When an anxiety attack first strikes, the symptoms may make you feel like something very serious is wrong. Many people don’t understand the symptoms of anxiety and the fear of what may be wrong only serves to escalate the anxiety attack.
Understanding what the symptoms of anxiety are and how to deal with them helps you to take control of the anxiety and feel relief from the attacks faster. Controlling anxiety is a hard thing to do at first when you are unaware of what is really happening.
Many people experience anxiety physically in many different ways. This list is some of the more common symptoms that people experience. There can be numerous symptoms depending on which of your body systems are more sensitive to adrenaline and epinephrine surges.
Here is a list of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders
Feeling like you need to “run” away – This is usually the first response from the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. It is a perfectly natural sensation and a very normal feeling. In some people, the mechanism goes off for no apparent reason. It is meant to help you avoid dangerous situations, but with anxiety disorders the feeling can pop up out of nowhere while you are sitting quietly. Learning to control this first response is the first step in getting a handle on anxiety.
Racing and fluttering heart – Once your body has released a good dose of adrenaline into your veins your heart speeds up. It may even beat unevenly and you may experience a fluttering feeling in your chest. This is all due to the chemicals from the anxiety attack. A good tip to handle this sensation: Exercise. It will help to “burn off” the extra adrenaline and actually slow your heart rate down in the long run.
Chest Pain and tightness – This response most always causes the sufferer to think they are having a heart attack. Now, if this is your first episode and you have risk factors for a heart condition it is very important to have it checked out. But if you have been cleared of any heart disease, the chest pain and tightness is because the anxiety causes tightness and spasms in the chest wall muscles. Learning measures to calm the anxiety quickly helps these muscles relax.
Shortness of breath – If you have been cleared of any heart disease or lung conditions, then the anxiety is causing tightening of the chest muscles around the lungs. If you give into this feeling it can actually cause you to “hyperventilate” which leads to the next symptom.
Tingling or “Pins and Needles” – If you hyperventilate, the calcium in your body drops and causes tingling and a feeling of “pins and needles” in your face, hands and feet. Breathing into a paper bag can help to ease this feeling.
Dizzy and lightheadedness – Once the anxiety causing chemicals reach the brain, it too goes into overdrive. You may feel “off-balance”, woozy or even feel forgetful and foggy. You may feel yourself racing, but due to the dizziness you may be unable to move around or walk right. This is all the more reason to sit calmly until the attack subsides. It may also feel like you are going to “pass-out”, but statistics show that you don’t faint from anxiety.
Nausea or vomiting – During an anxiety attack, the blood flow is diverted to the vital organs and away from secondary functions like digesting food. If you look at it this way, during a true emergency your body is just trying to get out of the situation quickly. It really isn’t concerned with that delicious apple pie and ice cream at the moment. Coupled with the feeling of dizziness and just being plain terrified, nausea and vomiting is a natural reaction to stress.
Urge to urinate or have a bowel movement – This is another urge your body feels in preparation to flee. Your body is literally preparing itself to use all of its energy resources and eliminating any extra baggage helps conserve the energy needed for this phantom fight it thinks that it is about to have.
Profuse sweating – This symptom is usually associated mostly with social anxiety and can be very embarrassing when you’re in a crowd of people. They can be either hot or cold sweats.
Feeling distant – Depersonalization or feeling like you are “outside” yourself is your body’s natural way of soothing itself during fear or anxiety attacks. You may even continue to feel this after the attack has subsided.
Night Panic Attacks – Severe anxiety can cause you to wake up at night with a racing heart or you may wake up feeling like you are choking or that something is sitting on your chest. During the early morning hours, our bodies release a little bit of these hormones to help bring us out of deep sleep. People who suffer from anxiety may be more sensitive to the hormones or release more of them than other people.
There are many other signs and symptoms of anxiety, but the above are the most common. Other symptoms include; burning itchy skin, worrying and fearfulness, nightmares, strange taste in mouth, grinding the teeth, craving sweets or carbohydrates, and many others.
What is most important to dealing with anxiety is to recognize the symptoms and be able to control them as soon as you feel them. Fearing the symptoms will only make the anxiety attacks worse and last longer.