An anxiety attack is your body’s natural response to stress.
It is a feeling of fear about what is to come, like the first day at school, going to a job, giving a speech, etc.
However, if your feeling of anxiety is extreme, lasts longer than 6 months, and is interfering with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Each of you during life experiences some form of anxiety from time to time.
Moreover, adults and children both experience it. For some people, this feeling of anxiousness comes and goes, lasting for a short period of time. However, for some, it can become so severe, that it interferes with your daily life.
If you or your loved one suffers from these attacks then you need to understand the causes, symptoms, and certain ways to either help yourself or your loved one during an Anxiety Attack.
You can learn about Anxiety Attacks here.
Let us first discuss the Causes of Anxiety Attack
Causes of Anxiety Attack
Doctors are not fully capable of understanding what causes it, however, it is currently believed that certain traumatic experiences can trigger it.
However, genetics also plays a role here. Moreover, in some cases, it may be due to an underlying medical condition and could be the first sign of a physical, rather than a mental illness.
It is important to note that a person may experience one or more anxiety disorders at the same time.
This is true of generalized anxiety disorder, which is most commonly accompanied by other anxiety and mental conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Attack
While the signs and symptoms may vary from one person to another. Moreover, in general, the body reacts in a very specific way to anxiety.
When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for all possible dangers and activating your fight or flight response.
As a result, some common signs and symptoms you might observe are feeling of nervousness, restlessness, or being tense, feelings of panic or danger, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing or shortness of breath, and heavy sweating.
Let us dig into how you can help yourself or your loved one during an Anxiety Attack.
10 ways to help Someone during an Anxiety Attack
Anxiety Attacks can sometimes be scary, overwhelming, and confusing especially If you are experiencing them for the first time.
Some people might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, and a feeling of detachment.
Others might experience severe symptoms like not being able to focus on things other than what is making them anxious, intense heartbeat, insomnia, etc.
Thus, according to the American Psychiatric Association, one should avoid social situations as avoiding situations like these can help improve the symptoms.
However, knowledge of what might be triggering them can help you avoid it and learn about social anxiety disorder.
Here are 10 ways to help yourself or someone with an Anxiety Attack.
1# Breathing Exercises
While hyperventilating is a symptom of an such attack, it can increase fear. Deep breathing can help you reduce the signs and symptoms.
If you are able to control your breathing you are less likely to experience then anxiety attack and can prevent it from getting worse.
You can do it by focusing on deep breaths in and out through your mouth, feeling the air slowly fill up your chest and belly, and then slowly letting it out.
Breath in for a count of four, hold your breath for a second or two, and then breath out for a count of four.
2# Foucs on an Object
When an individual becomes overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories, then concentrating or focusing on something physical in the surroundings can help them feel grounded.
Moreover, maintaining your focus on one stimulus can help reduce over other stimuli.
As an individual focuses on an object, they might want to consider how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is.
This method helps to reduce the signs and symptoms.
Moreover, grounding techniques can help with panic attacks and trauma as well.
3# The 5-4-3-2-1 Method
An anxiety attack can make you feel detached from reality and it is because of the intensity of the anxiety that overtakes your senses.
The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding exercise and helps to direct your focus from sources of stress.
To use this method, an individual should complete the following steps slowly and thoroughly:
- Look at 5 distinct objects: Think about each one of these objects for a short while.
- Listen to 4 distinct sounds: Think about where these sounds are coming from and what makes them different.
- Touch 3 Objects: Consider their texture, temperature, and what their uses are
- Identify 2 different smells: It could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, your perfume, or the detergent on your clothes.
- Name 1 thing you can taste: Focus on what taste is in your mouth or try tasting a piece of candy.
4# Learn The Warning Signs
There are always some warning signs of anxiety disorder.
Learn about what triggers it or what memory or work routine can cause it.
They commonly begin with a feeling of terror, shortness of breath, pounding heart, etc.
However, not everyone experiences these attacks in the same way. Therefore, it is best to ask what signs they experience.
The sooner one realizes what is happening, the faster you can help them to to a place where they feel safe, or whatever might make them feel calm and relaxed.
5# Undertand that the Anxiety might not make sense to you or them
Anxiety attacks can be confusing and overwhelming, as well as scary at times.
Individuals cannot generally predict them and it can happen in stressful situations. However, they can also occur I’m calm moments or even while you are asleep.
