Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Everyone worries, gets nervous and concerned, feels certain fears, and experiences signs of apprehension. To a certain degree, the signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack are healthy as they enable the body to react to certain stimuli and turn into action or perform better. As long as the feeling is relative to the situation or problem at hand, it is normal. However, when an anxiety episode gets severe, chronic and irrational, you might already have an anxiety disorder and experience episodes of panic attacks.
Common Symptoms Include:
Fear of going crazy – When under tremendous pressure, a person may feel that he is going crazy. This, however, is more evident during anxiety attacks, but rest assured that you are not going crazy. This is because going crazy is not a conscious act; people who are suffering from mental illnesses do not even know that they have one. Again, if you are experiencing symptoms of excessive fear or irrational thoughts, you are not going crazy.
Dry mouth – This is a natural symptom during anxiety attack as fluids are diverted to other parts of the body. To counter dry mouth, sip water or suck sweets to stimulate the production of saliva. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe you with liquid.
Shaking and shivering – These two are necessary functions of the body as it constantly tries to keep the body temperature normal. When the body temperature drops from normal, the muscles sporadically contract, causing friction between the muscles and body tissues, thus increasing the body temperature. Throughout anxiety attacks, shaking and shivering are normal signs.
Heart palpitation – The feeling that the heart is missing beats is caused by the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream during a panic attack. This is perfectly normal and cannot harm you in any way. However, it can cause discomfort.
Body pain – such as neck, shoulder, jaw, mouth and stomach pains, as well as headaches. While the body is experiencing stress, parts of the body usually get tensed, which results in pain.
Chest pain – is a normal body reaction and sign of an anxiety attack because of muscle tension. Sometimes, chest pain is misinterpreted as a heart attack, but it is important to identify one from another as the latter can be deadly.
Shortness of breath – is the most distressing symptom of anxiety attack as it almost feels that the chest cannot expand to accommodate the necessary air that the body needs. Sometimes, it feels that someone is pushing a pillow into your face. Three important points to remember are you will not suffocate, stop breathing or pass out.
Feeling Detached or Unreal
Detachment is a symptom of anxiety attack which alters the way you experience yourself or see reality. It makes you feel that everything around you is like a dream, foggy and unreal.
Recognizing the signs of anxiety attacks need not require you to understand the physiology of the human body. What is required is your awareness of each symptom and the danger they have when ignored.
Different people manifest different behaviors when experiencing anxiety. The intensity of prevailing symptoms differs also. And since the term "anxiety disorders" is coined to refer to a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, symptoms may look different on every anxiety attack. It is important, therefore, to consult a health professional to rule out any possible condition apart from anxiety.
How to Prevent Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks choose no one. They can happen to happy and perfectly normal people of all ages including children. Many cases of anxiety attacks just come out of the blue, or happen without any logical, clear or apparent reason. It may occur while you are relaxed during the day and even while asleep. Still, there are several ways on how to prevent these attacks.
Learn about anxiety – Understanding how anxiety symptoms affect the body as well as the mind can go a long way in your effort to prevent occurrences. Read articles about anxiety and other psychological disorders that are related to it. Learn what are the signs you should watch out for, things you should avoid, and practices you should do in case of an attack.
Avoid unnecessary stressors – Recurring attacks are caused by "triggers" – situations such as speaking in front of the public or getting trapped in an elevator. The effects of these triggers are often aggravated by stress. In other words, stress can act as a catalyst for anxiety attacks to happen. Hence, reducing stress symptoms by avoiding unnecessary stressors can help prevent attacks.
Avoid people that stress you out. Learn how to say 'no' to invitations as well as overtime when you have other things to do. Do not accept additional work that you can't accomplish. These may seem very little things but can significantly increase stress level as well as increase the chances of having anxiety attack symptoms.
Exercise – has lots of health benefits including the promotion of well-being. It is also proven and effective method to prevent an anxiety attack. Research shows that as little as 30 minutes of physical activity - 3 to 5 times a week - is enough to promote a healthy body. Increasing the intensity of the exercise produces more positive effects.
Eat balanced diet – Like exercise, a well-balanced diet is important in keeping the body healthy, resistant to illnesses, and maintain a low stress level. As much as possible, eat natural or organic foods. Avoid processed foods or those that contain preservatives and chemicals.
Avoid smoking and caffeine. To those who are susceptible to anxiety attacks, substantial amount of caffeine (from coffee, soda and tea) as well as smoking cigarettes can provoke such periods even further. It is wise, therefore, to avoid these things as much as possible.
Practice relaxation techniques – Yoga, meditation, and other breathing techniques help strengthen the body's relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these techniques even increase the feeling of uplifted emotions, happiness, and self-control, which increase self-confidence and self-esteem - significant factors in fighting anxiety attack symptoms.
Learn to become assertive – People with anxiety disorder usually have low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is manifested by passiveness, feeling worthless, feeling of guilt and shame, depressed mood, isolation, and difficulty in school, work, and community functions. Learning to become assertive may involve joining a group, entering into therapy sessions or simply learning to open up to others. It may take a while, but once a person learns how to assert himself, he will carry positive outlook in life which helps prevent anxiety attacks caused by "triggers".
