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Bliss Lavelle

Recovery Writer and Advocate

Last Update on April 29, 2024

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Mental health plays a massive role in our overall well-being, and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health challenges people face. These disorders can have a profound impact on daily life, but what does an anxiety attack feel like?

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders represent a significant portion of the mental health challenges faced by many individuals. Unfortunately, the stigma and lack of support often hinder understanding and addressing these issues. By raising awareness about mental health, especially anxiety disorders, we can foster a more compassionate and supportive society. Here are the benefits of mental health awareness:

  • Reducing Stigma: Increasing awareness about mental health can significantly reduce the stigma surrounding it, encouraging individuals to seek help without fear of judgment.
  • Enhancing Support: Greater awareness enables communities and healthcare providers to offer more comprehensive support to those in need, ensuring no one faces their struggles alone.
  • Promoting Early Intervention: Educating the public about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues can lead to earlier intervention, which is really important for effective treatment.

Heightened societal awareness and understanding of mental health issues, including anxiety disorders, can play a vital role in transforming attitudes and actions. By creating an environment where mental health is openly discussed and supported, we can break down barriers to treatment and support, empowering individuals to lead more fulfilling lives. This shift not only benefits those directly affected but also strengthens the fabric of our communities, making mental health care a priority for all.1

Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack

Excessive sweating is a common physical symptom of an anxiety attack, even in the absence of physical exertion. This response is part of the body’s innate “fight or flight” reaction to perceived threats, regardless of whether the threats are physically present or not.

What to Expect During an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks often develop in response to stressors or worries. Anxiety attacks may not always have a clear trigger. Recognizing the symptoms of an anxiety attack can help individuals manage the fear and uncertainty that accompany these episodes. Common symptoms of anxiety attack can look like this:

  • Sudden Onset:  Anxiety attacks usually begin abruptly and quickly reach their peak intensity, often within 10 minutes.
  • Overwhelming Fear: A defining symptom of an anxiety attack is an intense sense of impending doom or a feeling of losing control or facing imminent death, even when no actual danger is present.
  • Physical Symptoms:  Anxiety attacks can cause various physical symptoms, such as chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, trembling or shaking, sweating, and hot flashes or chills.
  • Feeling Detached: Some individuals may experience a sense of detachment from reality or themselves during an anxiety attack, known as depersonalization or derealization.
  • Nausea or Stomach Distress: Anxiety attacks can also cause discomfort or distress in the stomach, sometimes accompanied by nausea.

Anxiety attacks are emotionally and physically exhausting, often leaving individuals feeling drained and disoriented once the attack subsides. Understanding these symptoms as part of an anxiety attack is an essential first step in seeking effective management strategies. Techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and professional therapy have proven helpful in coping with and reducing the frequency of anxiety attacks. Remember that while anxiety attacks are intense and frightening, they are temporary and can be managed with the right strategies and support.

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Understanding the differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks is essential for effective management and treatment. By comparing the symptoms, triggers, and duration of these episodes, healthcare professionals can accurately diagnose and provide appropriate interventions.Here are the differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks look like:

  • Onset: Panic attacks often strike suddenly and without warning, while anxiety attacks typically develop gradually in response to a stressful situation or perceived threat.
  • Intensity: Panic attacks are usually more intense than anxiety attacks, with symptoms reaching their peak within minutes.
  • Duration: Panic attacks generally subside within 20 to 30 minutes, whereas anxiety attacks can persist for longer periods, sometimes hours or even days.
  • Triggers: Panic attacks may not always have a clear trigger, while anxiety attacks are often associated with specific stressors or worries.
  • Physical Symptoms: Both panic and anxiety attacks can cause physical symptoms, but panic attacks tend to be more severe and may include chest pain, heart palpitations, and a sense of detachment from reality.

When experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to recognize these distinctions and for healthcare providers to determine the most appropriate course of treatment. While panic attacks and anxiety attacks share some similarities, they require different management strategies and interventions. Accurate identification of the type of attack ensures that individuals receive the tailored support they need to cope with and manage their symptoms effectively.

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Coping Strategies for Anxiety Attacks

Managing anxiety attacks requires a combination of self-help techniques, support from others, and, if necessary, professional intervention. These strategies can empower individuals to navigate through episodes of anxiety with more control and less distress.

  • Deep Breathing: When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, deep breathing exercises can help calm your nervous system. Focus on slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, to reduce symptoms.
  • Grounding Techniques: Grounding techniques help divert your attention from the anxiety to the present moment. This can involve engaging your senses by identifying objects you can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste around you.
  • Creating a Support Network: Surrounding yourself with understanding friends and family members can give you security and support. Knowing you have people to turn to can make a significant difference during tough times.
  • Professional Help: Don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been proven effective in managing anxiety disorders.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can reduce anxiety levels and improve your mood. Even a short daily walk can make a noticeable difference in your feelings.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Engaging in mindfulness practices can help you stay centered and reduce the frequency of anxiety attacks over time.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Eating a balanced diet, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol can also help manage anxiety symptoms.

These coping strategies can significantly improve the management of anxiety attacks. It’s about finding the right combination that works for you and remembering that it’s okay to ask for help when needed. Anxiety attacks can be challenging, but with the right strategies and support, they can be navigated more smoothly and with less impact on your daily life.

Quick Tip

Feeling overwhelmed by anxiety?

Remember, CBT and relaxation techniques offer proven paths to peace. You’re not alone.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) offers hope to those struggling with anxiety. This therapy is based on the principle that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and by modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors, individuals can experience significant improvements in anxiety symptoms. CBT provides a structured and focused approach to addressing anxiety, making it a highly effective treatment option.

