What Is an Anxiety Attack and How Can You Prevent It?

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Anxiety winter depression woman having a panic attack and a hard time breathing. Home alone girl crying stressed depressed.

Do you sometimes feel extreme worry and restlessness? Do you feel your heartbeat go faster? Do you often feel irritable or struggle to fall asleep?

You may be suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder or anxiety attack. 

Statistics reveal that anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the United States every year. That is about 18% of the nation’s total population. Among those who have anxiety disorders, 6.8 million suffer from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). A

Failure to treat GAD may lead to more serious health concerns.

Thankfully, anxiety attacks are treatable. But what is an anxiety attack to begin with? How can you tell if you’re having one? 

What are the measures you can take to prevent it? Continue reading below for a comprehensive guide.

What Is an Anxiety Attack: The Basic Definition

An anxiety attack is a form of anxiety disorder that comes with many possible symptoms. But before we discuss the symptoms, let us first go deeper to its definition.

First, anxiety is part of a person’s life. Everyone feels anxious about something every once in a while. There are also times when anxiety benefits us.

During times when we feel potential danger, anxiety can prompt us to flee to a safer spot. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, that is when things can turn for the worst. 

Excessive anxiety can lead to anxiety attacks where panic, fear, and self-doubt plagues your overall well-being. 

Take note that anxiety is different from depression. They may share some symptoms. They may also have the same biological basis but they are completely different.

The two have different and distinct psychological features. People with anxiety worry about what’s happening at the moment and what might take place in the future.  And in the middle of their worrying, their thoughts race uncontrollably. 

They also think about death too often. They think about ways how dangers can get to them and kill them. 

Furthermore, an anxiety attack is also different from a panic attack. Again, they share many symptoms. However, panic attacks involve the fear of dying right at the moment. 

Panic attacks also come with a feeling of detachment from the world. Sometimes, it can be a detachment from oneself. 

Causes and Symptoms

What causes anxiety attacks? Many possible factors may lead to an anxiety attack. First, health issues can trigger an attack.

People with chronic illnesses or cancer may go through anxiety attacks. This is one of the toughest factors to deal with considering the personal and immediate feelings that come into play.

Another possible reason is medications. Certain OTC drugs can cause anxiety symptoms to appear. Cough medicines, weight loss pills, and birth control pills have active ingredients that may trigger some symptoms.

When it comes to your food intake, skipping meals and drinking too much coffee may also cause anxiety.

Certain negative events can also trigger anxiety. The loss of a job or the loss of money in an investment can make you feel anxious. 

Also, some people feel anxiety attacks before performing in front of a huge crowd. 

When it comes to the symptoms of anxiety attacks, we can divide them into two categories: emotional and physical. Apart from intense worrying and restlessness, people with anxiety attacks feel general distress and fear.

Physically, they also experience palpitations or increase heart rates. Hence, they may experience shortness of breath or chest pains. They may also notice their mouth drying.

Others experience excessive sweating while others have chills or hot flashes. Moreover, others become dizzy or experience headaches. 

Others also tremble or feel numbness in the extremities. 

Possible Complications

We also mentioned earlier that leaving your anxiety attacks unchecked may lead to serious health concerns. One of the biggest psychological complications of anxiety disorder is depression. 

Physically, extreme anxiety may lead to frequent infections. It may also result in bouts with colds. On a more serious level, an anxiety disorder can contribute to developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

How to Stop and Prevent It?

As we said earlier, you can treat anxiety attacks. For starters, you can try some breathing exercises. Practice slower and deeper breathing.

When you feel you are going through an anxiety attack, stop and slow down your breathing. Take slow and deep breaths and focus on your breathing.

Thereafter, switch your thoughts from negative to positive. Consider writing your thoughts and reflect on them. See if they make sense and how they are affecting your life at the moment. 

Also, relax and close your eyes. Free up your mind from all your cares and remember a specific place or event that makes you happy.

If you cannot relax, consider distracting yourself. Do something that takes your mind away from what triggers your anxiety. An effective distraction is to count backward from 100 to 1. 

And if you have some ice or gel packs nearby, get one and play with it in your hands. You may also lie down and place the ice pack over your belly.

When to Seek Professional Help?

Sometimes, anxiety can be too overwhelming that you need to seek some help. When self-help remedies no longer work, talking to a therapist for anxiety is your best bet.

Seeking professional help is crucial if you already have high levels of anxiety. These health experts offer treatments that effectively reduce and manage anxiety disorders.

Psychotherapy is one of the most popular remedies for chronic anxiety attacks. This involves talking to a therapist about your specific anxieties. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy. It teaches you ways to think, behave, and react to anxiety triggers.

In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications. 

Learn More About Mental Health

Answering the question “what is an anxiety attack” puts you in a better position to address the matter. It also empowers you to help someone you know who may be going through anxiety disorders. But there is more to learn about mental health than anxiety.

We encourage you to keep reading our blog, especially mental health articles.