Understanding The Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

Updated August 23, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety attacks can be very troubling when you’re in the midst of them. Many people don’t know what they’re going through the first time that they experience anxiety attack symptoms because they don’t know anything about anxiety disorders. An anxiety attack can cause physical symptoms that mirror other scary medical problems. It isn’t uncommon for someone to assume they’re having heart issues or a severe asthma attack when they’re dealing with an anxiety attack. Understanding the symptoms of an anxiety attack will be a key part of learning how to cope with them moving forward. Some symptoms might be different for you depending on the type of anxiety disorder that you’re experiencing.

Learn How To Manage Anxiety Attacks Effectively

Overwhelming Sense of Panic

The first thing that many people report when they’re having a panic attack is feeling an overwhelming sense of panic and fear. You might start to worry and fear while everything could feel like it’s happening very fast. The physical symptoms of the panic attack might come after you feel this sense of dread and impending doom in the pit of your stomach. It can feel somewhat different based on the individual, but many people describe it as an overwhelming fear. The panic can be brought on by an irrational fear, traumatic events, a persistent feeling of ongoing stress, or be completely random. There is not always an obvious cause or fear. There are actually some differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack, too. Depending on which one you’re having, the symptoms might be more severe.

An anxiety attack is generally said to be less severe than a full-blown panic attack which is symptomatic of panic disorders. Panic attacks are common for people who have panic disorder. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder in which panic attacks with extreme fear and significant physical symptoms present itself. Panic disorder is not necessarily more severe than other anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, but panic attacks are present in a panic disorder. Anxiety and panic attacks can happen to just about anyone and the symptoms are essentially the same, but when comparing anxiety and panic attacks, panic attacks are often more severe. It’s also worth noting that anxiety attacks can have specific triggers whereas a panic attack might occur for no discernible reason. People deal with anxiety attacks when they’re under a lot of stress and you don’t necessarily have to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to have one. People who do have an anxiety disorder might deal with anxiety attacks more frequently, though.

Feeling Like You’re No Longer in Control

When you’re going through an anxiety attack, you’re going to feel like you’re no longer in control out of fear. Some people feel as if they’re floating, and others may feel like they can’t control their thoughts and fears. It can be overwhelming, and the anxiety has just gotten so severe that you don’t feel like you’re in control of the situation any longer. You might think that you’re going crazy, but the panic attack will pass, and you’ll be able to feel better eventually. Don’t hesitate to get help if you feel like you need it because treatments are available for this and various other anxiety disorders.

The loss of control and fear is more disconcerting than anything. An anxiety disorder might bring about a feeling of helplessness and fear that will lead to a panic attack or anxiety attack. Anxiety disorders can certainly contribute to the frequency that you experience attacks like this. This is why seeking out treatment for your anxiety disorder is so helpful. If you have yet to be diagnosed, then a doctor should work with you to make sure what you’re dealing with. Furthermore, you could be dealing with the aftereffects of traumatic events which could also be worked on at therapy.

Chest Pains and Heart Palpitations

Chest pains are one of the telltale signs of an anxiety attack for many people with mental health concerns. The problem with this symptom is that the anxiety chest pain could mirror the pain that you might feel from a heart attack. Many people who aren’t aware that they have some type of anxiety disorder or mental illness will assume that they’re having a heart attack and go to the emergency room for heart disease. Your first thought when you have chest pain isn’t likely going to be about having an anxiety disorder if you’ve never had an anxiety attack before. It’s definitely best to err on the side of caution if you aren’t sure what is going on. It could be an anxiety attack, but if you don’t know for sure, then getting help is certainly advisable. You shouldn’t assume that you’re dealing with symptoms of anxiety disorders if you haven’t checked with your doctor yet.

Remember that heart palpitations can also occur when you have an anxiety disorder and start to feel overly anxious in everyday life. Some of those with anxiety disorders will experience heart palpitations when they’re under a lot of stress. This could occur as part of an anxiety attack, or it could be a precursor to an anxiety attack. Either way, heart palpitations can be very unsettling, and many people wish that they could just get them to stop. Heart palpitations are normally not serious, but if you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder yet, it’s still best to speak to your doctor about what you’re experiencing so that you can make sure that it isn’t something else. Additionally, anxiety can be brought on by overactive thyroid problems.

Dizziness and Feeling Like You Could Pass Out

Dizziness will sometimes occur when you’re having an anxiety attack. If you’re out and you suddenly feel dizzy, then it’s possible that it could be part of an anxiety attack. Certain individuals have felt anxiety so strongly that they have felt as if they could pass out. It is possible to pass out from an anxiety attack if you can’t calm down. Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done when you’re in the moment and dealing with an anxiety disorder. Most people don’t know that anxiety disorders can cause physical symptoms and other health conditions like this.

Shortness of Breath or Hyperventilation

Shortness of breath is very common when people are going through anxiety issues. If you have a social anxiety disorder, then it wouldn’t be unusual to feel shortness of breath when you’re out in public. This could be the beginning of an anxiety attack. Sometimes the shortness of breath can also turn into full-blown hyperventilation. If you feel that anxious, then it’s best to find a place to sit down or to reach out for some help so that you can come down from your anxiety attack.