  • Identifying Negative Thought Patterns: CBT assists individuals in recognizing and challenging the negative thoughts that contribute to anxiety, replacing them with more balanced and realistic perspectives.
  • Behavioral Experiments: CBT encourages individuals to test the validity of their negative predictions and fears, helping to reduce anxiety over time.
  • Exposure Therapy: CBT may involve gradually and safely exposing individuals to the situations or objects they fear, aiming to reduce the fear response.
  • Skill Development: CBT provides individuals with coping and problem-solving skills to handle future anxiety triggers more effectively.
  • Homework Assignments: CBT often includes homework assignments that allow individuals to practice the skills learned in therapy sessions in their daily lives.

The structured approach of CBT makes it an effective method for managing and treating anxiety.3 By focusing on modifying the underlying thought patterns and behaviors that fuel anxiety, individuals can learn to cope with and significantly reduce their anxiety symptoms. This practical, hands-on approach empowers individuals, equipping them with the tools necessary to manage anxiety in the long term.

When experiencing anxiety, you may encounter not only racing thoughts but also physical symptoms, such as labored breathing, muscle tension, shaking, a pounding heart, and discomfort and swelling in your stomach. These are all consequences of the stress response when the body releases cortisol as it readies itself for “fight or flight.”
  • Difficulty focusing or reaching decisions.
  • Feeling agitated, on edge, or unable to relax.
  • Experiencing stomach discomfort or queasiness.
  • Having a racing or pounding heart.
  • Perspiring excessively, trembling, or shaking.
  • Struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Sensing an overwhelming feeling of imminent threat, fear, or dread.
Fatigue or an accumulation of stress. Significant changes or unpredictability. Experiencing pressure while studying or at work. Extensive work hours. Unemployment. Financial difficulties. Housing issues and lack of shelter. Concerns about the environment or natural calamities (sometimes referred to as climate anxiety or eco-anxiety)

Relaxation Techniques for Anxiety

Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, have emerged as powerful tools in the quest to manage anxiety. These practices not only help soothe the mind and body during stressful moments but also offer long-term benefits for reducing overall anxiety levels. Incorporating these techniques into daily routines can significantly enhance one’s ability to cope with anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and balance.

  • Meditation: Meditation fosters focused attention and mindfulness, helping to clear the mind of anxious thoughts and promoting relaxation. Regular practice can decrease the body’s stress response over time.
  • Yoga: As a holistic practice benefiting mind and body, yoga combines physical postures, controlled breathing, and meditation to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and alleviate anxiety symptoms.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing activates the body’s relaxation response, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, thereby counteracting the effects of stress and anxiety.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): PMR involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, aiding in releasing physical tension and reducing feelings of anxiety.
  • Guided Imagery: This technique focuses on pleasant images to replace negative or stressful feelings, inducing relaxation.

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can play a huge role in managing anxiety. These practices offer immediate relief in stressful situations and contribute to long-term improvements in anxiety management. By dedicating time each day to practices like meditation and yoga, individuals can build resilience against anxiety, fostering a more peaceful and balanced state of mind. Whether you’re new to these techniques or looking to deepen your practice, consistency and finding what works best for you are truly important.

Key Takeaways

Medications for Anxiety Management

Medications play a large role in the management of anxiety for many individuals, offering relief from the symptoms that can hinder daily life. However, it’s important to consider medication as part of a broader, holistic approach to treatment, which also includes therapy and lifestyle adjustments. This comprehensive strategy ensures the most effective and sustainable management of anxiety symptoms.

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Often the first line of treatment for anxiety disorders, SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): Like SSRIs, SNRIs increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter that can influence mood and anxiety.
  • Buspirone: A non-benzodiazepine medication that can be used for long-term treatment of anxiety, buspirone affects neurotransmitters that modulate anxiety but with a lower risk of dependency.
  • Beta-Blockers: Primarily used for managing physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat or tremors, particularly in specific situations like public speaking.

The integration of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes forms the cornerstone of effective anxiety management.4 Medications can provide significant relief from the symptoms of anxiety. The most sustainable results often come from combining these treatments with cognitive-behavioral therapy and lifestyle modifications such as exercise, diet, and stress management techniques. This holistic approach addresses the root causes of anxiety and equips individuals with the tools they need to manage their symptoms more effectively over the long term.

Get Help for Anxiety Disorder at Cornerstone

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How We Can Help You

Navigating the complexities of anxiety and its impact on daily life can be challenging, but it’s truly important to remember that support and effective strategies are within reach. Understanding the symptoms and differences between anxiety and panic attacks, as well as exploring various coping strategies, therapies, and medications, are essential steps towards managing this condition. Integrating relaxation techniques into your routine can also offer significant benefits, helping to create a foundation of calm in your life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, reaching out for professional support can make a profound difference. Cornerstone Healing Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive services tailored to meet your unique needs. Our compassionate team is committed to offering effective treatment options to help you navigate the path to recovery and well-being.

Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards a healthier, more balanced life by contacting Cornerstone Healing Center today. With the right support and strategies, you can successfully manage anxiety and improve your overall quality of life.

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Author & Reviewers

bliss lavelle addiction, mental health, and recovery writer
RECOVERY WRITER & ADVOCATE

Bliss Lavelle, an aspiring writer, draws inspiration from her mother’s journey with addiction, mental health, and recovery to support and educate others, especially young adults, about the dangers of substance abuse, the importance of mental health awareness, and getting help through evidence-based treatment. 

CLINICAL DIRECTOR & REVIEWER

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s Scottsdale treatment facilities. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges; he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues.

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