Common Anxiety Attack Symptoms


Of all the mental illnesses that exist anxiety is the most common, affecting an incredible 18.1% of the population of the United States. With such abundance it would make sense for people to recognize anxiety attack symptoms as soon as they appear, but apart from them being diverse and often vague, the symptoms can be alarming and hard to pin point.

To be able to define anxiety attack symptoms it’s first important to understand why anxiety occurs in the first place. It is an evolutionary throw back from the ancient days when we needed a burst of adrenaline in the face of danger so we either had the courage to fight whatever that threat was, or run from it at great speed. This survival technique is now known as the ‘fight or flight’ response and today it still remains within our physiology. Today, however, we aren’t often faced with life threatening situations and instead our bodies perceive smaller stresses as more serious and they therefore release adrenaline. When this adrenaline doesn’t get used in daily life we experience anxiety attacks as our bodies are in a state of feeling threatened.

This state gives rise to a huge range of anxiety attack symptoms, most commonly sweating, shaking, feeling dizzy, having a racing heart, feeling out of breath, becoming hot, feeling nauseous, having racing thoughts and needing the toilet regularly. Of course these symptoms can be triggered by a range of things too and what triggers someone’s anxiety is what determines the specific anxiety disorder they suffer from (E.G. someone who has panic attacks in social situations is likely to have social anxiety).

When we attribute anxiety attacks symptoms to the flight or fight response they begin to make a lot more sense. We feel nauseous and need the toilet because our bodies need to be light in order to run fast. We shake and feel out of breath because we have so much energy pent up and we feel hot because there is blood pumping round our bodies in anticipation of the exercise. People with anxiety often complain of having aching muscles; this is because they tense their muscle ready to defend themselves instead of relaxing. They also often complain of lights seeming brighter and almost overwhelming. This is their eyes trying to take in every single detail that might help them to survive in dangerous situations.

With this information in mind, it’s important not to just treat anxiety attack symptoms but to get rid of the thoughts or the stressful event that is causing the flight or fight response in the first place. Anxiety is a physical response to a mental cause, I.E. at some point an irrational thought has blown something out of proportion and caused your body to react in an extreme way. The simplest and most effective way to get rid of that cause is to tackle the irrational thought. This could be done through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), counseling or any other kind of therapy carried out by a professional.

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Stan Tian

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