Learn How To Manage Anxiety Attacks Effectively

Hot Flashes or Getting the Chills

Sometimes you might feel hot flashes when you’re going through an anxiety attack as well. Not everyone who has anxiety will experience this symptom during an anxiety attack, but it’s still fairly common. You could feel your face get very hot and you might even start sweating profusely. It could also go the other way and you could suddenly feel very cold. You might experience chills running up and down your body along with some of the other symptoms that have already been mentioned.

Panic Attacks Aren’t “Fake”

There are people who get worried about having panic attacks because they don’t want people to think they’re being a hypochondriac. Some have referred to panic attacks as “fake” in the past and this is a completely wrong way to think about. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are very much a real thing even if they’re simply brought on by anxiety, panic, and stress, or something like separation anxiety disorder or social phobia. The physical symptoms that someone experiences during a panic attack are very much real, and they can be a chronic health condition. It’s also true that once a person calms down they’re generally going to be fine. That doesn’t make the panic attack any less scary, though. The mental illness makes one feel like they are losing control, and if someone insists that they “just calm down” when the fear overwhelms, it can worsen anxiety. Anxiety disorders are real medical illnesses that require medical help and treatment options.

Because the symptoms of a panic attack can mirror those of a heart attack in many ways, people have started thinking of things differently. If you know someone who is having anxiety attacks, then you shouldn’t use phrases like “it’s all in your head.” This is a legitimate and frightening problem that could cause many issues. Many people experience anxiety attacks and you shouldn’t feel strange about wanting to seek help. It’s possible to manage anxiety attacks properly by seeking out professional help. Doctors and therapists can help to diagnose any potential anxiety disorders and you’ll be able to move forward from there.

Getting Help for Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

Now that you understand the symptoms of anxiety attacks and panic attacks, you’ll be able to get the help that you need. The first thing that you will want to do is have a conversation with your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Your doctor might want to run some tests to make sure that none of your physical symptoms are related to another disorder. This could include checking out your heart as well as testing your blood. After this, your doctor will take steps to diagnose you while figuring everything out.

You might be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder of some kind. Anxiety disorders are common and many people live with intense anxiety issues. They are diagnosed by mental health professionals who use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the national alliance of psychiatrists referred to as the American Psychiatric Association. Sometimes people develop anxiety disorders due to stress that they’re dealing with in life. An anxiety disorder could also be caused by other issues and your doctor will be able to make a determination once you have discussed things in detail. You might be diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder based on your anxiety attack symptoms. It’s also possible that you could be dealing with another type of anxiety disorder.

Treatment options will vary depending on how your doctor wants to do things. It depends on what you are diagnosed with. Your medical professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which is published by a national alliance of doctors referred to as the American Psychiatric Association. Many doctors will prescribe patients anti-anxiety medications to help them to cope with anxiety attack symptoms. There are many effective medications that your doctor could prescribe you for medical cause. Support groups are also available. These prescription medications are part of the puzzle when it comes to getting panic attack or anxiety attack symptoms under control. You’ll find that your doctor will also recommend therapy as a potential treatment option.

Going to Therapy

Therapy is an effective way to deal with anxiety disorders and licensed therapists know how to help you with intense anxiety. They will be able to help you to work through issues that might be causing your anxiety attack symptoms. Sometimes people have anxiety attack triggers and you can learn to avoid these triggers with the help of professionals. Therapy sessions will help you to learn about your anxiety, how to cope with it, and how to avoid having anxiety attacks as much as possible. A common form of therapy that is used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, a national institute, CBT is a “well-established, highly effective, and lasting treatment.” Therapists can help you develop coping strategies and relaxation techniques. Therapists can also assist you with panic disorders or other mental disorders and you’ll always be able to turn to them when you’re having a tough day for improved mental health. They can help you with a variety of issues like medical education, social phobia, suicide prevention, a healthy diet, muscle tension, or just managing stress, to just name a few. Future attacks of anxiety and unexpected attacks can be worked on today with wellness professions. You can learn to look for the physical conditions, signs, and symptoms of anxiety attacks when you feel anxious,

Some people with mental disorders will be more comfortable finding a local healthcare professional and doing traditional office visits for their mental health issues like generalized anxiety disorder. You also have the option of pursuing online therapy if that sounds appealing to you. Online therapy is an excellent way to get the help that is both convenient and affordable. For some people, being able to get assistance without having to leave home is the optimal solution to manage settings when you treat your medical condition. Whatever type of therapy you would prefer is going to be readily available. You just need to take the time to reach out so that you can start controlling your anxiety disorder.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can also help you to manage anxiety symptoms that stem from an anxiety disorder. Many anxiety disorders will be less severe if you make positive changes in your life. You can try to do simple things such as getting regular exercise and eating right. Just thirty minutes of exercise each day could help you to feel better. Sometimes focusing on positive things will help you to alleviate the symptoms of having a problematic anxiety disorder. Just remember that lifestyle changes alone are not meant to be a replacement for treatments for anxiety disorders. Just try to commit to getting enough sleep at night and work with your doctors so that your anxiety disorder can be managed properly.

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