Recognizing and Controlling Anxiety Attacks

Posted: November 12, 2019
Category: Anxiety, Mental Health

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, one most of us have likely experienced at some point in our lives. Anxiety is a natural response to adverse life events, like job loss, financial troubles, moving home, and more. It’s your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong with your external situation, and that you need to take action. However, if your anxiety symptoms go beyond adverse life events, and you find yourself unable to cope in otherwise normal situations, you could be experiencing an anxiety disorder – especially if the symptoms and anxiety attacks start interfering with your life.

While anxiety disorders can take a heavy toll on your life, they can be managed with guidance from a medical professional. The first step is to recognize and understand your symptoms, determining whether you have an anxiety disorder or are simply going through a rough time. If you do have an anxiety disorder, you’ll likely experience one or more of the following symptoms, in which case we strongly suggest seeking help from a qualified therapist.

1. I worry excessively.

This is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders, whereby the worry typically outweighs the severity of the situation. Patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder normally experience excessive, debilitating worrying on most days for at least six months straight. Patients find it difficult to focus on daily tasks.

2. I’m irritable.

True anxiety sufferers feel agitated most of the time, causing the sympathetic nervous system to go haywire. As a result, you’ll likely experience sweaty palms, shaky hands, a dry mouth, and a racing pulse. In situations like these, your brain generally believes you are in danger, preparing you for “fight or flight.”

3. I can’t focus.

Anxiety is often accompanied by concentration difficulties, seeing as the disorder can interrupt working memory – the kind responsible for short-term memory recall. This is why anxiety often compromises productivity and work performance.

4. I’m tired.

Fatigue is extremely common in patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety can be exhausting, what with compromised sleep, draining anxiety attacks, and full-blown insomnia.

5. I’m restless.

This is especially common in young anxiety sufferers. In a study of 128 anxious children, 78% reported restlessness – an uncontrollable urge to move and a feeling of being on edge most of the time.

symptoms anxiety, find a psychologist, online therapy

Other symptoms of anxiety include difficulties falling or staying asleep, muscle tension, an avoidance of social situations, irrational fears, and most alarming of all, panic attacks. Panic attacks are normally associated with a specific kind of anxiety disorder known as Panic Disorder.

It’s not uncommon to hear people say “I’m having a panic attack” in passing – a term that’s thrown around far too jovially. In reality, panic attacks, otherwise known as anxiety attacks, are extremely serious, and it’s normal to feel like you’re about to die. Only about 22% of American adults have experienced real panic attacks, around 3% of which are severe enough to be classified as a panic disorder.

Panic attacks can be debilitating, and they usually strike suddenly. These overwhelming experiences cause a pounding heart, profuse sweating, and an all-encompassing feeling of dread. Many panic attack sufferers say they literally feel as though they are dying. Panic attacks are scary, but you can control them by:

1. Breathing deeply

and very slowly through the mouth to release fear and hyperventilation. Focus on your “happy place,” whether that’s on a tropical island or cozy and safe in bed.

2. Acknowledge you are having a panic attack,

and you’re not dying. Remember that this too shall pass, and it’s only temporary. You are going to be fine, even if the feeling of impending doom consumes you.

Recognize Anxiety, Find a therapist, online counseling

3. Close your eyes

to distance yourself from the situation causing your stress. External stimuli can feed panic attacks, so close your eyes and focus on that deep breathing we mentioned.

4. Be mindful and distract yourself.

Take note of where you are and what’s happening around you. Focus on familiar physical sensations like your feet on the ground, your nails digging into your palms, and oxygen flowing in and out of your mouth. Distractions can turn panic attacks around in minutes.

5. Consciously relax your muscles.

If you’re having a panic attack, you probably won’t realize how much you’re tensing them up. This will make the attack more severe, so try to take control of your body’s responses by relaxing one muscle at a time, from your fingers to your facial muscles to your legs. Practice this when you’re calm to prepare yourself for when an attack strikes.

Sometimes, medical intervention is necessary. If your anxiety is compromising your quality of life, or if you’re experiencing overwhelming panic attacks on a regular basis, don’t be afraid to seek help from a qualified therapist. Therapists are well-trained to treat anxiety disorders by getting to the root of the problem, and by asking for help, you could just change your life.

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