Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear, which occur for no apparent reason. Anxiety attacks can occur suddenly and without warning – when this happens the sufferer generally experiences a feeling that their life is about to end. Sometimes, there is an obvious circumstance that causes the attack, like having to drive in heavy traffic or getting stuck in an elevator, but often times there is an unknown “trigger” that causes it.
An anxiety attack generally lasts for a few minutes, but can go on for as long as thirty minutes for some people, depending on how severe it is and how they cope with it. Many anxiety sufferers can feel one coming on, with a strange sense of nervousness just before one occurs. During an anxiety attack, a person feels such an intense fear that they often feel as if they will die of a heart attack or from not breathing. Many feel terrified that they will lose control in front of other people – worst yet endanger others if they are at work or driving a car. The physical symptoms of an anxiety attack seem so severe that the person experiencing it loses touch with reality and focuses on their heart pounding in their chest, their rapid breathing and their sudden urge to vomit or faint. The anxiety attack will most often peak at ten minutes into the state of panic and it can be especially frightening to be in public, where there is no safety or place to escape, when it occurs.
So what does an anxiety attack feel like? Here are the most common symptoms associated with a full-on anxiety attack:
- Heart palpitations or chest pain / tightness
- Trouble breathing or hyperventilation
- Sweating excessively
- Trembling or shaking uncontrollably
- Feeling that you will pass out or fall
- Hot flashes or chills
- Feelings of being detached or surreal
- Nausea, “butterflies” or stomach cramps
- Feeling that you are losing control or going mad
This only begins to explain the sheer terror that someone feels when he or she experiences an anxiety attack. The worst feeling for most adults is being in a place where there is no room to escape to a safety zone when experiencing an anxiety attack. This can happen in public places, elevators, cars, the office, stores or anywhere else so the anxiety sufferer often avoids these places at all costs – causing them a significant loss of normal lifestyle.
It’s no wonder that depression is most often associated with anxiety attacks. This often follows when the anxiety sufferer avoids normal life and stays home for days at a time, not coming into contact with others or enjoying social interactions for fear of having another “fit” in front of their peers, or worse yet, strangers.
Another problem associated with anxiety sufferers are those who attempt to self-medicate themselves. This can cause symptoms to become even worse and so this type of behavior should be avoided at all costs. Instead, anxiety sufferers may want to consider using natural alternatives like aromatherapy or herbal supplements to help keep the nerves calm and reduce the chances of having another attack. Or they can seek counseling from a psycho-therapist who has experience with anxiety attacks and methods to treat them.