Anxiety Attacks: What No One Understands

30 August, 2020
Although they can be difficult to control and even overwhelming, remember that an anxiety attack will eventually pass even though it may seem like it will last forever.

Anxiety attacks are often very misunderstood by the general population, which only makes things worse for those who suffer from them. However, it’s important to note that anyone can have them at some point and they’re nothing to be ashamed of.

Anxiety disorders are covered in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). However, they’re something that can be experienced on both an isolated or a recurring basis.

Stressful situations, emotional trauma, or even being under pressure can all trigger an anxiety attack. Experiencing one feels like you’re going to die, that your heart is going to explode. It’s extremely traumatic, even more so if those around you don’t know what’s going on and don’t respond appropriately.

They may react in the worst way possible by saying things like “nothing’s wrong”, “you’re letting yourself get all worked up over nothing”, “calm down, there’s nothing to be upset about”. By saying things like this, even though they might be trying to help, they might actually be doing more harm than good.

Today on our site we want to cover this common problem and emphasize that they’re no reason to be ashamed.

Anxiety attacks: when your heart feels like it’s going to explode

A woman having an anxiety attack.

 

 

First off, we need to make one thing clear: Anxiety serves a purpose in human beings. Firstly, anxiety warns us of danger in order to help us escape or deal with it.

When managed well, a little anxiety can be used to motivate us to be more effective in our daily lives.

The problem occurs when the anxiety levels rise to uncontrollable levels. The brain interprets the high levels of anxiety as a very real and immediate threat that must be escaped, unleashing a series of changes in bodily processes:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased adrenaline levels in the blood
  • Etc.

While our brain and bodies are telling us to “escape”, our mind is chattering away with negative and catastrophic thinking that makes the situation even worse.

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Symptoms of an anxiety attack

Anxiety disorders cover a wide range of factors and personal situations. 

  • Some people are afraid to fly, others may suffer from agoraphobia, arachnophobia, or aquaphobia, all of which are common causes of anxiety attacks.
  • Others may experience these horrible episodes as a result of emotional trauma.
  • It’s also important to mention that a small percentage of patients experience anxiety without being able to identify
  • In fact, according to a study conducted by the University of Seoul, this psychological disorder may, on occasion, have a genetic origin.

So, while there are many things that can trigger an anxiety attack, the symptoms are generally common and easily identifiable. Some of the most common symptoms are:

Emotional symptoms

  • Apprehension or intense and uncontrollable fear.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Feeling tense and really nervous.
  • Fatalistic thinking: Always expecting the worst.
  • Focusing on the negative, panicking.

Read also: The Healing Power of Hugs

Physical symptoms

  • Accelerated heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Hyperventilating.
  • Sweating.
  • Stomach pain and nausea.
  • Frequent urination
  • Diarrhea.
  • Heavy breathing and feeling like you’re going to have a heart attack.
  • Trembling and tics.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Headaches.
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness.

Anxiety attacks are linked to depression

If the anxiety attacks are somewhat frequent, the person may be suffering from hidden depression.

A woman suffering from depression.

  • Anxiety and depression often come from the same vulnerability: helplessness. This happens when we lose control of what is happening to us in extremely distressing situations.
  • Something we should make clear: Anxiety and depression are two distinct disorders. But, as we mentioned earlier, one can sometimes be a symptom of the other.

To be sure, then your best option is to consult with a specialist–in other words, with a psychologist. This professional with be able to present you with the possible therapy options that have proven to be helpful both during and after anxiety attacks.

Coping with anxiety attacks

To cope with an anxiety attack, the first thing we need to do is deal with the emotional symptoms and try to confront the threat, fear, or stressful situation.

Helping a person with an anxiety attack

First, be understanding of their situation. They are not going crazy: They need your help and, above all, your calm and empathy.

  • Loosen belts and tight clothing.
  • As them to sit or take them someplace where they can get some fresh air.
  • If they are breathing too fast, offer them a bag to breathe in or get them to breathe as if they were trying to blow out a candle (with their lips pursed).
  • Keep repeating “you’re not having a heart attack”, “I’m here to help and everything will be ok”. (Speak calmly and gently)
  • Have them place one hand on their stomach and another on their heart. They need to get their breathing under control

Should you call a doctor?

A hand holding a cell phone.

If the symptoms don’t go away and their pulse is really high, call a doctor. Do this especially if the person has any physical condition like cardiopathy, diabetes, or obesity.

Finally, don’t forget about the possibility that these anxiety attacks can occur again when you least expect it. Therefore, seeking expert support is fundamental in order to effectively manage your thoughts and emotions.

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