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Anxiety Attack Signs and Symptoms

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Anxiety Attack Signs and Symptoms in 30 Seconds

An anxiety attack is not an officially recognized term but often refers to a sudden and intense feeling of fear and anxiety.

Common Symptoms

Experiencing an anxiety attack can feel overwhelming, with a range of symptoms affecting both the mind and body. These symptoms vary from person to person but commonly include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Irritability
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Intense feelings of panic or fear

What is an Anxiety Attack?

It’s important to note that the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition” (DSM-5), which is the latest guide professionals use to classify mental health disorders, does not officially define anxiety attacks. This leaves the definition open to interpretation, which is why it is often used interchangeably with “panic attack”, which is defined in the DSM-5. To clear things up, we’re going to explain what we mean when we use the word anxiety attack.

An anxiety attack is a sudden and intense feeling of fear and anxiety. It can happen to anyone but occurs most often in people with anxiety-based conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. The symptom levels can vary from mild to extremely intense, with the more intense feelings meeting the diagnostic criteria for a panic attack.

Common Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack

Experiencing an anxiety attack can feel overwhelming, with a range of symptoms affecting both the mind and body. These symptoms vary from person to person but commonly include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Irritability
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Intense feelings of panic or fear

What Causes an Anxiety Attack?

Understanding the triggers behind anxiety attacks can provide valuable insight into managing and coping with these distressing episodes.


Anxiety attacks can arise from various stressful life circumstances or events, amplifying feelings of fear and unease. Everyday challenges and major life changes can serve as triggers for anxiety attacks. Possible situations include:

  • Death of a family member or friend
  • Taking tests at school
  • Starting a family
  • Going through a breakup
  • Talking in front of others
  • Financial concerns
  • Starting a new job
  • Feeling stressed at work
  • Dealing with being sick
  • Having arguments with people
  • Getting married

Mental Health Conditions

Anxiety attacks often manifest as symptoms of broader mental health disorders, each characterized by distinct patterns of distress. Possible related conditions include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Specific phobias

Understanding the underlying mental health condition is crucial for effective treatment and management of anxiety attacks. Psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications are among the interventions that can help individuals regain control over their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Personal Triggers:

Individuals may have unique triggers that provoke anxiety attacks, stemming from past experiences or environmental stimuli. Traumatic events, specific memories, or negative emotions associated with certain environments can elicit overwhelming feelings of fear or discomfort.

How to Prevent Anxiety Attacks?


If you are experiencing anxiety attacks or other signs of increased levels of anxiety, please talk with your primary care doctor or a mental health professional about ways to get help.

You can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.


Psychotherapy focuses on modifying anxious thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The two most common types of psychotherapy are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns associated with anxiety. By replacing these thoughts with more realistic and adaptive ones, individuals can learn to manage their anxiety more effectively.
  • Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to feared objects or situations in a controlled and safe environment. Through repeated exposure, accompanied by relaxation techniques, individuals can learn to confront and overcome their fears, leading to a reduction in anxiety symptoms over time.


Medication can be an effective option for managing anxiety symptoms, particularly in cases where psychotherapy alone may not provide sufficient relief. Some common medications used to treat anxiety include:

  • Benzodiazepines: These are fast-acting medicines like Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam). They can quickly make you feel less anxious. But doctors usually only give them for a short time because they can be addictive if you take them for too long.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are like Lexapro (escitalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline). They help by increasing a chemical called serotonin in your brain, which can make you feel happier and less anxious.
  • Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): Medicines like Effexor XR (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine) also help with anxiety. They work by increasing other chemicals in your brain, which can help you feel less worried and more calm.

It's essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage for your specific needs. Additionally, medication should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may also include psychotherapy and self-care strategies.

Self-Care + Coping Mechanisms

Taking care of yourself and finding ways to cope when you feel anxious is important to lessen the severity of anxiety attacks and even prevent future anxiety attacks. Here are some things you can try:

  • Engage your Senses: Avoid getting caught in your anxious thoughts by connecting with your senses to ground yourself. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method: Name five things you see, four things you touch, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. Check out Kaalmi’s sensory grounding collection for tools to kickstart your sensory interventions and regulate negative energy.
  • Regular Exercise: Doing activities like running, swimming, or playing sports can help your body and mind feel better. It can also help reduce feelings of anxiety.
  • Getting Enough Sleep: Making sure you get plenty of rest at night can make a big difference in how you feel during the day. Try to stick to a bedtime routine and avoid screens before bed to help you sleep better.
  • Deep Breathing: When you're feeling anxious, try taking slow, deep breaths. This can help calm your body and mind and make you feel more relaxed. Check out Kaalmi’s article on pursed-lip breathing.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Taking a few minutes each day to meditate or practice mindfulness can help you stay focused and calm. It's like giving your brain a break from worrying. Check out Kaalmi’s mindfulness collection for helpful tools.
  • Talking to Someone: Sharing your feelings with a friend, family member, or therapist can be really helpful. Sometimes just talking about what's bothering you can make you feel better.
  • Doing Something You Enjoy: Whether it's drawing, listening to music, or playing with a pet, doing something you enjoy can help take your mind off your worries and make you feel happier.
  • Eating Healthy: Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help keep your body and mind healthy. Try to limit sugary snacks and drinks, as they can make you feel more anxious.

Remember, it's okay to ask for help if you're struggling with anxiety. There are lots of people who care about you and want to help you feel better.


You've gained valuable insights into understanding anxiety attacks and learned about various coping strategies and treatment options. Remember, managing anxiety is about finding what works best for you. Whether it's engaging your senses, exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness, or seeking support from loved ones, there are numerous ways to take control of your anxiety and improve your overall well-being. Don't hesitate to explore these techniques and adapt them to fit your unique needs. We hope this article has equipped you with the tools and knowledge to navigate anxiety attacks with confidence. Stay kind to yourself, and remember that you're not alone in your journey towards better mental health. Until next time.

References (We’re Not Making This Stuff Up)

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