Have you wondered, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?”? Or are you unsure if what you’re experiencing is an anxiety attack? To start, anxiety attacks can be overwhelming and frightening, but they’re not clinically diagnosable conditions. They are considered to be an episode of immense stress. Although it’s commonly confused with panic attacks, anxiety and panic attacks are not the same things. Below you’ll learn more about what an anxiety attack feels like, how it’s different from a panic attack, and what you can do to overcome them.
What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like?
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and danger. The physical and psychological symptoms you feel in these situations are part of the fight-or-flight response that acts to protect you when facing an imminent threat. However, anxiety attacks can be triggered by non-threatening events that cause you to feel uncomfortable. This can be a big life event or a buildup of smaller stressful situations. For instance, Maybe you’re nervous about an upcoming performance review at work or whether you’ll sell your house in time. No matter the case, there are situations in life that will cause you to feel like you’re trapped.
So to answer the question, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?”, it can feel like you’re spinning out of control when faced with a stressful situation. But anxiety attacks feel different for everyone. There are a variety of common signs and symptoms that you can experience, but you won’t necessarily experience them all. With that said, symptoms of anxiety attacks tend to be experienced physically and psychologically. These symptoms commonly occur in direct response to triggers perceived as threatening to the body. They can occur one at a time or simultaneously.
Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack
First, it’s important to note the difference between an anxiety attack and the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. It’s not uncommon to feel anxious in response to a stressful situation. You can even experience anxiety attacks from time to time without having an underlying mental health condition. However, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), recurring anxiety attacks, and panic attacks can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
If you find yourself frequently feeling overwhelmed or panicked, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional. They can evaluate whether you’re going through a period of increased stress or if you may be struggling with an underlying disorder. Moreover, knowing the symptoms can help you determine when you’re having an anxiety attack.
- Increased heart rate or pounding heart
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking or trembling
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot flashes or chills
- Upset stomach
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive worry
- An impending sense of panic or doom
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Feeling like your mind is blank
- Feeling like you need to escape
- Difficulting concentrating
How Do Anxiety Attacks Differ From Panic Attacks?
As mentioned, anxiety and panic attacks are often viewed interchangeably. However, they’re not the same. While panic attacks similarly cause individuals to feel anxious, they are characterized by a sudden and quick episode of intense fear. Unexpected panic attacks can be disabling. Some individuals experience symptoms so severe they think they’re having a heart attack or another life-threatening medical condition.
Although the symptoms of both can be frightening, anxiety attacks tend to be less intense but can last longer. However, this doesn’t mean they’re any less serious. If you’re struggling with recurring symptoms, this may be a sign you’re struggling with generalized anxiety disorder. If it goes untreated, it can lead to depression, substance use disorders, and long-term health problems such as chronic pain and GI problems. Investigating the cause of these attacks is the first step in getting the help you need and preventing worsening symptoms.
How to Cope with Anxiety Attacks
When you start to feel an anxiety attack coming on, there are a variety of things you can do at the moment to calm yourself down. This includes:
- Recognize and acknowledge the anxiety attack without trying to fight it
- Remember that you are not in danger and the symptoms will pass
- Breathe in slowly through your nose then breathe out slowly through your mouth
- Relax your muscles and release the tension in your body
These steps can be hard to follow, especially when you initially feel the impending sense of doom creeping up. However, these relaxation techniques can help you manage the initial symptoms to prevent your mind from spiraling into panic. These techniques are commonly used to manage stress. However, it might not always help. Those diagnosed with panic disorder regularly experience intense episodes of panic that are accompanied by similar physical symptoms.
Avoiding situations that cause you to stress sounds like an easy way to prevent anxiety attacks, but this isn’t a long-term solution. There will be times when feeling stressed is inevitable. Moreover, avoiding triggering situations will only increase stress and worsen symptoms, causing unpleasant feelings to resurface later. In this case, avoidance can sometimes cause individuals to feel like they’re experiencing a physical health problem. That’s why it’s best to get help
Treatment Options for Adults
Seeking help from a mental health professional is the best way to get to the root of your anxiety. Whether you’re struggling with a social anxiety disorder or PTSD, Port St. Lucie can help you find a way to recover. Some of the evidence-based treatment plans include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Therapy involving close family members
- Medication education and management
Anxiety can also be a symptom of other mental health conditions. Therefore, it’s important to receive treatment that addresses all of your symptoms. At Port St. Lucie Hospital, we utilize trauma-informed treatment methods to help adults with a broad range of experiences. These treatment methods can help you recognize stressors in addition to thought and behavioral patterns that are contributing to your stress. Patients enrolled in our adult mental health program can work alongside the members of their care team to implement healthy coping mechanisms for effective long-term recovery.
Depending on your symptoms and recovery goals, you can also benefit from the use of daily medication. In addition to therapy and relaxation techniques, medication can help you manage long-term anxiety symptoms. These have been proven to effectively mitigate physical and psychological symptoms if taken according to a schedule prescribed by a mental health professional or physician.
Where to Get Help
Port St. Lucie Hospital helps adults struggling with different types of anxiety disorders. If you lose time obsessively worrying about things or are frequently plagued by feelings of fear, now is the time to seek help. We offer a variety of mental health treatments designed to help you improve your mental wellness in the long run.
So, if you find yourself “What does an anxiety attack feel like?”, it may be time to investigate the underlying cause of your stress. You can find relief when you reach out to our admissions office at 772-408-5871 or when you submit a confidential contact form online. We’re here to help you overcome the mental hurdles holding you back.