Types Of Anxiety Attack Treatment
Updated July 15, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Dutil
Anxiety disorders can bring intense feelings of panic and worry. If you have trouble with anxiety, you might worry about experiencing the symptoms as much as you worry about the things you fear. And that isn’t surprising. After all, the effects of anxiety disorders can range from distressing emotions to upsetting thoughts to scary physical symptoms. If you have anxiety attacks or any other type of anxiety disorder, there is help. Many types of treatment are available to help you feel more at ease.
What’s It Like To Have An Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack, also called a panic attack, often happens suddenly, with no advance warning. Other times, there might be a trigger that you notice, like getting in a crowded elevator. The symptoms of this anxiety disorder can feel quite alarming. Symptoms might include:
- A sense of impending doom
- A feeling of extreme panic
- A feeling that you’re losing control
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling like you’re going to faint.
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling like you’re choking.
- Feeling of detachment or unreality
Sometimes, the symptoms of this anxiety disorder are so severe that you might feel like you are literally going to die. Even though your doctor might tell you there’s nothing physically wrong, the symptoms of an anxiety attack can certainly feel physical and life-threatening. This anxiety disorder can include panic attacks that are so overwhelming that many people begin to avoid situations where their anxiety attacks might happen or have happened in the past. This could stop them from pursuing their dream job, traveling, or even just spending time with other people. Treatment can help you overcome an anxiety disorder so that you can do the things you want to or have always dreamed of doing.
Types Of Anxiety Disorders
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists anxiety disorders into five clinical types. Each anxiety disorder has its own symptoms and triggers. Yet, anxiety attacks can happen independently of any of these types of anxiety disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is a type of chronic anxiety disorder in which you feel anxiety symptoms more days than not for at least six months. In this anxiety disorder, you might worry about your job, your relationships, your finances, your health, or even ordinary things that happen every day. Some of the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Excessive worry
- Feeling on edge
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
Panic disorder is the anxiety disorder most people think of when the subject of panic attacks comes up. If you have this anxiety disorder, you might have anxiety attacks very often. What is an anxiety attack? You feel sudden, intense fear and physical symptoms that go along with fear. The attacks usually last between 10 and 30 minutes, but the symptoms are intense. While many anxiety disorders can evoke panic, in panic disorder, these attacks are the main feature.
Social anxiety, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which you have overwhelming fear in social situations. Some people only have social anxiety symptoms when they are in one specific type of social setting. For example, they might have them when they have to give a speech or go to a party. Others might have these anxiety disorder symptoms every time they have to be around other people. Symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Feeling that your mind is blank
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- Muscle tension
- Fear of being judged
- Fear that others will notice your anxiety symptoms
- Obsessing over the details of your social performance after the fact
Post-traumatic stress disorder is another anxiety disorder that can include anxiety attacks. Among all the anxiety disorders, PTSD is the one that usually comes after you’ve experienced a traumatic event or situation. Some things that might trigger PTSD include military combat, accidents, and violent attacks. The common thread in these situations is that you felt your life was in danger when they happened. When you have this anxiety disorder, you might have flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic experience. You might have a feeling of emotional numbness, as well. Many people feel jumpy, irritable, or easily angered, sometimes called hypervigilance.
Another of the major anxiety disorders is an obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you have OCD, you might have recurrent ruminating thoughts and repetitive behaviors. You might perform rituals, like repeated hand washing, counting, or cleaning. These specific rituals might relieve you in the short term, but the anxiety always returns. If you can’t do the ritual, the symptoms become worse, and you might become very panicked at not being able to complete a specific ritual.
Treatments For Anxiety Disorders
The two main types of treatment for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. While some people do improve with only medications, they aren’t learning how to manage their anxiety disorder for themselves. So, they might become too reliant on the medication. That’s why many people seek psychotherapy, too, or prefer just talk therapy.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can be helpful for people with any anxiety disorder. This therapy technique assumes that thoughts and actions drive emotions and symptoms of anxiety disorders. The idea is that, by addressing your thoughts and behaviors, you can find relief from your anxiety disorder symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven effective in countless studies, and in a 2012 study, researchers found that the positive effects of CBT lasted for at least a year.
One type of CBT for anxiety disorders is cognitive therapy. In this form of anxiety disorder therapy, you start by identifying your negative thoughts. If you’re in therapy for anxiety attacks, you might be looking for negative thoughts you have before, during, or after the panic attacks.
