The anxiety symptoms that occur in panic attacks are caused by the body preparing to face danger. The fight and flight response is triggered and the body reacts. In an anxiety attack there is no actual danger but the body is still having the fight flight response. These are common symptoms of panic attacks.
Rapid heartbeat. The heart pumps blood at a faster rate and this makes the heart rate increase. There may be palpitations or a feeling of the heart “thudding’ or ‘pounding’ in the chest. Shortness of breath. As anxiety increases, breathing becomes shallower and faster. This can cause a person to feel that they are suffocating and cannot get enough air in. Sometimes over breathing occurs as the person tries to take big breaths. This can cause tingling in the hand, feet and around the mouth.
Feeling dizzy and faint. The blood rushes to the large muscles when anxiety is high. This causes feeling of faintness and dizziness. There can also be a feeling of being disconnected from what is happening, a sense of unreality. This is called derealization.
Fear of death and insanity. These feelings can be very strong and are very frightening. The person may feel as if they are going to have a heart attack and die or that they are going crazy. The feelings will pass as the anxiety attack passes.
Stomach distress and nausea. The stomach is sent messages to empty when anxiety symptoms are severe. It does this to get ready to cope with danger. This can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping and the need to rush to the bathroom.
Choking sensation. The throat narrows when anxious, as the body gets ready to scream and yell. This can cause a feeling of being choked and difficulty swallowing. This is a common symptom of high anxiety but often not recognized or understood. Coughing and trying to clear the throat only irritates the throat more.
Chest pain. The large muscles in the body tense when anxiety attacks occur. This includes the chest wall muscles. The tightened chest wall muscles, combined with difficulty getting a deep breath in can cause chest pain and a fear of having a heart attack Slowing down the breathing (not deep breaths) is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety symptoms and panic attacks can be treated successfully. There are many techniques that can help to reduce the intensity and frequency of panic attacks. Understanding what is happening in the body and how to control it is very helpful for anxiety treatment.
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Louise is a mental health professional and a previous sufferer of anxiety & depression. She writes about self help treatments for anxiety and depression