Understanding The Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

Updated April 1, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people don’t recognize an anxiety attack when they experience one for the first time. Anxiety or panic attacks can cause physical symptoms that mirror other scary medical problems, like heart issues or a severe asthma attack. Understanding panic attack symptoms is crucial to learning how to cope with them.

Learn How To Manage Anxiety Attacks Effectively

Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are some symptoms that are common with anxiety attacks.

Overwhelming Sense Of Panic

The first thing many people report when having a panic attack is an overwhelming sense of panic and fear. Physical symptoms may or may not follow. Anxiety attacks feel somewhat different for everyone, but you may experience a fear of losing control and a sense of impending doom or danger. An irrational fear or traumatic event can bring on a panic attack, or it can be completely random.

Feeling Like You’re No Longer In Control

When you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, you may feel like you’re no longer in control. These feelings can be overwhelming, but it may be helpful to remember that the panic attack will pass, and you will feel better eventually.

Chest Pains And Heart Palpitations

Chest pains are a telltale sign of an anxiety attack for many people. The problem with this symptom is that anxiety chest pain could mirror heart attack pain. Many people who aren’t aware that they have an anxiety disorder may assume they’re having a heart attack and go to the emergency room. Research shows that as many as 50% of people who come to the emergency room with low-risk chest pain have moderate to severe anxiety. (Note: If you have chest pain, it’s best to err on the side of caution and go to the ER to get evaluated immediately.)

Some people with anxiety disorders will experience heart palpitations when they’re under a lot of stress. This symptom can occur as part of an anxiety attack or as a precursor to one. Either way, heart palpitations can be very unsettling. They are usually not serious, but it’s still best to speak to your doctor to ensure nothing serious is happening.

Dizziness And Feeling Like You Could Pass Out

Dizziness may occur when you’re having an anxiety attack. Some people may have anxiety so strongly that they feel like they could pass out. Passing out from an anxiety attack is possible if you can’t calm yourself down. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re in the moment and dealing with an anxiety disorder.

Shortness Of Breath Or Hyperventilation

Shortness of breath is very common when people are going through anxiety issues. For example, if you have a social anxiety disorder, feeling shortness of breath might not be so unusual when you’re out in public. Still, it could be the beginning of an anxiety attack.

Learn How To Manage Anxiety Attacks Effectively

Hot Flashes Or Getting The Chills

Sometimes you might feel hot flashes when you’re also going through an anxiety attack. Not everyone with anxiety will experience this symptom, but it’s still fairly common. Your face may get very hot, and you might start sweating profusely. Conversely, you may suddenly feel very cold, and experience chills running up and down your body, along with some other symptoms that have already been mentioned.

Panic Attacks Aren’t “Fake”

Anxiety and panic attacks are very real, and the physical symptoms can be terrifying. Once a person calms down, they’re generally going to be okay, but that doesn’t make the panic attack any less scary.

Managing panic attacks is possible, but many people need the help of a qualified professional to learn how to cope with them. A doctor or therapist can help 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 and panic attacks, you can get the help you need. First, have a conversation with your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Your doctor might want to run some tests to ensure that none of your physical symptoms are related to another disorder.

Many doctors prescribe medication to help people cope with anxiety attack symptoms, but research generally shows that cognitive behavioral therapy is the best treatment for anxiety disorders. 

Going To Therapy

A licensed therapist can help you learn about your anxiety, how to cope with it, and how to lessen the severity of anxiety attacks or potentially avoid them altogether. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of anxiety therapy. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, CBT is a “well-established, highly effective, and lasting treatment.” 

CBT is based on a few core principles: that psychological problem are partially based on unhelpful ways of thinking and learned patterns of unhelpful behavior, and that people with psychological problems can learn better ways of coping with them.

Get Started With Treatment

 If you’re ready to get help for your anxiety, the first place to start is with your doctor. If you experience symptoms of panic attacks, it’s always best to rule out other causes first. If your doctor believes you are experiencing anxiety, they may suggest talking to a therapist. Note that not everyone with anxiety experiences panic and anxiety attacks. If you have anxiety symptoms without panic attacks, talking to a therapist can still help you learn how to manage them so they have less impact on your daily life. 

Online therapy has many benefits, especially for people with anxiety. Many people find getting started with treatment intimidating, and connecting with a qualified professional online from the comfort of your own home can alleviate some of the stress and make it easier to connect with someone who can help you.

Research shows that online therapy for anxiety is an effective treatment option, too. Research shows that online treatment was equally effective at treating anxiety as face-to-face sessions. Other studies show that online CBT leads to a 50% improvement in symptoms of multiple types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you’re curious about online treatment or ready to begin, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist for more information.


Anxiety and panic attacks can be scary, especially if you experience a lot of physical symptoms. It’s always best to get checked out by a doctor if you experience heart palpitations and chest pains with your panic attacks. If your doctor rules out any physical causes, online therapy is a convenient and effective way to learn how to manage your anxiety and potentially lessen the frequency and intensity of your anxiety attacks.

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