What is an Anxiety Attack? An anxiety attack is a brief period of intense anxiety, fear or panic. Such attacks generally come on very suddenly, without any warning.
While often there is some kind of trigger such as a blind date, a big presentation or a tough exam, it is equally common for anxiety attacks to start for no particular reason at all.
What Causes Anxiety Attacks?
There are various schools of thought about the physiological reasons behind anxiety attacks. The brain is a very complex thing and it is hard to know exactly how anxiety attacks start.
Some medical scientists believe that it is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain and others believe that it is a genetic condition that is inherited from our parents. Whatever the reasons behind anxiety attacks, they are unlikely to be the same in every person.
Research into the brain using MRI machines has let us know that the brain activity connected with an anxiety attack starts in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls our higher, more complex emotions.
Unlike the complex physiological explanations, we know how it is caused externally. Chronic anxiety and anxiety attacks usually begin when there is a major emotional imbalance in someone’s mind. This is usually caused by some kind of major event in a person’s life. Perhaps a family member has died, or maybe they are using drugs or find themselves in trouble with money. It can be any event that elicits a strong emotional response.
However, some people are particularly sensitive to emotional changes. For them, anxiety attacks can be triggered at the slightest provocation. The cause of anxiety attacks all depends on the individual and their own unique genetic and psychological makeup.
There are literally hundreds of different anxiety symptoms. We’re all different, with our own unique genetic make up. In each of us, anxiety presents itself in a different way. Perhaps one person might have just one symptom and another person will have a huge amount of different symptoms. It completely depends on who you are which of these symptoms you will experience, but each of them can be a sign of anxiety.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Anxiety attack symptoms can feel absolutely terrifying. You can often feel so bad that you fear you are actually going to die. You should bear in mind that while anxiety attack symptoms are very frightening, they aren’t actually harmful in themselves. It’s easy to see your anxiety attack as symptomatic of a more serious illness, but this is not the case. It’s important to be aware of this, as fear about your symptoms can end up increasing your anxiety and making it harder to recover.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms in Women
Overwhelming panic is one of the most common anxiety attack symptoms in women and it’s this symptom that most people think of when they hear about an anxiety attack. It’s an intense fear that comes over you in a huge wave, for no specific reason. It can be a terrifying and emotionally disturbing occurrence and is definitely an experience that you’ll have a hard time forgetting. It’s the kind of panic than can shake you to the core. It’s very difficult to describe this kind of feeling, but if you’ve ever felt it then you will know exactly what “overwhelming panic” means.
Palpitations are when you have an increased awareness of your own heart beating. It feels like your heart is literally about to beat out of your chest. It’s intense and frightening and it can make you worry that you are about to have a heart attack or some other kind of cardiac problem. In truth, palpitations are nothing to be concerned about and most of the time they don’t indicate any type of physical problem, only a psychological one. If you are concerned that you are about to have a heart attack, then it will only make the palpitations worse. The important thing is to remain calm and know that the feeling will pass. Do not be scared that you could die. Palpitations can not kill you.
Nausea is another anxiety attack symptom that is very common in women. It feels like butterflies in the stomach, but much more intense to the point of sickness. It’s a very different feeling to a stomach upset or any other type of nausea. It’s more like feeling sick with fear, an intense worry deep in the pit of your stomach. Most people have felt like this in intensely stressful or fearful situations, but when this feeling comes for next to no reason, it should be taken as a sign of anxiety.
Fear of Going Crazy
One of the most terrifying symptoms of an anxiety attack is the fear that you are losing your mind. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but if it does happen it can be one of the most terrifying occurrences you can imagine. Losing your sanity is an incredibly terrifying thing and sometimes the feelings surrounding an anxiety attack could be confused with feelings of losing your sanity. Mounting confusion and terror can sometimes be overwhelming. However, you should be aware that an anxiety attack couldn’t send you insane. While it is a terrifying psychological condition, it’s not something that could cause a permanent change in your mental state.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms in Men
One of the most common anxiety attack signs in men is excess perspiration. We’re not talking a bit of sweating either, we mean absolutely pouring out sweat as if you are in a sauna. While this might seem like quite a mild symptom, excess perspiration can actually be quite terrifying because it triggers overwhelming feelings of social anxiety. This can be particularly difficult for men, as society places a lot of importance on men’s confidence. If they are sweating, they are unable to feel confident and the anxiety just increases.
