Anxiety attacks are a common problem for many people. If you are one of them, you know how scary and disabling they can be. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of anxiety attacks, as well as 10 ways to calm down when one is occurring.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. It’s what we feel when we’re worrying about something in the future or when we’re in a situation that makes us feel uncomfortable. For most people, anxiety is a minor inconvenience that comes and goes. But for others, anxiety can be more severe and persistent. This is what’s known as an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting 40 million adults adn 20% of teens each year.There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and more. Each type of anxiety disorder has its own set of symptoms and causes.
What is an anxiety attack?
You’re sitting in your car, stopped at a red light. It’s been a long day and you’re just trying to make it home. Suddenly, your heart starts racing, your breaths come short and fast, and you feel like you’re going to pass out or have a heart attack. What is happening? You’re having an anxiety attack.
During an anxiety attack, you might experience a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, or nausea. You might also have a feeling of being disconnected from reality or feel like you’re going to faint or die. These symptoms can last for several minutes or longer.
What brings on an Anxiety Attack?
While the exact cause of anxiety attacks is unknown, there are several factors that can contribute to them. These include genetics, family history of mental illness, chronic stress, trauma or abuse (such as witnessing violence), and certain medical conditions (such as heart disease).
If you suffer from anxiety, it’s important to be aware of the triggers that can bring on an attack so that you can be prepared and hopefully avoid them.
Here are 5 things that might bring on an anxiety attack:
You might need coffee to get through the day, but too much caffeine can actually bring on an anxiety attack. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it speeds up your heart rate and can make you feel jittery and on edge. If you suffer from anxiety, it’s best to limit your caffeine intake or avoid it altogether.
Lack of Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can take a toll on your mental health and increase your anxiety levels. When you’re tired, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol, which can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night to help keep your anxiety in check.
Some medications, such as those for high blood pressure or asthma, can cause anxiety as a side effect. If you think your medication might be causing or worsening your anxiety, talk to your doctor about other options. Do not stop taking any medication without first talking to your doctor!
Blood Sugar Imbalances
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, these fluctuations can also cause anxiety.
Fluctuations in hormone levels can also trigger anxiety attacks, particularly in women during times like pregnancy, menopause, or PMS/PMDD cycles.
If you suffer from anxiety, it’s important to know what triggers might bring on an attack so that you can be prepared and hopefully avoid them.
Be mindful of things like caffeine intake, lack of sleep, certain medications, blood sugar imbalances, and hormone changes as they could all lead to an increased risk for suffering from an anxiety attack.
Anxiety Attacks – Symptoms
Having an anxiety attack can be a very scary experience. Symptoms of anxiety attacks can include a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, and a feeling of impending doom. If you have ever experienced an anxiety attack, you know how distressing they can be.
Keep in mind is that not everyone experiences all of the symptoms listed below. Some people may only have a few of them, while others may have most or all of them. And the intensity of the symptoms can vary from person to person as well. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common anxiety attack symptoms.
The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are caused by the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. This is the body’s natural way of responding to danger. The body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate and blood pressure. This is why your heart feels like it is pounding and you may feel shortness of breath. The increased blood flow to your muscles also explains the shaking and sweating.
The “feeling of impending doom” is caused by the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that has calming effects. GABA is released when we are stressed or anxious, which causes us to feel calm in the face of danger. However, when there is too much stress or anxiety, GABA can’t keep up and we may start to feel overwhelmed.
Common symptoms of anxiety attacks –
Dizziness and nausea: These are also common symptoms of anxiety attacks and are caused by the increased blood flow to your head and stomach respectively. Nausea is also a common symptom of stress and anxiety.
Racing Heart: One of the most common symptoms of anxiety attacks is a racing heart. This usually happens because your body is releasing adrenaline in response to the perceived threat.
Shortness of Breath: Shortness of breath is another common symptom because when your heart rate increases, it can be hard to catch your breath. This can also happen if you’re hyperventilating due to anxiety.
Chest Pain: Chest pain is another possibility because anxiety can cause muscle tension and make it feel like something is squeezing or constricting your chest.
Dizziness: Dizziness and lightheadedness often go hand-in-hand with anxiety because when your heart rate increases, it can lead to a drop in blood pressure which can then cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded.
Sweating: Many people experience sweating during an anxiety attack because again, this is your body’s response to the adrenaline rush.
Feeling Like You’re Going to Pass Out or Die: It’s not uncommon for people to feel like they’re going to faint or die during an anxiety attack. This is usually due to a combination of factors such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness/lightheadedness. While it may feel very real and scary, it’s important to remember that rarely do people actually faint or die from an anxiety attack.
How to deal with an anxiety attack
The next time you find yourself having a full-blown anxiety attack, try one of these proven techniques to calm down.
Try to stay in the present moment as much as possible
Anxiety is often caused by worrying about things that either happened in the past or might happen in the future. When you’re in the midst of an anxiety attack, it’s important to try to focus on what’s happening right here, right now. Take a few deep breaths and look around you. Focus on what you can see, hear and smell. By focusing on your senses, you’ll help ground yourself in the present moment and stop your mind from spiralling into anxious thoughts about the past or future.
Use visual imagery
Anxiety can make your mind feel like it’s racing a million miles a minute. To counteract that feeling, close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful place—a beautiful meadow, a secluded beach, etc. Really try to use as many senses as possible in your visualization; what does the place look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? The more detailed your visualization, the more effective it will be in calming your anxiety.
Repeat positive affirmations
When anxiety is taking over, it’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and start doubting yourself. That’s why it can be helpful to have a few positive affirmations on hand that you can repeat to yourself when you’re feeling panicked or overwhelmed. Some examples might be “I am safe,” “I am strong,” “I am capable,” or “I am loved.” Say them out loud or write them down on some index cards that you can keep with you so you can pull them out and read them when needed.
Accept that the anxiety attack is happening.
This may seem like an impossible task when you’re in the midst of an attack, but it’s important to try to stay calm and not fight the feeling of anxiety. Acceptance will help you get through the attack more quickly. Remember that an anxiety attack is not dangerous and it will eventually end. The most important thing you can do is stay calm and ride out the attack until it passes.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
This will help to slow down your heart rate and ease your physical symptoms. Try to inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of four. Repeat this until you start to feel better.
Distract yourself from your thoughts.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, try to focus on something else. Call a friend, listen to music, or read a book. Do anything that will take your mind off of your fears and help you relax.
These tips can help stop the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack and help you focus on something other than your racing thoughts.
Conclusion – Anxiety Attacks – Symptoms and How to Deal
Anxiety attacks can be frightening and overwhelming experiences. However, knowledge is power!
If you suffer from anxiety, it’s important to know what triggers might bring on an attack so that you can be prepared and hopefully avoid them. Be mindful of things like caffeine intake, lack of sleep, certain medications, blood sugar imbalances, and hormone changes as they could all lead to an increased risk for suffering from an anxiety attack.
By familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of anxiety attacks, you’ll be better equipped to handle one if it happens to you. By following the tips above—accepting that the attack is happening; breathing slowly and deeply; distracting yourself from your thoughts; and riding it out—you will be able to get through an anxiety attack more easily next time one occurs.