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Anxiety Attack

A anxiety attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort, typically with an abrupt onset and usually lasting no more than thirty minutes. Anxiety attacks are much different from other types of anxiety, in that anxiety attacks are very sudden, appear unprovoked, and are often disabling.

Most individuals that experience one attack will often experience others. People who have repeated attacks, or feel severe anxiety about having another attack are said to have panic disorder.

Most sufferers of anxiety attacks report a fear of dying, "going crazy", or losing control of emotions and/or behavior. The experiences generally provoke a strong urge to escape or flee the place where the attack begins, and, when associated with chest pain or shortness of breath, a feeling of impending doom and/or tunnel vision.

A person with a phobia will often experience an anxiety attack as a direct result of exposure to the phobic trigger. These anxiety attacks are usually short-lived and rapidly relieved once the trigger is escaped. In conditions of chronic anxiety one anxiety attack can often roll into another one, leading to nervous exhaustion over a period of days.

anxiety attack symptoms

The symptoms of a anxiety attack appear suddenly, without any clearly visible cause. The symptoms may include:

  • pounding heartbeat often fast in nature
  • increased sweating
  • pain in the chest
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • tingling and/or numbness in the face and extremities
  • Dreamlike sensations or perceptual distortions (de-realization)
  • Disassociation, the perception that one is not connected to the body or even disconnected from space and time.
  • Fear of losing control and doing something embarrassing
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling of impending doom
  • Crying (in relation to the above symptoms)

A anxiety attack typically lasts for several minutes and is one of the most distressing conditions that a person can experience in everyday life.

The various symptoms of a anxiety attack can be understood as follows. First comes the sudden onset of fear with little or no provoking stimulus. This then leads to a release of adrenaline (epinephrine) which cause the so-called fight-or-flight response where the person's body prepares for major physical activity. This leads to an increased heart rate (tachycardia), rapid breathing (hyperventilation), and sweating (which increases grip and aids heat loss).

Because strenuous activity rarely ensues, the hyperventilation leads to carbon dioxide levels lowering in the lungs and then the blood. This leads to shifts in the pH of the blood which then leads to many of the other symptoms such as tingling or numbness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Anyone who hyperventilates for a while can demonstrate this. For the person with a anxiety attack who does not know this, these symptoms are often seen as further evidence of how serious the condition is. An ensuing vicious cycle of adrenaline release fuels worsening physical symptoms and psychological distress.

Posted by Staff at June 11, 2005 11:38 AM

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Comments Archive

i'm not sure if what i'm experiencing is anxiety. can you help. i fear losing control because i can't come back once i'm upset. during this time i fear i will violently hurt someone. i lose total control when i'm being provoked to anger, thereafter; i feel so embarrassed and will cry because of having lost control. i am a professional female and have raised my voice on the job, come close to fighting OTJ and done the same in establishments. could this be symptoms of perimenapause since i am 40 years old. my doctor has prescribed Xanax not to exceed 8 per month. have you ever heard of this type Rx. since i don't know when i'm going to experience the frustration, when should i take the Xanax?

Posted by: IM at June 15, 2005 8:57 PM


Posted by: piston at January 17, 2006 3:07 PM

I am only 15 years old but have recently been getting mild panic/ anxiety attacks. they scare me because most of the time I am either in public or in shcool. also when me and my mom fight (which is on a daily basis) I start to be unable to control my breathing( as well as when i'm under any amount of stress). Do you think these are serious isues which I should maybe see a doctor for or at least seek some help for? your comments would be greatly appreciated. I check my e-mail daily

Posted by: Gabrielle white at June 2, 2006 1:52 AM

what do you think it is when you feel like you can't breathe, get really bad chest pains, and your heart starts beating really fast?
that's been hapening alot lately.....and when it does i know somethings wrong but i can't do anything....it's hard for me to move...i have to send the kids to the other room so i don't snap at them. i just sit there and cry till it all goes away

Posted by: bianca at June 13, 2006 8:28 PM

i fell a cold icy feeling through out my body is this from a result of pannick attack.

Posted by: hernan at June 20, 2006 9:49 PM

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Posted by: Penn at October 2, 2006 4:09 PM

This has never happened to me before, We have been having alot of finacial problems lately and my husband mentioned that we could lose the house, I was driving at the time and all the sudden I started breathing fast, I felt that I was unable to breath I started to cry and all I wanted to do was scream Which I did in my car, then I felt a strange tingling sensation on my face. Is this anxiety ? I felt as if I was on the very edge of losing control

Posted by: Jan Solomon at October 27, 2006 3:21 PM

I am experiencing tingling burning in the upper part of my body for over a week..could this be ulcer realted or am suffereing from severe anxiety? I do have anxiety but I haven't had it bad for years..I panic cuz my best friend had a heart attack in January so I begin to think I am and something is wrong with my heart!

Posted by: Michelle at October 30, 2006 8:19 PM