What is an Anxiety Attack?

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The definition of anxiety describes the normal feeling most people feel from time to time in their lives. Feeling worried, nervous, or uneasy concerning an event or something with an uncertain outcome describes what we all feel. When anxieties in our lives become frequent, unpredictable, and out of control, it could mean abnormal anxiety is present. Anxiety and fear are strong feelings to manage, and after feeling out of control, you could wonder, what is an anxiety attack?

An anxiety disorder involves this type of anxiety that never seems to disappear. So what is an anxiety attack? Anxiety disorders can include the extreme display of anxiety described as an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks are the culmination of severe stress, and anxiety combined with physical symptoms manifest a very unpleasant situation. As anxiety and fear build, physical symptoms become involved, escalating the situation.   

Anxiety Attacks Defined

Anxiety attacks have no defining legal description in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Therefore, an anxiety attack is an individual reaction to extreme and uncontrollable anxiety, with the possibility of various symptoms occurring. Symptoms of anxiety attacks occur in multiple levels of severity. The main goal of recovering from an anxiety attack is to regain control.   

The physical symptoms described as an anxiety attack can include:

  • Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, and feeling pins and needles in the extremities
  • Feeling a churning sense, or a knot in the stomach
  • Restlessness and an inability to concentrate
  • Increased shallow breathing and, or rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Diarrhea, stomach cramping
  • Sweating, hot flushes
  • Nausea and headache 

Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack 

Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder both have situations when symptoms can escalate into an attack. It is confusing when severe symptoms occur if not diagnosed with either. Anxiety and panic attacks can share similar symptoms. Therefore, a professional evaluation and diagnosis can clear up any confusion about what is an anxiety attack is and what is a panic attack. 

Both panic and anxiety attacks may involve:

  • Fear or impending feelings of doom or possible negativity
  • Shallow quickening breathing and or a racing heart
  • Lightheadedness and numbness or tingling in hands
  • Nausea or sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Irrational thoughts escalate into many what ifs

Panic attacks have a slightly different presentation from anxiety attacks. First, they can appear out of nowhere without the escalation of symptoms. Then, suddenly faced with rapid breathing and chest pain, the experience can be disabling and overwhelming. Keeping with the modus operandi of what is an anxiety attack, panic attacks strike without any warning in some situations. Extended periods of anxiety are more indicative of anxiety attacks. 

Symptoms of Anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety affect an individual both physically and mentally. Therefore, extreme, moderate, or mild symptoms can differ per case. However, in most patients, a triggering situation, experience, or thought induces a sense of anxiety, fear, or worry. When unable to control these nagging feelings, what is an anxiety attack can occur. Anxiety attacks occur when the individual cannot control or end the extremely anxious feelings.  

Those with problematic anxiety can experience the following:

  • Feeling tense, stressed or nervous
  • An inability to relax and be in control without understanding why
  • Feeling impending doom or a sense of dread
  • Fearing bad things will happen
  • Requiring reassurance and attention to stay in control
  • Low mood or feelings of depression
  • Continual worrisome thinking, inability to concentrate or focus on anything else
  • Worry about negative possibilities in the future
  • Increases anticipation of impending anxiety or panic attack occurring

Common Causes of Anxiety

Anxiety, worry, and fear are common elements of everyday life. Environments filled with pressure, negativity, and dysfunctions can trigger these feelings to escalate. Also, lifestyle, employment, relationships, and health changes are often out of our control and can bring anxiety and worry to the forefront. Finally, when anxiety, worry, and fear begin to rule our behaviors, continue over an extended period and produce what is an anxiety attack, there is a need to address it.

Anxiety factors concerning stressful or overwhelming feelings or situations can include:

  • Financial, occupational, or school pressures
  • Family and relationship problems including divorce, separation, or death of a loved one
  • Parenting and caregiver stress
  • Environmental or climate change
  • Lifestyle change
  • Health decline, accident, or chronic illness
  • Mental health disorders or memory loss problems

Types of Anxiety Disorders

When understanding anxiety and what is an anxiety attack in your situation, it is essential to review the types of anxiety disorders. Education leads to acceptance of mental illness. Therefore, identifying symptoms experienced to relay to a primary care provider can help to determine the type of anxiety disorder present. A medical or mental health professional can assess, evaluate, and diagnose mental health disorders. 

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: (GAD) presents with continual feelings of anxiety, dread, worry, and fear interfering with daily activities or lifestyle. The determining factor is the timeframe symptoms have been continuing. 
  • Panic Disorder: Panic disorders manifest frequent unexpected panic attacks. Similar to GAD, a significant level of worry, fear, or anxiety is present for no specific reason. Moreoever, panic disorder can include a fear of the panic attacks themselves because of the uncertainty of when they will occur and the severity of the symptoms. 
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: This disorder exhibits an extreme fear and anxiety of being watched and judged by others in a social situation. The fear and anxiety are so intense that it alters lifestyle, the ability to participate in relationships, and at times, working with others. 

Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders

Professional treatment for anxiety disorders can provide the medication and therapy that could lead to recovery or management of the illness. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy can assist in the discovery of what could be the foundation of extreme anxiety and fear. If you came to this page asking, what is an anxiety attack? You have found answers. Finally, realizing what an anxiety attack is can lead to the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. 

The following options are a part of treatment for anxiety disorders:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Medication management of symptoms
  • Support Groups
  • Stress Management Techniques

Find Treatment for Your Anxiety Disorder in California

In California and wondering what is an anxiety attack? Launch Centers has answers to your individual questions and concerns about anxiety attacks. We have experienced professionals who understand the fear and worry involved with these attacks. We know how difficult it is to survive under such extreme anxiety levels. Contact us now so we can help you or your loved one find relief and treatment.

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