How to spot signs of anxiety attack

We might think that anxiety is just about the mind, but it can trigger physical symptoms that can be distressing. The lack of awareness may be such that any signs may be mistaken for some other underlying condition. But when an anxiety attack hits you, it can get really terrifying. That’s why it is important to know about the immediate physical symptoms of an anxiety attack. Read on to find out how you can spot an anxiety attack.

Health Shots connected with Bengaluru-based clinical psychologist Kasturi Chetia to know about it.

Anxious woman
Anxiety is normally a healthy emotion. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is an anxiety attack?

Before we understand an anxiety attack, we need to first understand what anxiety is. It is our mind and body’s response to many different circumstances, events and times in our lives, explains Chetia. Anxiety works as a system that exists within us. It sends us messages or alerts us if it senses any form of danger to our being and simultaneously, prepares our body and mind to tackle such situations. That doesn’t make anxiety look evil. In fact, it happens to be mostly a healthy emotion that keeps us aware, prepared and motivates us. However, if anxiety becomes severe and persistent, it can begin to impact your daily functioning.

As human beings, we seek control and that is the thing anxiety attacks impact the most, notes the expert. Anxiety attack is basically an episode that consists of excessive worry, discomfort, fear to any situation that feels threatening or stressful. There is no one particular reason that can cause anxiety attacks; instead they might be triggered by stressful situations in life or triggers in the present or from the past. A few common reasons could be exams, conflicts at home, unemployment, stress at work or school or college or home, transitions in life, loss and grief and financial difficulties.

Signs of anxiety attack

Look out for signs of anxiety when it begins instead of ignoring it. Here are some signs:

1. Breathing issues

When breathing suddenly changes, it becomes quite obvious. You might have shortness of breath or trouble breathing during an anxiety attack, says Chetia.

2. Palpitations

Palpitations can cause great physical discomfort, says the expert. It might feel like your heart is pounding and beating so fast that it’s missing some beats. Some might even think that they are having a heart attack, especially if palpitations pop up with chest pain.

3. Shaking and shivering

Once the body goes on high alert mode, there is a sudden rush of adrenaline which cause the shaking and shivering to happen in an anxiety attack.

4. Dizziness

You might feel dizzy or unsteady during an anxiety attack. Some even feel lightheaded and worry that they might lose balance and pass out.

5. Headaches

Tension is often to be blamed for headaches. Sharp pain or feeling pressure around the head and eyes is a common physical symptom of an anxiety attack.

Woman dealing with anxiety
Anxiety attack generally doesn’t last for long. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

An anxiety attack might last just for a few seconds though it can also go on for 20 minutes or even longer. It really depends from person to person, the stress they are dealing with and even protective factors like family support, peers and other forms of stability, says Chetia.

A combination of therapy and medication is generally very helpful in treating and managing anxiety. You can also do certain things like chewing gum or smell soaps that can help to deal with anxiety attack.

But the cause of these attacks must be addressed first by a qualified mental health professional. Until and unless that is worked out, the chances of having another anxiety attack will only increase.

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