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Anxiety Attack and Symptoms: How to Cope With It

Sara Anderson

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Anxiety Attack and Symptoms

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

We all feel anxious regularly, more so when faced with unsettling situations. However, if the episodes become frequent, persistent, and intense, you could be experiencing anxiety attacks. Often, an anxiety attack occurs suddenly and without warning, and is characterized by intense fear and panic.

Anxiety attacks often involve a fear that an unsettling event will happen. The attacks have various risk factors, including:

  • Past traumas
  • Stress resulting from financial difficulties or family problems
  • Living with chronic or life-threatening illnesses
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • An anxious personality
  • Depression and similar mental health disorders

Many people confuse panic attacks with anxiety attacks. Contrary to what you might think, the conditions differ. For starters, panic attacks tend to occur suddenly and involve intense and overwhelming fear. They are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath, and a racing heartbeat.

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), panic attacks are categorized as either expected or unexpected. Conversely, DSM-5 doesn’t categorize anxiety attacks. Thus, the common signs of an anxiety attack remain open to interpretation. One individual may claim to have a “panic attack” yet experience symptoms that are different from someone else who claims to have a similar condition.

Common Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

Some of the symptoms of anxiety attacks include:

  • Intense worry and apprehension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Feeling faint
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache

It’s best to note that not all anxiety attack episodes will be accompanied by these symptoms. An attack can be mild, moderate, or intense depending on the severity of a trigger and how an individual reacts to it.

When faced with an unsettling situation, for instance, some individuals may experience mild apprehension, while others may experience a full-blown anxiety attack with all the aforementioned symptoms.

Often, anxiety attacks stop when the perceived danger or hazard disappears. If an anxiety attack persists or is triggered by a specific event, it could mean you’re battling a different disorder, including social anxiety disorder.

Coping with Anxiety Attacks

If you experience panic attacks or any symptoms of the disorder, it’s best to figure out how to cope. Here’s how to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety attacks:

Undertake Deep Breathing Exercises

Anxiety attacks affect both the body and mind. Deep breathing exercises can help you to overcome the intense fear that accompanies an anxiety attack. The exercises calm your heart rate besides shifting your focus onto something else other than your anxiety.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Often, the triggers of an anxiety attack only exist in your mind. This puts you in a frenzy that causes the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety attacks. When you experience an attack, reacting instantly will worsen your condition further. Instead, it’s best to take a step back and challenge your symptoms as they manifest themselves. Here are some simple steps to take:

  • Pause and acknowledge that you’re experiencing an anxiety attack.
  • Assess the situation to pinpoint anything you think could be triggering the symptoms. Is there a valid reason for you to feel anxious? And, are the symptoms justifiable?
  • Engage in some exercises that will restore the sense of calm, thus quelling your symptoms.

Initially, challenging your thoughts will be difficult. With time, however, you’ll get the hang of it and learn how to face each of the symptoms as they appear.

Distract Your Mind From the Symptoms

Regardless of how long you’ve experienced anxiety attacks and mastered the art of dealing with the major symptoms, the attacks can still be impactful when they occur. When it comes to anxiety attacks, you won’t always have the time or mindset to ward off the symptoms. Even so, you can still distract the mind away from the triggers until you calm down.

If you’re a music lover, for instance, you can listen to your favorite song to draw your attention away from the anxiety attack and its symptoms. You can even pretend to be in another space for a while until the symptoms abate. Thus, it’s best to find an activity that deflects your attention from an anxiety attack until you return to your normal state of mind.

Try Meditation

Meditation is a tried and tested solution for anxiety. It helps you to ground yourself, thus allowing worrying thoughts to pass without affecting you physically or mentally. Unlike deep breathing exercises, meditation can’t be done anywhere, thus the need to quickly find a space where you can isolate and meditate.

You can meditate without any support from a guru. There are dozens of online resources to help you get started. If you’re interested in taking this route to cope with anxiety attacks, these tips come in handy:

  • Get into a relaxed position and breath in deeply
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing rhythm and your body
  • Allow your thoughts to run without focusing on them
  • Maintain this stance for at least 5 minutes
  • Once you start meditating regularly, it will be easier for you to cope with anxiety attacks.

Seek Help from Professionals

If you’re battling anxiety attacks, professional help will enable you to cope with the disorder better. Just like it’s the case with other mental disorders, overcoming anxiety attacks on your own is difficult. The above-mentioned coping mechanisms cannot be a substitute for professional help.

Consulting a therapist not only helps you receive a diagnosis for your condition but also the necessary treatment. Your therapist will also highlight the best coping mechanisms depending on the severity of your condition.

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