Symptoms of an anxiety attack can be really scary- especially if you do not know what is happening to you. Fear is a natural internal response that can save lives. It is fear that quickens your heart and produces the energy and stimulus to run when you sense danger in the shadows of a dark alley. It is fear (and a bit of vigilance) that tells you not to turn down that dark alley to begin with. Unfortunately, fear can be debilitating when it is triggered without any legitimate danger in your surrounding environment. Anxiety attacks are the product of fear responses that are out of control.
Many people go to the emergency room convinced that they are having a heart attack, and are turned away with a diagnosis of anxiety or panic attack. Other sufferers experience unpleasant anxiety symptoms on a frequent basis and must learn to notice, change or control it in order to maintain a healthy, active, and fulfilling life. The symptoms experienced can be mental, emotional, or physical, and most people experience a combination of these symptom types.
Mental/Emotional Anxiety Symptoms
- Deep sense of fear, as if something horrible can happen at any moment
Intense desire to run away or escape impending danger
- Mental fixation with breathing, fear that you cannot breathe or will stop breathing
- Confusion, inability to think straight and make sound decisions
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Sense of disassociation from self, like you are a separate entity looking down on your own body
- Blank mind, inability to form thoughts and communicate with others
- Sensation of an altered reality, like the present moment is only a dream and will pass
- Irrational and consistent thoughts of fear that cannot be controlled
- Irrational thoughts of going insane and losing control of your body
Physical Anxiety Symptoms
- Flushed, red appearance to the face, or a white fear-stricken facial appearance
- Burning, tingling, and other sensations on the skin
- Tightness in the neck and/or chest
- Difficulty breathing due to tightness and/or shortness of breath
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
- Weak muscles, sensation that you must sit or lie down because you cannot support your body
- Hot flashes or cold flashes
- Bodily shaking, jerking, lack of muscle control
- Upset stomach, nausea, throwing up, tension and tightness in the abdomen
- Muffled hearing or inability to hear surrounding sounds
- Pounding, racing heart, with or without fear of having a heart attack
- Profuse sweating not explained by physical exertion or other factors
- Intense need to use the restroom
This list represents just a small sample of the potential symptoms of an anxiety attack that people may experience. Anxiety affects everyone differently, but those have been affected understand how paralyzing it can be without treatment and control.
If this list of symptoms of an anxiety attacks look devastating, you are starting to understand why so many live in fear of their next attack. In fact, some people can cause additional anxiety attacks by worrying about their next attack. People may not go through all of these symptoms each time they experience intense anxiety, but some combination of these symptoms is typically present before, during, and even lingering after an anxiety attack.
Some people will learn to identify particular symptoms that occur before they have a full anxiety attack. Noticing that first symptom allows them to find a safe, calm place or to change their state of mind when they notice symptoms. This is especially helpful to the person with acute or severe forms of anxiety disorder and who may (or may not) experience an attack at any moment on any day without any clear environmental trigger. When possible forget about having an attack, put it off, delay it, procrastinate.