Remember the time when you felt nervous before an exam or felt a sense of fear before the results came out? That feeling of fear, worry, apprehension and stress is called anxiety. Anxiety is our body’s natural reaction to danger and can occur by worrying about an event or an incident such as joining a new job, taking an exam or any other major life event. Mild anxiety can actually be beneficial in pushing someone to work or overcome a challenging situation but when it starts to affect someone’s day-to-day functioning, it becomes harmful and needs to be addressed.

What is an anxiety attack?

When this feeling of fear, worry and apprehension becomes overwhelming and starts to take over an individual creating a disconnect between the body and the mind then it’s called an anxiety attack. An anxiety attack can get triggered by an approaching event and it develops slowly as the time comes. A surge of intense fear and stress gushes through one’s body when an anxiety attack strikes. People who face anxiety attacks are also the ones who feel anxious on a day-to-day basis for everyday life situations. Anxiety attacks can many times act as indicators of an underlying anxiety disorder. The symptoms of anxiety may vary for different people, leaving us with a range of physical and mental symptoms.

Some physical symptoms include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hyperventilation
  • Increased Sweating
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Restlessness
  • Pain in the chest
  • The feeling of getting choked
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Getting chills
  • Diarrhoea
  • Gas or acidity
  • Muscle tension or muscle ache
  • Tingling sensation
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Insomnia

Some mental symptoms include:

  • Intense fear
  • Overwhelming stress
  • Nervousness
  • The feeling of mind going blank
  • Feeling irritated
  • Feeling a disconnect between the body and the mind
  • Feeling out-of-control
  • Worrying
  • Difficulty in concentrating or thinking
  • Feeling the need to escape from everything

Different people may face different combinations of the above symptoms while experiencing an anxiety attack. To tell if someone is experiencing an anxiety attack, one should observe the person who might be suddenly experiencing some kind of discomfort. You’ll see stress or fear overpowering the person experiencing an attack and it may last from a few minutes to a few hours. The person will be in panic and would need some kind of relaxation techniques to calm down. If the attack is severe, the person might need a doctor.

Many people often get confused between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. Both have similar symptoms but there are a few differences between the two. To distinguish between an anxiety attack and a panic attack one needs to understand that:

1. Anxiety attacks generally occur because of a trigger- an event or a thing which might be causing a person to worry, fear or apprehend. They have a reason which might be stressful or endangering for the person experiencing the attack. Panic attacks generally occur suddenly without even the presence of a trigger.

2. Anxiety attacks develop slowly as the stressful event approaches. Anxiety starts to develop as the event nears and it peaks when the event is just about to happen or when it’s happening. Panic attacks come unannounced and they occur suddenly. There is no apparent reason for a panic attack.

3. In an anxiety attack the feelings of worry, fear and apprehension gushes through one’s mind coupled with certain physical symptoms but in case of a panic attack, the physical symptoms are generally much more severe than in an anxiety attack and the person becomes totally out-of-control. Panic attack involves an unrealistic fear of the highest degree where the person experiencing it might think that he/she will die.

Whether it’s an anxiety attack or a panic attack, it can be an indicator of an underlying anxiety or panic disorder. If the feelings of stress and fear overwhelm you in a way that it hampers your day-to-day life, then it’s time to see a doctor. Shying away from such issues may only lead to worsening of the symptoms, so one must seek assistance when there’s still time.


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