Anxiety: Symptoms & Treatments | Mental Health
Updated: Jun 9, 2018
Anxiety. The word alone enough to put me on edge. Anxiety. What does it really mean? Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. (Source: MedicalNewsToday.com). It's like it has a mind of its own. Kicking into full drive when it wants and ready to leave me shaking, or even worse, ready for a panic attack. How often do I get anxious? I don't really know. For me, anything can trigger it, even an environment I'm so used to. Weird isn't it? How much one thing can affect your whole life.
So what is it like on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes I get very anxious when travelling alone incase I do something stupid that I will regret and won't come back from. Sometimes, just being with a group of friends can trigger it, though this is very unlikely. Having to stand up and talk in front of people is the worst, it will readily trigger a panic attack and if I don't act fast, then it will consume me, leaving me frantic and gasping for air. It gets in the way of my social life at times; having to go out to a new place has my stomach churning and jittery at timesWhat is a panic attack? 'A panic attack is an intense wave of fear characterised by its unexpected and debilitating, immobilising intensity. They often strike out of the blue, without any warning.' (Source: Helpguide.org) When this happens, its like you've lost all control over your whole body and your mind is racing and you're thoughts are scattered. Finding something peaceful to concentrate on to calm down can be hard, but you get better with practice I guess. Some people create art and I spill words that may not make sense to anyone, but made sense to my scattered and frantic self.
Going into a new environment, meeting new people, sharing something so personal to me, and so much more, trigger it. Its one of those words, even alone, can leave my heart racing. Sometimes, when its really bad, it can leave chest pains and they can be mild to very painful. Did you know, there is something known as 'Panic disorder'? Someone with panic disorder has 'feelings of anxiety, stress and panic which occur regularly and at any time, often for no apparent reason.' (Source: NHS.UK)
Symptoms of a panic attack are: (Source: NHS.UK)
A racing heartbeat
Shortness of breath
A choking sensation
Numbness or pin and needles
A need to go to the toilet
Ringing in your ears
A feeling of dread or a fear of dying
A churning stomach
A tingling sensation in your fingers
Feeling like you're not connected to your body
Not everyone realises that they're having a panic attack because the symptoms may not be so obvious to them.
Here are some things that you can do to deal with a panic attack:
Realise you're having a panic attack A panic attack isn't you having a heart attack, the symptoms would be different; you are not dying as this feeling is only TEMPORARY, it will pass and you're ok. Recognising that you're having only a panic attack will allow you to focus on techniques to help you calm the attack.
Breathe Deeply When you're having a panic attack, you're breathing rapidly which can increase fear as you feel like you've lost control over your body. Deep breathing will allow you to gain control over your body once again and calm your heart rate. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out through your mouth, feeling the air slowly filling your chest and belly and slowly leaving again. Breath in for a count of four, hold for a second, and then breathe out for a count of four.
Practice mindfulness This can help you feel grounded in reality and you're surroundings. Panic attacks can cause a feeling of detachment or separation from reality. Focus on physical sensations that you are familiar with, like feeling the texture of your jeans on your hands, or digging your feet into the ground, or the way the embroidery etc feels under your fingertips. These specific sensations ground you firmly in reality and gives you something to focus on. (Source: healthline.com)
Close your eyes Sometimes a panic attack can be triggered when you feel overwhelmed as there's way too much happening at once. If you're in a fast-paced environment with a lot of stimuli, this can feed your panic attack. To reduce this, close your eyes. This will block out anything extra noise and movement and make it easier to focus on your breathing.
Find a focus object Focus your attention on a single object during a panic attack. Pick an object in clear sight and note everything about it. Describe the patterns, color, shapes, and size of the object to yourself. Focus all of your energy on this object, and your panic symptoms will start to decrease. Let your surroundings become a blur while you remain focused on your object.
Use muscle relaxation techniques Muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack in its tracks by controlling your body's response as much as possible. Relax one muscle at a time. Start with something like your fingers and then hand and work your way through your body. Relax your shoulders. However, this is more effective when you've practiced this beforehand (so get to it).
Picture your happy place Picture a place which is the most relaxing to you. Is it at the ocean? Or is it up in the mountains? Focus on the details as much as possible. Textures, smells, colours; focus on all of them.
Use Benzodiazepines This will help relieve a panic attack if taken as soon as you feel one coming.
It's useful to know the symptoms and treatments for anxiety and panic attacks so you can help yourself or someone else who may be having one. You may want to visit the doctor is you are having regular panic attacks or anxiety, they could put you on medication to help ease things for you.