Anxiety attacks are a major disruption in life, keeping you from focusing on what’s truly important to you. The symptoms they cause are undoubtedly terrifying and can be difficult to navigate on your own without the right resources.

If you have experienced a panic attack before, the fear of one happening again could be preventing you from pursuing new goals, growing in your career, enjoying personal relationships, and more.

But how do you know if what you experienced was actually an anxiety attack? In this resource, we’ll share what panic attacks feel like and what steps to take to manage the symptoms and even eliminate them.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal, human response to stress. When we feel worried or excited, the adrenal glands kick in to create adrenaline—a hormone that increases blood circulation by boosting heart rate and blood flow. This is part of a biological response intended to help our minds focus, often on solving important problems or avoiding immediate danger.

It’s important to recognize that humans are not capable of sustaining feelings of excitement or anxiety indefinitely. When things fall out of balance, chronic stress and anxiety can take a major toll on long-term health and even cause an anxiety disorder.

What is an Anxiety Attack?

When someone experiences significant anxious feelings and thoughts, anxiety symptoms can sometimes escalate into an intense episode—this is what’s known as an anxiety attack, or panic attack. It’s a manifestation of heightened anxiety that can be overwhelming and distressing; even feeling life-threatening or like an immediate medical emergency.

An anxiety attack can come on very suddenly, making them seem at first like they’re unpredictable. Depending on the person, though, there can also be instances where specific triggers or sources can lead to attacks.

Symptoms of an Anxiety or Panic Attack

During an anxiety attack, you may experience a combination of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. Understanding the symptoms and knowing how to manage them is crucial for coping with anxiety attacks effectively.

  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Sweating or chills
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Fear of losing control
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

These symptoms can be so severe that many people feel as if they are having a heart attack or are in imminent danger, despite there being no actual threat in the moment. They are deeply personal experiences, so symptoms of an anxiety attack can vary from person to person.

If you have panic attack symptoms, seek medical help as soon as possible. While extremely distressing, panic attacks are not immediately dangerous. However, the symptoms can be difficult to control on your own.

How Long Do Anxiety Attacks Last?

While they can feel overwhelming and inescapable, panic attacks are short-term experiences. On average, a panic attack usually reaches the peak level of intensity in 10 minutes or less and then begin to subside. Some symptoms can linger, so you may feel fatigued or unwell after a panic attack subsides. Panic attacks can occur as frequently as several times a day or as rarely as a few times a year, depending on the person.

Especially during a severe attack, they can feel like life-or-death experiences, but understand that the attack will end. Once the symptoms peak, they will subside—sometimes as quickly as they came on, sometimes a little more gradually.

What Causes Anxiety Attacks?

Anxiety attacks can feel like unexpected waves crashing over us, but there’s often a detectable pattern pointing to root causes of attacks. By understanding our own unique triggers, we can better prepare ourselves for potentially stressful situations and identify feelings of an attack in the early stages.

Stress, past traumas, specific phobias or fears, and overwhelming situations can all play a role in causing anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes, even subtle cues in our environment or interactions can stir up strong emotions. To other people, this might seem like an attack came out of nowhere.

For those dealing with severe anxiety, your body could be finely tuned to detect even the slightest signals of danger—keeping you in a constant “fight or flight” mode of high adrenaline. When we notice tension building or our thoughts spiraling, it’s important to try and record what specifically could be causing these feelings.

It can be very challenging to identify anxiety sources on your own—that’s where a mental health professional can help. They can work with you to regain control by identifying personal patterns, recognizing signs and symptoms, and building coping mechanisms that can be useful during a panic attack. Seeking help and finding the right treatment is a strong, proactive approach to managing your own anxiety and starting the path to recovery.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Panic attacks can be a symptom that is shared by several different types of anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is defined by a constant feeling of fear and worry, forcing its way into every moment in life. Worry can be caused by work or school performance, financial security, caring for loved ones, health issues, social relationships, and more. However, chronic worry caused by GAD never completely resolves.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is anxiety during social interactions like large parties, events with crowds, or public speaking. These situations can make plenty of people feel a little bit nervous, but those with social anxiety disorder feel a debilitating fear that can prevent them from seeking out social interactions entirely.