Awareness of the symptoms of anxiety attacks is as important as knowing how to prevent it. Watch out for:
Physical Signs of Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attack signs are feelings of fear, apprehension and discomfort over a situation. This is actually a good and healthy feeling since the body is able to recognize something that it needs to address. This "flight or fight" response enables the body to get that much needed boost of energy to react to the specific signs. In this case, anxiety is helpful. However, if it gets intense, recurring and exaggerated, it may already be considered as an anxiety attack.
The exact cause of an anxiety attack is not fully understood, but research suggests that genetics, life experiences and brain chemistry contribute to the onset. What is known is that during the attack, a person shows signs and changes in the body.
Anxiety Attack and Palpitations
The immediate sign of anxiety attack is increased heartbeat or palpitation. This is the most distressing among anxiety symptoms. But this is generally a good thing since the heart works harder to pump more blood to your body, especially to your legs and your arms, enabling you to have a surge of energy to respond quicker than normal to any emergency. The chest feels tight as if it refuses to expand to accommodate air the body needs. Sometimes, the feeling is like someone is pushing a pillow into your face.
The additional oxygen requirement of the body must be compensated by breathing. Thus, during an anxiety attack, you breathe faster. As your arms and legs receive more oxygen and energy, your muscles tend to get tensed, which is important when abrupt movement is needed.
As your arms and legs receive more supply of oxygen through the blood, other parts of the body receive less than normal supply of oxygen (the stomach and the brain can survive with less oxygen during emergency situations). In other words, the oxygen that is supposed to go to the stomach is redirected to the arms and legs.
This explains why a person who is undergoing anxiety attack symptoms experience churning feeling in the stomach. Because the brain receives less amount of oxygen for a short period of time, the person experiences light-headedness and dizziness. (Take note, however, that the reduced supply of oxygen in the brain is just enough to produce these symptoms and doesn't cause any permanent brain damage.)
Increase in Body Temperature
Because your heart pumps more blood to your muscles, your body temperature increases. So to keep a relatively normal temperature, you begin to sweat. Aside from these signs, you can also experience weakness or fatigue, tingling sensation, and dry mouth. Also, side-effects of these signs may include diarrhea and constant urination.
These body responses are automatic. Meaning, there is no "switch" to turn it on. Thus, there is also no way you can turn it off by simply thinking that you should not feel any of these anxiety attack symptoms. What you should do, especially if the attack is chronic, recurring and it already affects your life, is to seek medical help. This way, your doctor will be able to identify and rule out any other possible causes of these signs which are unrelated to anxiety.
Allow your doctor to conduct a physical exam. He may prescribe you a drug or may refer you to a psychologist or a therapist. Following your doctor is important so do not ignore any advice and believe that you are totally okay.
Anxiety Attack Treatments
Anxiety attacks are frightening but the good thing is, episodes are generally harmless. In most cases, attacks rarely last for more than 30 minutes, with peak of intensity within the first 10 minutes. What make such attacks dangerous is if it becomes chronic and if it affects the well-being of a person and disrupts their normal way of life.
Several treatments are proven very effective in stopping anxiety attack symptoms. Let us look at some of the more popular ones:
Breathing technique – is one of the most effective ways of controlling anxiety attacks. Proper breathing helps slow down heartbeat and helps calm the tensed muscles as a result of the attack. Breathing also diverts the mind's attention from the "trigger" and calms the self, thus stopping the symptoms of the attack even faster. Proper breathing techniques are easy to learn and master.
Self-hypnosis – is a great tool to alter your thought process as well as your body's reaction to those fearful thoughts. During an anxiety attack, lay down on your back or in any comfortable position and try to process your thoughts. Identify the origin of such fearful thoughts. Know if it is real. If you concentrate enough in finding the origins of your thoughts, you will soon realize that they are really not a valid reason for excessive fear.
It may sound simple, and it is. Psychiatrists now recommend self-hypnosis as a treatment for anxiety attacks and other anxiety disorders. (Hypnosis and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be used together by your therapist to stop symptoms of anxiety attacks.)
Meditation – has long been credited to relieve stress and anxiety as it promotes the release of negative energy from the body, relaxes tensed muscles, and calms the mind, which in turn, effectively reduces irrational fear and apprehension. Meditation may not be for all because of the time required to master the technique, however, with proper guidance of an expert or a little bit of patience and dedication, you can reap its benefits.
Herbs – (such as chamomile, passion flower, lavender, and ginkgo biloba) are very effective long-term treatment for anxiety attacks. Since they are all-natural, they possess no side effects. They may not be as aggressive as prescription drugs but they work just as effectively.
Prescription medicines – are a major help in stopping the symptoms of stress and episodes of anxiety attacks. Antidepressants are the most common anxiety treatment. They must be taken continuously, which may take as long as six weeks before noticing the effects. Beta-blockers are a type of drugs that prevent symptoms from recurring. SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors boost the level of serotonin in the brain which regulates and normalizes emotions.
Therapies – are a very important anxiety attack treatment. These target the psychological aspect of anxiety. CBT or the cognitive-behavioral therapy is used to alter the way of thinking – converting negative thoughts into positive ones. Techniques used in CBT include role-playing and relaxation technique. Exposure therapy exposes the person to the physical sensations of panic in a safe and controlled environment. Through repeated exposure, patients gain greater self-control and more confidence in facing fearful situation.
Prescription medicines and therapies, when combined and used as treatment for anxiety attack symptoms, are very effective. Medical studies show that the response rate of patients is much higher if both methods are used compared to those that are treated using either method.