The Signs of an Anxiety Attack and How Best to Cope

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What is an Anxiety Attack?

Having anxious thoughts and worrying over one thing or the other is expected and quite normal. On the other hand, anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of anxiety that are frequent and too intense or excessive.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety disorder (SAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) are the most common anxiety orders.

Often, people with anxiety disorders may experience sudden and overwhelmingly intense episodes of anxiety and fear. These episodes are what, in non-clinical terms, are referred to as anxiety attacks. These attacks develop gradually and reach a peak within a few minutes.

The term “anxiety attack” is not a formal one, and as of now, it is not listed in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V.) An anxiety treatment specialist will be able to diagnose you.

Anxiety attacks are often linked to specific triggers. Could be an upcoming event such as an exam, a job interview, or a problem in your relationship. The attack can also happen unexpectedly and suddenly with no specific trigger, and for no apparent reason.

Signs and Symptoms

There are varied signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack. Some people will only experience a few of these symptoms, while others will experience more. Similarly, some people will experience the milder among these symptoms while others experience the more severe symptoms. It all varies from one person to the next. Again, your anxiety attacks may differ in symptoms, wherein in one episode you have a different experience from the last one.

You will want to seek anxiety treatment when you experience some hard-to-ignore symptoms. Among the symptoms of an anxiety attack include:

  • Feeling tense and apprehensive
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hyperventilation or breathing rapidly
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking and trembles
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea and frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightness in the throat and chest
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension

Anxiety Attack Vs. Panic Attack

An anxiety attack is not the same as a panic attack. Anxiety treatment specialists ensure they make this distinction for an accurate diagnosis. Anxiety may trigger a panic attack. Similarly, a person who experiences frequent panic attacks, or otherwise suffers from panic disorder, is likely to experience anxiety.

There is an overlap in symptoms for panic and anxiety attacks. Among the symptoms common to the two include increased heart rate, tightness in the chest, lightheadedness, and, of course, an overwhelming sense of apprehension. That being said, these symptoms are generally more severe if you are experiencing a panic attack. Some people who have experienced such intense panic attacks go as far as saying that they felt like they were going to die the next minute.

Again, an anxiety attack will develop gradually. You will experience some anxiety from the outset, which will then build up over time.  The attack can range in severity from mild to severe.in most cases, the attack is tied to a specific trigger.

On the other hand, a panic attack can happen without any trigger and may happen suddenly. You may be calm one moment and experiencing the most intense panic attack the next moment. Some people even wake up from their sleep in panic mode.

An anxiety attack tends to build up over time and may continue for a while. On the other hand, a panic attack will start suddenly and will peak after some minutes. Panic attacks usually abate within half an hour or so, even though the effects of symptoms may last for longer.

Coping with an Anxiety Attack

The first thing you want to do to help you cope is to know yourself. What are your triggers? What are the signs that you are having an anxiety attack?  Knowing the triggers can help you avoid them and by so doing, you may be able to prevent these attacks. Similarly, knowing the signs will help you know when to act or seek anxiety treatment.

Here are tips on how to cope with an anxiety attack

Relaxation techniques: Reduce anxiety with some relaxation techniques including meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy. Try any of these when you feel an anxiety attack is about to come on.

Socialize:  invite some friends and family over, or go out to meet them. Go out to social settings and interact with others. Being around people will help you get your mind off of what may be a trigger for your anxiety attack.

Join a support group: You are not alone. There are likely more than a few other people in your area who suffer from anxiety and experience anxiety attacks. Join a support group for emotional support and more practical tips for handling anxiety.

Exercise: Take a break from your work and go for a walk. You can try cycling, hiking or whatever other physical activity interests you. Alternatively, you can also finally make use of that gym subscription. Exercise and physical activity will help take your mind away from potential anxiety attack triggers.

Try a new activity: The excitement and kind of excitement that comes with trying out something new should help take your mind off so much. You will be so focused on what is before you that you won’t give thought to the things that would have otherwise caused you anxiety. Try painting, dance, or whatever other new activity.

Listen to Music: Music can be so soothing and helps to reduce stress.  Create a playlist of your best songs and plug-in those earphones when you start to feel overwhelmed with anxiety.

Talk to an expert: Find an anxiety treatment specialist and book yourself a session with a qualified mental health provider. Professionals will recommend psychotherapy and/or medication. You can have one-on-one sessions with the expert as well as group therapy sessions. Also, ensure that you take all anti-anxiety medications as prescribed for the best possible outcome.

Diet

A combination of the ketogenic diet and an anti-inflammatory protocol can help with anxiety. That means you simultaneously stop eating anything containing inflammatory foods (gluten, corn, soy, sugar, and dairy).  Start consuming a high-fat, moderate-protein diet. The latter sends you into ketosis—the state your body enters when it stops burning glucose from carbs for energy and starts burning ketones from fat.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in managing stress, anxiety, and mood.  Low GABA levels have been linked to clinical depression and anxiety. Animal studies have found that following a ketogenic diet may increase circulating levels of GABA, potentially improving these symptoms.

Conclusion

Anxiety attacks are fairly common, but that shouldn’t stand in the way of you living your best life. With some lifestyle tips, and of course professional anxiety treatment with psychotherapy and       medication, you can manage these attacks, and may even be able to reduce their frequency

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