Anxiety Caused by Phobias

Sometimes, anxiety can be induced by very specific fears or phobias. Certain situations or objects can trigger an overwhelming sense of fear, similar to social anxiety disorder. From the fear of small spaces to the fear of flying on airplaines, these phobias can severely impact how you can navigate daily life, feel successful, and experience happiness and joy.

No matter which anxiety disorder someone is dealing with, each one can be understood and managed with compassion and support. Whether it’s the constant worry of GAD, the social unease of social anxiety, or specific phobias, there’s a path to healing and resilience for each.

Treatment Options for Anxiety

If you’re dealing with anxiety, there are several strategies for successfully reducing or preventing anxiety attacks and chronic stress. But how can you know which strategy or treatment is best for you?

The best way to get started in finding the right treatment is to talk with a mental health professional. They have the tools, resources, and advanced training to fully assess your anxiety and understand which treatment options could help. When managing your treatment plan, your mental health team can also help you keep track of your progress.

Medication for Anxiety Management

Anti-anxiety medications have long served as a treatment option for anxiety, offering a clinically proven option for managing symptoms and facilitating healthy recovery. Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines, work to rebalance the brain’s chemistry by influencing our neurotransmitters. Medications are particularly useful for many people in the middle of an anxiety attack because they can immediately intervene and alleviate overwhelming physical symptoms.

Talk Therapy

Along with medication, talk therapy is a well-studied treatment option and used for many years to mitigate anxiety. Also known as psychotherapy, this therapeutic approach involves engaging in meaningful conversations with a licensed therapist. Together, they’ll work alongside you to dive deeper into your personal experiences with anxiety and develop positive coping techniques.

Think of your therapist as your trusted guide who’s equipped with the best resources to help you navigate the maze of anxiety. Through introspective dialogue and evidence-based strategies, you can unpack your thoughts and feelings in a safe, judgment-free space. With each session, your therapist can help you explore what triggers your anxiety and how you can respond differently.

Innovative Treatment Options

When it comes to managing anxiety, medication and psychotherapy have long been dependable options and have served as important cornerstones in traditional treatment plans. But for many people, these approaches may not provide enough relief on their own. If you’re dealing with treatment-resistant anxiety, this can be especially frustrating and confusing.

That’s where innovative treatments like ketamine-assisted therapy and deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can step in. Ketamine and Deep TMS can work in tandem with traditional treatment options to better address your anxiety at the root causes, offering a more comprehensive approach to your treatment plan. These options have shown to be particularly effective in addressing treatment-resistant anxiety, where other strategies have proven to be less effective.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

In the latest research, ketamine-assisted therapy is an innovative treatment option that’s shown remarkable effectiveness in rapidly alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Ketamine uniquely targest glutamate receptors in the brain, promoting neuroplasticity—or your brain’s ability to adapt and heal. With more ability to develop new thought patterns, you can more readily facilitate emotional healing.

Administered within a safe, clinical setting, you’re provided a small amount of ketamine medication. The dosage is always administered with medical supervision and is tailored to your therapeutic needs. Next, a licensed clinician leads you through a guided talk therapy session.

Deep TMS

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, or deep TMS, works by using electrical impulses to regulate neurotransmitters in the brain associated with anxiety regulation. This non-invasive and FDA-approved treatment has been shown to improve mood and offer long-lasting relief from physical anxiety symptoms.

At Plus by APN, Deep TMS treatments are used to help with depression, OCD, anxiety, and smoking cessation. With little to no side effects, Deep TMS is a good option for many types of people, but especially for those with treatment-resistant anxiety.

Advanced treatment options like ketamine-assisted therapy and Deep TMS can complement traditional treatment options like medication and therapy. With more methods avalable, your mental health care team can help create a treatment plan that’s specifically designed for you, allowing you to better focus on your healing journey.

Prevent Anxiety Attacks with Plus by APN

Anxiety attacks are serious and scary experiences—but with help from a mental health professional, they can be treated and you can escape the negative cycle of constant fear.

At Plus by APN, we’re dedicated to fostering long-lasting relief and improved well-being in mind, body, and soul. Our approach is not just about treatment; it’s about providing a space for your recovery and growth so you can thrive. Call 424.644.6486 or complete our confidential online contact form to get started today.


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