It might sound helpful to tell a friend that there is nothing to be afraid of however, they are perfectly aware that there is no actual threat.
This is what makes them confusing them. Sometimes, people might begin to fear the symptoms or link them to a serious mental health issue, therefore, it is important to talk to someone.
6# Validate their Distress
Individuals often have a hard time sharing their experiences, with mental illness even an anxiety attack.
Some might even avoid talking about it because they believe others will not be able t understand it. However, others worry about judgment from others around them or being told that what they are experiencing is not big deal.
Often people do not understand the fear due to an anxiety attack and may even consider it illogical.
However, it is important to understand that the response is real and the person cannot control it.
You can be emphatic towards an individual and simply say ‘I understand what you are going through and it could be tough on you’.
Walking or moderate exercise can help you move from stressful surroundings and the rhythm of walking may also sound to help you regulate your breathing.
Moving around releases hormones, Endorphins that relaxes your body and improves your mood.
Moreover, regular exercises, yoga, jogging, or swimming can help reduce anxiety over time and can eventually lead to a reduction in the number or severity of anxiety attacks.
8# Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Another symptom of an anxiety disorder is muscle tension.
Practicing muscle relaxation techniques can help you limit an attack. This is because, when your mind senses that your body is relaxing, other symptoms like rapid breathing also diminish.
A technique Progressive muscle relaxation is a popular method for coping with anxiety and panic attacks.
This involves tensing up and then relaxing your different muscles in turn. To do this:
- Hold the tension for 5 seconds
- Say ‘relax as you release your muscles
- Let your muscles relax for 10 seconds
- Then move to your next muscle
9# Smell Some Lavender
Sometimes a soothing smell can help you with an anxiety attack. It taps into your senses and helps an individual stays grounded.
Lavender is a traditional remedy for bringing about a sense of calm relaxation. Many studies report that it can help relieve stress and anxiety.
You can use it by holding lavender oil near your nose and inhaling gently or by dabbing a little on the handkerchief and smell it.
10# Avoiding Telling someone how to Manage Symptoms
Not every coping method and technique is beneficial.
It might work for some people, however, it can also make the attack more overwhelming. Breathing techniques can sometimes backfire and cause hyperventilation.
Therefore, avoid telling someone how to manage their symptoms. You might have heard the benefits of yoga, meditation, and other exercises however, it does not mean that it will work for them.
It is important that you wait until your friend asks for a suggestion. If you have a personal experience, you might suggest to them some breathing or relaxation techniques.
10# Repeat a Mantra
Repeating a mantra or a sentence can help you relax and calm down.
You can either say ‘This too shall pass or ‘Keep yourself Calm’ can help you,
You can repeat it on loop in your head until you feel the anxiety attack start to subside. Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety and it will be over soon.
Difference between Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack
As the signs and symptoms of both are so similar, it can be somehow difficult to tell the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.
Here are some tips that can help:
- Panic attacks can occur without a trigger, while an anxiety attack is a response to stress or a threat.
- Panic attacks are often intense and disruptive while anxiety may vary in intensity from mild to severe.
- Anxiety attacks are often gradual and become tenser over time, however, panic attacks appear suddenly.
- Symptoms of an anxiety attack can prevail for a long period of time while that of panic attacks subsides within few minutes.
When to seek Medical Advice
It can be frightening to watch someone go through an anxiety attack, however, it passes.
But sometimes, you need to seek medical advice or see a doctor in case you observe:
- chest pain that feels like squeezing and it moves to their arms or shoulders
- if the symptoms persist for more than 20 minutes and tend to get worse
- shortness of breath does not improve
- pressure on the chest lasts for more than a minute or two.
It is not always possible to predict an anxiety attack, because symptoms may vary from one person to another. Certain traumatic events, social phobias, are among different types of anxiety disorder, and understanding physical symptoms, and going to a support group or mental health professional is important.
Finding a peaceful spot, concentrating or focusing on objects in your surroundings, breathing exercises and moderate exercises can often help manage the symptoms of an anxiety attack.
Moreover, individuals can opt for long-term strategies to reduce the occurrence or frequency of these attacks and this includes making changes to your lifestyle, trying therapy, and learning who to manage anxiety in daily life. It is important to understand the panic disorder is different from a panic attack.