Anxiety and panic attacks can easily mimic emergency conditions that require a visit to an ER including chest pain, heart attacks, stroke, and many others. So, it is important to understand what the symptoms are. And to understand how to manage anxiety attacks and when to seek immediate emergency care.
If you are not sure whether you are having an anxiety attack or something else is going on, seek immediate emergency care.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
The only difference in the symptoms of anxiety attacks and emergency conditions is their origin. Panic attacks are the result of thoughts and emotions that cause stress. Your body interprets this acute stress, which often comes out of nowhere, as “something is wrong.”
Some of the more common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
Rapid shallow breathing (hyperventilation)
This type of breathing leads to a buildup of carbon dioxide (CO2) and intensifies the anxiety or panic you are feeling. Even those who are not experiencing a panic or anxiety attack become anxious when they hyperventilate.
Heart palpitations or a racing heartbeat
When your heart races and/or you have palpitations you are experiencing a fight or flight response. Your body is preparing for action by increasing blood flow. This normal reaction is helpful in the case of an actual physical threat. But it is uncomfortable and can be frightening when no threat is present which can exacerbate a panic attack.
Numbness and tingling in both arms and/or both legs
When your fight or flight response is activated, your body diverts blood from your extremities to your core and vital organs. And when you are facing a physical threat this is very helpful. However, when you are experiencing an anxiety attack this symptom leads to additional and perhaps prolonged stress.
In a threatening situation, being able to focus on the target or problem is critical to survival. It is another normal part of the fight or flight response. Yet when you are experiencing a panic attack, tunnel vision can add to the perception that something is very wrong and intensify your anxiety.
When you have brain fog it is difficult to concentrate or remember things. You may not feel like yourself. When you are having a panic attack, mental fog is frequently the result of the underlying and overwhelming anxiety and stress you are experiencing.
Sense of doom/fear of impending death
When you are in a life-threatening situation such as an accident or natural disaster, it makes sense that you would feel a sense of doom and/or fear your death.
And it makes sense that when you are having this anxiety attack symptom that your panic would increase and reinforce your fear of impending death or doom. Yet, the unique thing about this panic attack symptom is that there are no vital signs or other physical findings for a life-threatening condition.
These are just some of the most common symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. What you actually experience when you are struggling with a panic attack will be unique to you. In other words, the exact symptoms of an anxiety attack may be different from one person to another.
What remains consistent from one person to another is that ER evaluations and follow-up tests including EKG, blood work, urine tests, x-rays, and other studies come back absolutely normal.
And, if you have never had an anxiety attack before, do not attempt to self-diagnose based on these symptoms. Immediately seek emergency care.
Once you have been evaluated by the ER or your doctor and have a diagnosis of anxiety or panic attacks, you may be susceptible to recurrent episodes when stress accumulates or you are facing a stressful situation. The following techniques will help you know how to manage your anxiety attacks.
Anxiety Management Techniques
After receiving your diagnosis of stress/anxiety/panic attacks, it is important that you become familiar with and aware of how your anxiety expresses itself. This will give you the ability to manage it instead of making repeated visits to the ER. Some of the most effective anxiety management techniques are:
Deepen and slow your breathing
Diaphragmatic or deep breathing occurs when your belly expands when you inhale. When you purposely take deep, slow breaths (inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds) your sympathetic nervous system begins to calm down. This means that your fight or flight response begins to settle. And then the other symptoms of your anxiety will also start to abate.
Become aware of your surroundings
One simple technique for getting out of the maelstrom of thoughts and fears you experience when you are having a panic attack is to purposefully notice your surroundings.
Start by paying attention to the feel of your clothes on your skin. Then, notice whether you feel warm or cold. Now, look straight ahead and notice what is in front of you. Then shift your gaze to one side and notice what you see there. Then to the other side and notice the details of what you see there. Maybe you notice a particular smell as you become more and more aware of what all is around you.
When you can engage your senses your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your rest response, can begin to take over from your fight or flight response.
Practice Biogenics® for self-regulation
Self-regulation is the ability to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in a way that supports your long-term best interest. And it is one of the best ways to get control of your underlying anxiety, stress, overwhelm, depression, and panic that can trigger anxiety attacks.
Biogenics® is based on a self-hypnosis approach called Autogenic Training, biofeedback approaches, numerous mental exercises, and brain synchronization through binaural beats. It is one of the most effective means of developing the self-regulation skills necessary for managing anxiety attacks.
By mastering the tools for self-regulation, you will be able to manage your mental health and physical symptoms of anxiety attacks. And you will be well on your way to a better quality of life.
If you have received a diagnosis of anxiety or panic attacks, you are not necessarily consigned to a life of repeated visits to the ER. When you know how to manage anxiety attacks and your underlying stress/overwhelm/depression/anxiety, you can decrease the impact of any future episode you may have.
Additionally, when you put the tools for managing anxiety into daily practice you may even be able to prevent your anxiety attacks from occurring.
Dr. Sergey Sorin is a holistic physician as well as the CEO and medical director of the Shealy-Sorin Wellness Institute. He recommends autogenic focus (the basis of Biogenics®) as part of your toolbox for managing stress and anxiety. Register to download your FREE autogenic focus MP3 now.