Sensitivity to Light and Sound
Occasionally people who are suffering from an anxiety attack just want to lock themselves away in a dark and quiet room. This sensitivity to light and sounds is very common, and can become very intense. Normal daylight or standard electric light bulbs can be reminiscent of blinding flashes of lightning and the normal background noise of day-to-day life can become deafening. Lots of people find that when they are out in the street and begin feeling anxious, the first symptom they experience is the normal noise of traffic turning into an incredible thunder.
De-realization or Depersonalization
The subtle effects of de-realization and depersonalization can be hard to explain, but you will instantly recognize these feelings if you have ever experienced them. De-realization is a feeling of disconnection from reality. You begin to see reality as if it’s through fresh eyes. Simple concepts that you have been familiar with for your whole life become unfamiliar. This can be a profoundly distressing feeling.
Depersonalization is a disconnection from your sense of self. You begin to have a crisis of identity, wondering what or who you are. In severe situations you might even forget your name or lose the understanding that you are a human being. This is truly terrifying, as I’m sure you can imagine.
How to Stop Anxiety Attacks
Stopping an anxiety attack depends on the cause and what situation you are in when the anxiety attack comes over you. However, there are many basic methods that are simple to implement and don’t require any medical intervention or professional help.
If you feel like you might have an anxiety attack, the best thing to do is just become aware of your breathing. Breathe deeply and calmly and concentrate on each inhalation and exhalation. Make sure it is calm, deep breathing rather than panicked shallow breathing. Panicked breathing is called hyperventilation and it’s not going to help you feel any better. It will only make you feel substantially worse, so make sure you breathe in the correct way.
Sometimes during an anxiety attack we can feel like the logical part of our mind has been switched off. It’s very hard to think clearly and instead we react with irrational thoughts like thinking we are going crazy or thinking we are going to die. It’s important to think clearly during an anxiety attack as much as is possible. You need to realize, during the attack, that while the feelings you are having are terrifying, they will not cause you any permanent damage.
Don’t Self Medicate for Anxiety
Many people who suffer from anxiety end up drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs to help with their symptoms. This doesn’t work and is more likely to be the cause of a panic attack than to solve the problem. Marijuana can make healthy people feel calm, and it may have calmed you in the past, but if you attempt to take it to help your anxiety, it will only make you worse.
Don’t Anticipate an Attack
Sometimes thinking “Oh no! I’m about to have an anxiety attack!” is exactly what brings it on. Even if you find yourself in a situation that has caused an anxiety attack before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will definitely have one again. However, it can be very easy to talk yourself into it. Also, you should make sure you don’t actively try to avoid situations that might give you a panic attack. This can lead to other serious conditions like agoraphobia (the fear of leaving your house.)
Don’t Take Pharmaceutical Drugs for Anxiety for Too Long
If you go to your doctor complaining about anxiety attacks, you may be given medication. This medication can often help in the short term, but it’s not going to be a permanent cure to the underlying problems that are causing your anxiety attacks. Drugs are good at masking symptoms, but they won’t cure the underlying problems.
Whether you are a man or a woman, the symptoms of anxiety attacks can be truly terrifying. If you’ve gone through any of these symptoms, you are not alone.
Experiencing anxiety attacks is incredibly common in our modern, fast paced society. The best way to avoid anxiety attacks is to learn what triggers them and to avoid it. When you are having an anxiety attack, don’t overreact. It can be terrifying, but nothing about it can permanently hurt or damage you.