If you have to make an important decision or are waiting to hear back about a new job, it is normal to feel anxious or nervous. However, outside of these scenarios, some individuals deal with a buildup of severe symptoms known as an anxiety attack. But what does an anxiety attack feel like? How is it different from a panic attack? And can anxiety attacks be treated or prevented?
Today, we will discuss the answers to these questions and more. Coping with anxiety attacks can feel challenging by yourself, but you don’t need to fight them alone. If you regularly experience anxiety attacks, you can find relief from your symptoms by exploring the treatment options outlined below.
Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack
To answer the question, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” it is also important to know when something is not an anxiety attack. For instance, some people use the terms “anxiety attack” and “panic attack” interchangeably, but in reality, they are two separate experiences.
Unexpected panic attacks are a component of panic disorder, which is a medical condition acknowledged by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Furthermore, panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, which often contributes to the assumption that anxiety and panic are one and the same.
They seem even more similar due to the fact that symptoms of a panic attack often resemble those of an anxiety attack. However, someone can distinguish panic attacks from anxiety attacks through other factors, such as their onset, duration, cause, and severity.
So, what does an anxiety attack feel like compared to a panic attack? On average, panic attacks are more acute and intense than anxiety attacks. They can appear suddenly and subside just as quickly. In addition, panic attacks may not have a clear trigger.
On the other hand, anxiety attacks can build up over several hours or even days. Likewise, they can last longer than panic attacks, though their symptoms are less severe. Unlike panic attacks, most anxiety attacks can also be linked to particular stressors that triggered the episode.
What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like?
Signs and symptoms of anxiety attacks can take on both mental and physical forms. Recognizing both results in the most complete answer to the question, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” With that in mind, here are some of the most prominent symptoms of anxiety attacks:
It can be difficult to grasp how anxiety attacks influence the mind, particularly for those who do not personally experience them. Even so, their desire to learn and understand is shown when they ask questions like, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?”
Anxiety attacks involve numerous mental symptoms, including:
- Intense anxiety, worry, or fear
- Sense of impending doom
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling like you have no control
- Anticipating the worst outcome
Because anxiety attacks often build up slowly, someone may not experience all of these symptoms at once. For instance, they may initially only show irritability, which could lead to trouble concentrating and ultimately grow into an intense feeling of imminent danger.
When someone asks, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” they may also be referring to the physical sensations associated with them. While anxiety disorders are mental in nature, anxiety attacks often have a major impact on someone’s body as well.
For example, physical symptoms of anxiety attacks include:
- Increased heart rate
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Shaking or trembling
- Nausea or gastrointestinal issues
- Muscle tension
These symptoms can make anxiety attacks a highly draining experience. Someone may feel tired or distant for a while after their other symptoms subside. In that way, fatigue is another common side effect of anxiety attacks, even if it is not present during the peak of someone’s stress.
Anxiety Attack vs. Heart Attack
In addition, some people want to know, “What does an anxiety attack feel like compared to a heart attack?” This is an especially prevalent question due to the way certain physical symptoms, like chest pain, overlap. Of course, the last thing someone experiencing an anxiety attack needs to worry about is whether they are actually having a heart attack.
Therefore, keep in mind that during a heart attack, chest pain will often radiate to other areas of the body, such as down the arm or up the neck. During an anxiety attack, chest pain tends to remain centralized in the chest.
Treatment Options for Anxiety Attacks
Now that you have an answer to, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” you may be able to identify them in your own life. If you suspect you’ve been experiencing anxiety attacks, know that there are ways to minimize their impact on your life.
Here are three effective treatment options used to reduce the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks:
In a single, basic word, the answer to, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” can be condensed to “stressful.” As such, one of the most accessible and widespread treatment options available involves several relaxation techniques.
For example, breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are three tools people can use to de-escalate a situation and calm down. Most relaxation techniques emphasize someone’s connection to their body or their surroundings in a way that distracts from their mental distress.
With practice, someone may be able to use relaxation techniques to ward off an anxiety attack before it becomes severe. Short of that, however, they can still use these tools to soothe symptoms and return to a sense of normalcy.
When relaxation techniques are not enough to reduce the frequency of someone’s anxiety attacks, they may try using anti-anxiety medications as well. In that case, knowing the answer to, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” becomes incredibly useful, as some medications are used on an as-needed basis to stave off anxiety attacks.
Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are the most common types of drugs used to treat anxiety disorders. Both work by increasing communication between different neurotransmitters in the brain. In turn, this prevents overstimulation and helps stabilize moods.
Every individual reacts differently to medications. Even though one person may not experience any side effects on a certain drug, someone else may have a poor reaction to it. Therefore, people may need to try several types before they find the right option. Fortunately, several anti-anxiety medications exist, and with patience, you can find one that works for you.
Also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy helps individuals work through their experiences in safe, productive manners. For instance, during cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), patients learn to recognize harmful or irrational beliefs and replace them with healthier alternatives.
During talk therapy sessions, clients may find answers to questions like: What does an anxiety attack feel like before it starts? Is there a particular symptom that always manifests first, or any specific scenarios that tend to lead to anxiety attacks?
This line of questioning can help someone identify their emotional triggers. Afterward, they can better prepare for the future by avoiding situations that could aggravate their anxiety. Likewise, catching anxiety attacks early gives them more time to utilize relaxation techniques and other de-escalation methods.
Anxiety Treatment in Brooksville, Florida
To design a comprehensive treatment plan that incorporates all of the above anxiety treatment options, consider Springbrook Behavioral Hospital. We are a behavioral health center dedicated to improving the lives of individuals battling mental illness.
People with anxiety disorders may benefit from our intensive treatment services if they experience episodes of acute distress. Alternatively, we also offer a partial hospitalization program (PHP) designed to help individuals with less severe symptoms.
Our admissions experts can guide you through the enrollment process as well as answer other questions like, “What does an anxiety attack feel like?” To get in touch with our team, call us at 352-600-3288 or submit a confidential contact form online. We look forward to helping you overcome your anxiety in every way we can.