Anxiety is a term that gets used in a few different ways. Some people may say that they experience anxiety about a job interview. Others may say that they are anxious about going to a social event. But there is a difference between feeling anxious about something and anxiety disorders.
An anxiety disorder is much more than a fleeting feeling of worry. It is a debilitating disorder that can come on because of a specific situation. For some people, it can come out of the blue. Hopefully, by reading this article, you will understand a bit more about anxiety disorders, how you might be able to treat them, and where you might be able to get treatment.
Just like many other mental health conditions, anxiety is an umbrella term for a host of other subtypes of the condition. The most common form of anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a diagnosis of GAD involves:
This, as mentioned, is only one of many different types of anxiety. The other major types of the disorder include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social phobia.
Within any of these disorders, individuals may experience anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Commonly, people don't understand the difference between the two.
Anxiety attacks are not mutually exclusive to any one disorder, just like how a panic attack is not mutually exclusive to panic disorder. Any one person may experience anxiety and panic attacks no matter what specific disorder they are suffering from. While they may sound similar, there are a few key differences between the two.
Firstly, an anxiety attack is usually related to a situation that an individual might perceive as being stressful or threatening. This is different from panic attacks which are not always initiated by specific situations. Panic attacks most often occur at random.
Secondly, anxiety attacks can vary in severity - mild, moderate, or severe. Oftentimes, when suffering from an anxiety attack, an individual might be able to carry on with day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
This differs from panic attacks which mostly involve more severe and disruptive symptoms, in which, the body's fight-or-flight mechanism takes over. This means that the physical symptoms of a panic attack usually come on instantly, and are often more intense that anxiety attack symptoms, which come on more gradually.
Anxiety attacks are different from panic attacks in the way that they come on, and in how you function while having one. For example, you might feel anxiety happen in the back of your mind as you continue with daily life. While they can be severe, they are more often than not manageable, to some degree.
If you have social anxiety, you could have an anxiety attack when in a group of people. Being in this situation may cause you to worry excessively and become restless and fearful. Physically, you may get heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and nausea. You may also sweat, feel faint or get a dry mouth.
All of this may happen while you are still very much "within" yourself, and you may, if it is not too severe, be able to control it. The symptoms of a panic attack, on the other hand, are more severe.
Panic attacks may not happen for any specific reason or because of any specific situation. Instead, a panic attack may just come from out of nowhere. That could be alone in your house, in a crowd of people, or at work.
The feelings associated with a panic attack don't build up like they would in an anxiety attack. Instead, they come on instantly and severely.
During a panic attack, you aren't able to feel anxious thoughts because your body is in fight-or-flight mode. Instead, fear overwhelms and rapid breathing ensues.
The feeling of impending doom, coupled with a racing heartbeat, for many during panic attacks, may make you feel as though you are losing control. You may also feel as though you are detached from the world (derealization) or from yourself (depersonalization).
Coupled with the physical symptoms associated with an anxiety attack, it is common for people suffering from a panic attack to think that they are dying or having a heart attack because of chest pain. This, however, is extremely rare and it is very unlikely that this would ever happen.
Luckily, if you are suffering from them, there are ways to prevent panic attacks. There are also ways to reduce anxiety during an anxiety attack that may help.
There are many ways that you can actually reduce your anxiety at the very moment that you are having an anxiety attack. More often than not stopping anxiety attacks, as well as panic attacks, is all about prevention. When dealing with an anxiety attack in the moment, there are steps you can take to reduce stress hormones and bring your anxiety levels back down:
If you feel an anxiety attack coming on, you can practice breathing techniques. By slowing down your breathing rate, you can relieve anxiety. Deep breathing can lower your heart rate and reduce stress.
You try it now if you like. Take a deep breath in, exhale slowly, and repeat.
Next time you find yourself having a build-up of anxiety, try this method and see if it works for you.
A panic attack, different from an anxiety attack, is more about prevention than it is about calming your anxiety levels down in the moment. The good news is, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to ensure that panic attacks become less prominent in your everyday life.
Below are some typical methods you can use in your day-to-day life that may reduce the number of panic attacks you experience:
The above tips can help you manage panic attacks and reduce panic symptoms.
Other forms of prevention involve the use of medically reviewed practices, carried out by medical professionals.
If you go to a doctor, they may recommend medication, such as antidepressants or, if it is severe enough, drugs in the benzodiazepine drug class. Medically reviewed antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the primary method for treating anxiety.
When taking SSRIs, you may notice that in the first two weeks that the drug makes your anxiety and panic attacks worse. This is very common when starting treatment. If you persist, it is likely that those effects will pass and you should start feeling the benefits of the medication, helping you manage anxiety.
Another form of medication in treating anxiety is when a doctor prescribes a benzodiazepine drug, such as diazepam. These are sedative drugs that an individual suffering from anxiety may use to alleviate symptoms during a period of intense anxiety. You should only take these drugs as prescribed as they are addictive. Speak to a medical professional before engaging in any form of medical treatment.
For some people, medication doesn't work. Some mental health services may provide a new and promising treatment known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
TMS is a non-invasive treatment that involves delivering electromagnetic pulses to a targeted area of the brain. A mental health professional places a coil on the scalp, and the pulses are passed through to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
If what you have read in this article resonates with you, or if you think a loved one may benefit from the things you have read, then it should be helpful to know that both medicinal and non-medicinal treatment is available and accessible.
Here, at GIA Miami, we can help you find the best version of yourself. By bridging the gap between cutting-edge neuroscientific research and compassionate mental health support, we are able to give you everything you need.
Our team of compassionate and expert wellness professionals is well-trained to provide you with a treatment program specific to your individual needs.
We're available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, so our team is available to reach whenever you might need us.
Contact us here or call us at 561.462.4099 to start your journey to a better you, today.
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