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What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like

What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like

Good question! This is quite easily one of the most popular internet searches when someone is overcome with a list of symptoms such as a clenched stomach, racing heartbeat, and difficulty getting breathing under control.

His/her thoughts may start to wonder if it is normal or if they are experiencing a heart attack. Worry and panic can understandably follow.

The person may start to notice:

  • Sweaty palms, clammy forehead, ringing ears
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, hyperventilating
  • An out-of-body feeling or suddenly feeling a loss of control
  • Blood rushing to your head or heart pounding
  • Feeling faint

Some or all of these are physical symptoms that build up and then come together, presenting the anxiety attack.

Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack

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Often there is a gradual buildup of anxiety to a specific event, such as the first day of a new job or an important exam. The anticipation of the coming situation triggers a buildup of symptoms, which ultimately display through an anxiety attack. These anxiety episodes can be handled through awareness and coping skills to most effectively address the situation.

You may want to meet with a therapist to help you modify your behaviors and approach your anxiety episodes with a plan of action.

You can also use some of the following methods that have proven helpful:

Controlled breathing techniques are popular tools to remember as you feel the anxiety building. Deep, slow breathing in a regular pattern can bring your stimulus level down to be more manageable. This will help the racing-heart feeling and clear your head from its fuzzy state.

Develop confidence in your ability to control your anxiety when you feel it rearing its ugly head. Knowing you have successfully prepared yourself or have already been through a similar situation will help you become empowered and trust yourself to get through difficult events.

Go ahead and acknowledge the anxiety. You don’t have to pretend it doesn’t exist. Instead, take a minute to name each symptom you’re experiencing and remind yourself it is normal. Tell yourself it will eventually pass.

Visualization beforehand of a successful outcome will help you enter a situation with a more optimistic approach.

Most people experience some form of anxiety in their life, but learn how to manage it. If you find yourself or know someone who also experiences it, here are some general methods you may find helpful to incorporate in your daily life:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies (gardening, reading, do-it-yourself house projects, crossword puzzles)
  • Meditation (sitting quietly, yoga, nature walks)
  • Caffeine avoidance
  • Coloring
  • Pets

When Anxiety Symptoms Become Disruptive, a Closer Look Should Be Taken

It is very important to realize that while the terminology “anxiety attack” is commonly used in society, it is not considered a diagnosable condition. In fact, it is not listed in the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That is because it is specific to a situation and not causing your life to become unmanageable.

An anxiety disorder is not to be confused with an anxiety attack, as described earlier. Keep in mind people who don’t have an anxiety disorder as well as those who do can both experience an anxiety attack.

Those with an anxiety disorder have other complex emotional issues. The disorder can include any of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood, hopelessness
  • Self-harm or thoughts of self-harm and wishing life would end
  • Difficulty with daily functioning
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety, persistent worry, panic attacks
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty regulating impulses and risk-taking behavior
  • Isolation and social fears

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the nation, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older every year. They are real and serious medical conditions.

They are also highly treatable yet, on average, only 37% of those suffering receive treatment. In Texas, 38% of people with mental health disorders received help in the public sector.

What Causes Anxiety Disorder and Panic Attacks?

There are multiple causes linked to the development of anxiety disorders. These include brain composition, personality traits, life events, and family genetics, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

The neurobiology of a person’s brain centers may be disrupted in the areas of emotion and reason. This has become a prime area of research for medication-based therapies. Extrovert personalities and even higher education levels have been examined as potential underlying causes of anxiety disorder.

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The first rating scale for anxiety wasn’t even developed until 1959, so there is still much to learn in this area.

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We fully understand this can be overwhelming to understand and sift through.

At SUN Behavioral, an anxiety disorder is treated as a dual-diagnosed condition after a full assessment by a professional medical team using a variety of treatments. Medications may be used in combination with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other strength-based interventions.

CBT is a leading treatment teaching patients how to achieve their goals and needs through changing the thoughts, feelings, core beliefs, and actions driving the problems.

The program provides these treatments in a trauma-informed care environment in Houston. Core principles of safety, trustworthiness, empowerment, collaboration, and choice drive all interactions.

If you are worried anxiety has become disruptive in your or a loved one’s life, reach out to us at 713-796-2273. You can also take our confidential online depression screening here.

Anxiety FAQs:

What Is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack occurs because of a known trigger and the person feels physical effects such as a racing heart, clenching in the stomach, clammy hands, and trouble breathing. Once the situation causing the anxiety passes, the event is over.

A panic attack might mimic some of the same physical symptoms, but the cause is often unknown and the attacks occur over a prolonged time, resulting in a negative impact on a person’s life.

How Long Do Anxiety Attacks Last?

An anxiety attack is relatively short-lived, about 10-30 minutes, and is complete when the triggering event is over.

What Triggers an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack can be triggered by a positive or stressful situation such as before a speech, walking down the aisle at a wedding, or on the first day of a new job.

How Do You Know If You’re Having an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack occurs as physical symptoms build up in anticipation of a triggering event. For example, your name is about to be called to give a presentation at work and you start to feel nervous, your heart begins to pound, your hands tremble, you feel lightheaded, and maybe nauseous. The symptoms appear together as an attack.

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