not because of a medical reason, the attack isnt dangerous or harmful. Its just the bodys way of trying to protect you from harm or reacting to being chronically stressed. You dont have to react to an anxiety attack as if the attack itself is dangerousbecause it isnt!

Anxiety attacks occur in response to apprehensive behavior or chronic stress. You dont have to be afraid of or worry about anxiety attacks.

For more information, see our article, The Difference Between An Anxiety Attack And A Heart Attack.

Panic Attack Or Heart Attack

The symptoms of a panic attack can be similar to those of a heart attack. The Ada app can help you check your symptoms. or find out more about how it works.

It is common for people experiencing a panic attack to become convinced that they are having a heart attack during the episode. Although this may be related to the distressing thoughts that accompany a panic attack, emergency medical services should be called if a heart attack is suspected, as â unlike a panic attack â a heart attack requires prompt medical attention and can be life-threatening.

Key differences between a heart attack and a panic attack include:

Despite being able to identify these differences, it is advisable to always seek medical attention if the affected person:

  • Has a history of heart attacks
  • Meets the risk criteria for a heart attack, such as high blood pressure, being overweight, getting limited physical exercise
  • Has never had a panic attack before

If one is not deemed to be at risk of a heart attack, psychotherapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy may be recommended in order to help the affected person overcome any long-term anxiety about having a heart attack. This will help prevent a fear of having a heart attack from manifesting in, or forming the basis of, future panic attacks.

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Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder

Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.

Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:

  • Mitral valve prolapse, a minor cardiac problem that occurs when one of the hearts valves doesnt close correctly
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Stimulant use
  • Medication withdrawal
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