The next step is to evaluate the thoughts to see if they’re helpful and accurate. If you determine that thought isn’t making you feel better or is causing anxiety disorder symptoms, you then need to decide what to do about it. You can find a way to reframe the thought, change the thought to something more accurate or helpful for you, or even keep the thought if that seems best to you. You decide what to think and do about any of the anxiety disorders, and your therapist guides and supports you along the way.
Exposure therapy for anxiety disorders means that you are systematically exposed to the thing that triggers your anxiety. If you choose a technique called flooding, you are exposed to the things you fear most all along the way. But if you have hierarchy therapy for anxiety disorders, you are exposed to the things you fear least at first and keep advancing up the hierarchy until you are exposed to the things that cause you the most anxiety.
People with many types of anxiety disorders can benefit from group therapy. Cognitive therapy is usually the main technique used, along with other group therapy methods. Group therapy is especially helpful for people who have social phobia because it gives them a chance to practice being in a social setting and interacting with others at a time when they have a therapist with them to help them face their fears.
Working With A Therapist To Overcome Anxiety Disorders
Working with a therapist to get help with your anxiety disorder can be very rewarding. There are a few things to remember about therapy for anxiety disorders. First, you always have the option to go to therapy or not. So, it makes sense to think about what you want to accomplish or setting goals with your therapist. Taking an active part in therapy can help you get better results. Second, any time you feel confused or upset about what’s happening in your anxiety disorder therapy sessions, it’s usually helpful to bring it up and discuss it with your therapist. They are there to help and will explain the therapeutic process.
Doctors and psychiatrists sometimes prescribe medications for anxiety disorders. While these medications don’t cure anxiety disorders, they can make you feel relaxed as long as they’re in your system. In most cases, it’s important to also address your symptoms with a counselor so you can feel better even if you don’t have the meds with you. In fact, therapy might help you get to the point where you no longer need anxiety disorder medications at all.
Types Of Medications For Anxiety Disorders
The three main types of medications that are usually used to relieve symptoms of anxiety disorders are anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, certain antidepressants, such as Paxil for social anxiety, and beta-blockers. Beta-blockers were originally designed to help people with heart conditions, but they can also be used for anxiety disorders.
Managing Anxiety Medications
People with a generalized anxiety disorder might take medications at a set time each day. In contrast, someone with panic attacks as a part of their anxiety disorder might take them only at the time an anxiety attack happens. Either way, whenever you’re taking medications for anxiety disorders, it’s important to take them as directed. It might be tempting to take an anti-anxiety medication more often than recommended, especially if you have several panic attacks in one day. However, these medications can be hard on your body if you overuse them. Some of them are addictive, and if you use them more than prescribed, they can lose their effectiveness for you over time.
Be sure to talk to your psychiatrist if you experience any side effects of medications you take for anxiety disorders. At some point, you might be so concerned about the side effects that you just stop taking the medication altogether. This can increase your anxiety symptoms abruptly. And in the case of antidepressants, you might experience discontinuation syndrome symptoms if you stop the medication too quickly.
Stress Management Techniques
Learning stress management techniques can help feel more relaxed when you feel worry, muscle tension, or fear as a part of an anxiety disorder. You can learn them on your own by watching videos or reading about them. Or, your therapist can teach you how to do them and give you opportunities to practice them. Stress management techniques include:
- Taking a walk
- Practicing mindfulness
- Deep breathing
- Systematic muscle relaxation
- Listening to music
- Working out
How To Get Started With Anxiety Disorder Treatments
Do you think it’s time to do something to relieve the symptoms of your anxiety disorder? If so, there are many avenues you can take. You could go to a support group in your local area to meet other people and find out how they deal with their anxiety disorders. But for professional treatment, a better option might be to see a psychiatrist, a therapist, or both.
Licensed counselors are available at BetterHelp for online therapy through videoconferencing. During your sessions, you can discuss your symptoms of anxiety disorders, triggers and come up with a plan for reducing your anxiety. By choosing online counseling, you get the chance to have therapy from where you are, at a time that’s best for you. No matter where you go for treatment, no matter what mental health professionals you go to, the important thing is that you get treatment for your anxiety disorder so you can feel comfortable doing all the things you want to do with your life.