June 1, 2015

What is an Anxiety Attack? Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Anxiety and with tags:

man experiencig a panic attack

Peter is a lawyer. While preparing for an important case, Peter experienced the first attack.

His heart began to pound, his body trembled, and the room began to spin as if he was no longer connected to his body. Peter felt like he was dying.

Peter went to the emergency room. The doctors performed tests and did blood-work and told him nothing was wrong and that he was fine. Since then, Peter has had two more attacks.

He feels powerless to stop them. When he feels an attack beginning, Peter waits, paralyzed, until the fear and pain subside.

Peter is terrified of another attack. He’s started to avoid places he feels he couldn’t retreat from if an attack were to occur.

Peter’s doctors likely had a hard time identifying the source of his attacks because they are panic attacks. Panic attacks result from anxiety and stress, but the pain and fear they cause are real.

Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack

The reason you might not immediately recognize an anxiety attack is that they share symptoms with many serious physical disorders, like a heart attack, for example. You could believe something is wrong with your heart or your lungs.

Attacks of anxiety can happen at any time and cause real physical pain.

Are worry and fear impacting your life? Take this quiz and find out if you have anxiety.

Physical symptoms of anxiety attacks: 

  • Your heart palpitates or races
  • You hyperventilate
  • You have intense chest pain
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or numbness overwhelm you
  • You fear you’re going to lose control
  • You feel as if you’re choking
  • You experience trembling or shaking
  • You sweat and experience hot or cold flashes


Panic attacks can surface at any time, but could be seen as a sign that there are emotional stresses to address.

If you are experiencing an anxiety attack, it’s important to remember that though you may feel terrified and may even fear that you are dying, you’re safe. You can remind yourself over and over that this will pass.

That is the nature of an anxiety attack, it will pass and it will not harm you physically. It can last for awhile, but not more than an hour generally and usually much shorter than that.


What Causes Panic Attacks?

It’s unclear why some people experience panic attacks and others don’t.

If someone in your family has experienced a panic attack, you’re more likely to experience one yourself.

Most panic disorders develop in early adulthood, and women are more likely than men to be affected by episodes of panic.

High-anxiety episodes can occur in connection with a traumatic event—a physical attack, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job.

Other possible triggers include big life transitions, like having a child or graduating from college.

If you experience a panic attack, it’s likely you’re feeling overwhelmed by unmanageable emotions.

If you’re embarrassed and suffer your panic attacks in silence, know that panic attacks can affect anyone. In fact, panic attacks affect many people.


Treatment for Panic Attacks

You might experience one or two panic attacks and never have another. If you experience panic attacks more often, and they begin affecting the way you live your life, you could have a panic disorder.

Once you recognize a panic attack for what it is, you can begin getting real and lasting help.

Treatment will depend on what’s best for you personally. Sometimes panic disorders occur with depression or substance abuse, so you might need more time to develop the coping skills you need to get back on track.

Other times, your anxiety might respond more quickly to treatment. Therapy can help you look at your panic attacks in a more realistic light, so you don’t spend much of your time worried about what will happen when panic strikes again.

You can learn skills to cope with the worry about having an anxiety attack as well as the anxiety itself. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn tools for managing stress that reduce your risk of having another panic attack.

In addition, relaxation techniques can show you how you have control over your body, even when anxiety strikes. Regularly engaging in relaxing activities such as breathing, yoga or meditation can help train your body to relax, especially when stressed.

If you have a panic disorder, medication in combination with therapy can help get you to a place where you feel peace. Other possible courses of treatment could include relaxation strategies.

Focusing on staying present rather than anticipating what’s to come can help reduce anxiety and panic. Setting aside time to talk with a mental health professional about elements in your life and what’s going on with you psychologically can make a big difference in how you manage inevitable stress.


Therapy for Anxiety & Panic Attacks

If you’ve experienced an anxiety or panic attack, you can benefit from anxiety counseling. Through therapy can learn how to manage symptoms of anxiety.

You can find relief for emotional stress that has been building up and cope with changes and transitions in your life.


Want more help with anxiety issues?

Read more about anxiety treatment, anxiety disorders and panic attack treatment or contact one of our counselors in Houston. Our therapist are available for face to face sessions as online therapy sessions in limited areas.

To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

Blog Categories