Symptoms And Causes Of An Anxiety AttackMy heart beats faster, my throat becomes dry, and breathing without feeling like I'm choking seems impossible. Whenever this happens, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m having an anxiety attack. "It's all in my head," you'll say to me. Yes, certainly, these panic attacks are due to my irrational thoughts. They may be ridiculous, but they're hard to control. Here are the symptoms and causes of panic attacks.
'Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action' - Walter Anderson
What are the symptoms of an anxiety attack?
To calm an anxiety attack, the first step is to tame it...
Anxiety attacks: The symptoms
Often, they happen suddenly, everything comes together without me having time to understand the situation. The symptoms reach their maximum intensity in a few minutes, and the whole circus lasts an average of half an hour. But the good news is that by becoming a regular sufferer, I've learned to recognize them by force of circumstance, and that's how today I see them coming.
Although these manifestations vary from person to person, or from panic attack to panic attack, they are always physical and mental, and can be categorized as follows:
The main physical symptoms
- Heart palpitations, when the rhythm of my heart accelerates and is closer to 100 beats per minute than the normal 60. It can also beat irregularly, this is what doctors call tachycardia.
- A respiratory discomfort with a choking feeling. It's scientifically proven that when I panic, I inhale and exhale a lot of air quickly. As a result, I accumulate a lot of carbon dioxide and lack oxygen, hence the feeling of suffocation.
- Chest pains. Because my whole body is tensing up.
- Trembling or shaking muscles caused by repeated and involuntary contractions of my muscles, normal in case of fear.
- Sweating, sometimes accompanied by chills, sometimes by hot flashes. This can be explained by the hormonal imbalance I am experiencing.
- As in the case of intense stress, my stomach is knotted and I feel pain in my lower abdomen.
- This can go as far as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
- My senses are also impaired: I notice that my vision is blurred, my throat is tight and a hive of bees seems to have taken up residence in my ears. My ears are buzzing and suffer from very disturbing tinnitus.
- Finally, this loss of control can result in discomfort, dizziness or vertigo.
Psychic disorders, what's going on in my head
Because my head is more likely to follow my body in a panic than to reason with me... All these physical sensations make me think of the worst-case scenario. That's what fuels my vicious cycle:
- Fear of suffocation (since my breathing is impaired)...
- Fear of fainting (due to dizziness)
- The fear of having a heart attack (because, as a reminder, my throbbing is freewheeling)
- Fear of going crazy (I can't control anything and I can't reason with myself).
- Fear of dying
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Anxiety attacks: The causes
Although it comes on suddenly, panic attacks don't happen by chance. It is often preceded by a period when the level of anxiety gradually increases and is explained by the following:
- If I am a subject with anxious terrain, in other words, if in everyday life, anxiety and nervousness characterize me. The stress by which I easily let myself be carried away opens the door to these attacks.
- If it’s a reaction to a threat, real or interpreted as such. The fact that I feel helpless in the face of the situation causes this loss of self-control.
- Quite simply, if I have consumed large quantities of products such as coffee or cigarettes.
- It can be associated with a phobia, if the situation that caused me this panic echoes one of my deepest fears.
- If it makes me relive a trauma, such as an accident, or a sudden break-up.
- If I am experiencing depressive disorders.
- If I'm in a situation where the fear of dying and not being rescued is strong.
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Expert opinion - You can't die of an anxiety attack.
"It's true that a panic attack mimics a serious physical problem," explains Dominique Servant, head of the stress and anxiety unit at Lille University Hospital. Chest pain, dizziness, difficulty breathing...". It feels like we're gonna die, but it's a false alarm, there's no medical cause. "So when the crisis comes, think about it, and avoid falling into the vicious circle of panic.
To do this, our expert advises breathing slowly and deeply so as not to hyperventilate. She adds: "The worst enemy of the anxious is fear of fear, and you must not let it take hold. "There are indeed many ways to manage an anxiety attack, from soft music, to meditation, to visualization! You will soon find the right one.