What Are Anxiety Attacks?

Most people feel anxious from time to time. It’s when a person feels worried or afraid about something that could happen, and is a natural response to experience when faced with stressful situations. 

For some people, anxiety can develop into a mental health concern, impacting their lives and potentially that of those around them too. And this anxiety can sometimes progress into an anxiety attack, causing a person to feel particular worry or fear that something bad is going to happen.

Learn more about anxiety attacks, their symptoms, and their causes and learn about anxiety attack treatments at Peaks Recovery.

What is an anxiety attack?

Anxiety attacks are a person’s response to feeling stressed or worried. They aren’t as widely discussed as panic attacks, which are another response to stressful or unknown situations. While anxiety attacks and panic attacks sound similar, it’s important to know that anxiety attacks are different from panic attacks.

An anxiety attack typically has mild to severe symptoms, becoming more intense over time and lasting anywhere from minutes to months. Symptoms may last a long time, and many people seek out treatment to help them combat anxiety attacks or constant feelings of anxiety.

A panic attack, meanwhile, is a sudden response to a situation and can happen without a trigger. Panic attacks come with severe symptoms, and many sufferers feel out of control or that they are dying, but symptoms tend to ease off after around 10 minutes.

There are treatments available for both anxiety attacks and panic attacks, helping sufferers control their symptoms and finding coping methods should attacks happen in the future. 

What are the symptoms of an anxiety attack?

Unlike a panic attack, an anxiety attack can happen gradually. It can build up over time due to worries or feelings of dread, affecting sleep or mood. Many people who suffer from anxiety attacks are able to function normally but can present a range of symptoms that are either consistent or sporadic, including:

  • Feelings of fear or apprehension
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tightness in the chest or a knot in the stomach
  • Chest pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Feeling light-headed 
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Hot flushes
  • Headaches

​​A person may experience different symptoms of an anxiety attack at different times, and may not always experience the same symptoms. Panic attacks are usually a response to anxiety, and anxiety could lead to a panic attack, which will come on suddenly and potentially make a person feel like they are dying.

Different types of anxiety

Anxiety presents itself in different forms, and people may experience different types of anxiety. Some of the most common anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder usually experience regular symptoms of worry in relation to different events. GAD is a broad term for those suffering from anxiety without a specific cause, meaning no two people’s experiences are the same.

Panic disorder

Having a panic disorder means suffering from regular panic attacks. There may not be a clear reason behind the attacks, causing someone to feel anxious in anticipating panic attacks, with this intense fear or worry often leading to a panic attack. 

Social anxiety disorder

Those who suffer from social anxiety disorder generally suffer from fear or anxiety in response to different social situations. Some people may develop social anxiety about the workplace, group gatherings and parties, talking to others, and crowds. 

Phobia-related disorders

Many people experience anxiety in relation to a phobia. Being confronted with a fear, such as going outside or visiting the dentist, can lead to symptoms of anxiety, and may prevent a person from carrying on with everyday activities. 

Anxiety can also be a symptom of other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). 

What causes anxiety attacks?

Anxiety attacks can happen as a result of continued feelings of anxiety, which may be caused by past traumas, something happening in someone’s life, mental health issues, and even as a response to drugs or medication.

The causes of anxiety vary from person to person, and something that causes anxiety in one person, may not cause anxiety in another. Understanding the underlying causes can help those who suffer from anxiety manage their symptoms, and help prevent anxiety attacks.

What are some of the complications of anxiety?

Anxiety can progress if left untreated, and may lead to other conditions that can severely impact someone’s life. 

For example, someone with anxiety may develop a fear of open spaces (agoraphobia) or avoidance behavior to avoid being faced with certain situations. Others may develop other mental health conditions such as depression, while physical symptoms can also be debilitating.

Anxiety can have a significant impact on someone’s life, preventing them from going about their everyday activities, and impacting relationships, jobs, education and more.

In some situations, someone with anxiety may turn to substances to help them cope with their symptoms.

Anxiety treatments

There are various treatments that can help those who suffer from anxiety, helping sufferers manage their symptoms and prevent anxiety attacks in the future. Some people find a single approach to be effective, while others may need a combination of approaches to help treat their symptoms.

Some common treatment types include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A therapy that helps to adjust behaviors so that people can change the way they feel or react to certain things or situations.
  • Exposure therapy: This can help people change their responses to their anxiety triggers by being exposed to triggers in a controlled way.
  • Meditation and relaxation: Sufferers may learn different relaxation techniques to help manage anxiety symptoms, including breathing exercises and guided meditation.
  • Medication: Some people may benefit from prescribed medications to treat symptoms of anxiety, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and beta-blockers. 

Treatments vary depending on an individual’s needs, and different forms of treatment may be recommended following a diagnosis and analysis of a sufferer’s symptoms.

Suffering from anxiety? Reach out to us

Suffering with anxiety can be debilitating for sufferers, which is why it’s important to seek help. At Peaks Recovery, we provide mental health treatments that can help those who suffer from anxiety manage their symptoms and overcome their issues. If you or someone you love is struggling, then Peaks Recovery could provide a solution. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Medical Disclaimer: Peaks Recovery Centers uses fact-based content about recovery treatment, addiction medicine, and behavioral health conditions to improve the quality of life for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction or mental health disorders. This information is not intended to replace professional medical guidance, diagnosis, care, or treatment. This information should not be used as a substitute for advice from a qualified healthcare provider and/or your physician.