An anxiety attack is the one thing that we all wish we could avoid, but the truth is that most people will suffer from an anxiety attack at least once in their lives.
Having one anxiety attack, or panic attack, does not mean that you suffer from an anxiety disorder but it also does not make it a more pleasant experience. Panic attacks can occur at any time, even while you sleep, and it is usually a response to perceived stress. Only when panic attacks or anxiety begin to interfere with your daily living, are they considered to be a disorder.
How should you know whether you are suffering from a panic attack? If you experience any four of the following symptoms chances are that you are suffering an attack:
- A rapidly beating heart
- Chest discomfort
- Excessive sweating
- Tremors or shaking
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- A choking feeling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal discomfort or cramps
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling disconnected from yourself or your surroundings (depersonalization)
- Intense fear of dying, being out of control or going crazy
- Numb or tingling sensations
- Cold chills or hot flushes
- Sensing an imminent danger or doom
- Wanting to escape
From the above it is clear to see why no one wants to be the victim of an anxiety attack. What makes an anxiety attack even worse is that many if the symptoms correspond to more life threatening illnesses such as heart attacks. There has been many reported instance where the one condition has been wrongly diagnosed as the other. The fear of having an undiagnosed life threatening condition can only worsen the symptoms of anxiety and trigger another panic attack. This is why it is important to consult with your doctor to eliminate the possibility of a more serious condition first before accepting that you suffer from anxiety.
Panic attacks do not need to be a life sentence. Most people will experience a panic attack at least once in their life. If however excessive worry and panic attacks begin to influence you in a negative way, such as causing you to avoid people or places out of fear of another attack, it may be time to seek some help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be just as effective and in some instances even more effective that medication in improving most anxiety disorders.
If you suspect that your anxiety may be caused by stress, there are many ways in which you can lower your stress levels to improve your anxiousness. It may not always be possible to get rid of all your responsibilities, but your first responsibility should be yourself. If you are not feeling well you can not perform as you should and fulfill all the responsibilities. Make time for yourself even if you are on a tight schedule. Make an “appointment” for some relaxation classes such as yoga or deep breathing exercises and keep them.
Some small adjustments in your diet can also relieve your anxiety. Caffeine is a strong stimulant and can mimic some of the symptoms of anxiety such as a rapid heart rate. Cutting back on caffeine may therefore improve your anxiety. Remember that other food and beverages such as chocolates and Cola’s also contain caffeine, so replacing a cup of coffee with a Coke will not help.
It is important to realize that anxiety and anxiety attacks are treatable conditions that do not need to accompany you for the rest of your life. There are many support groups of people who have either overcome anxiety themselves or who are in the process of overcoming it, just like you. If they can beat it, so too can you.
“Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia – Symptoms” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 2012. Adaa.org. (November 7, 2012) http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder-agoraphobia/symptoms
“Anxiety Disorder”. American Psychiatric Association. 2012. Psychiatry.org (November 7, 2012) http://www.psychiatry.org/anxiety-disorders