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Anxiety Attacks & Anxiety Disorders

Signs, Symptoms, and Finding Treatment that Works for You


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Anxiety and fear are normal responses to a perceived threat. For a better explanation anxiety and fear are considered as opposite ends of a spectrum. Anxiety is usually triggered by a vague or ill-defined threat, while fear is usually triggered by a well-defined threat, such as a car skidding on a wet pavement. This relationship between between anxiety and fear can be diagrammed as follows:


Vague or ill-defined threat                                   Well defined threat

Both anxiety and fear trigger unpleasant mental symptoms such as a sense of helplessness, confusion, apprehension, worry and repeated negative thoughts. Both also trigger physical symptoms ranging from simple muscle tension to a pounding heart. At this time generalized anxiety disorder is the most poorly researched of the various anxiety-related problems. It is thought to be the result of a combination of inherited biological traits and childhood experiences. Over the years I have spoken with people that have been diagnosed with anxiety attacks and the majority were raised in a family where the same-sex parent was a worrier. The child learns to worry from the parent. If attention, whether positive or negative is given to the worry the child often becomes more of a worrier than the parent. It is also possible that there is an inherited predisposition to be anxious and worry.

  • Do you make time each day for relaxation and fun?
  • Are you getting the emotional support you need?
  • Are you taking care of your body?
  • Are you overloaded with responsibilities?
  • Do you ask for help when you need it?

Understanding anxiety disorders

Fear... heart palpitations...terror, a sense of impending doom...dizziness...fear of fear. The words used to describe panic disorder are often frightening. But there is hope: Treatment can benefit virtually everyone who has anxiety disorders. It is extremely important for the person who has panic disorder to learn about the problem and the availability of effective treatments and to seek help.

Effective therapies for anxiety disorders are available, and research is uncovering new treatments that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should seek information and treatment right away.

Do your symptoms indicate an anxiety disorder?

If you experience several of the following signs and symptoms, and they continue, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

  • Are you always nervous, shaky, or on edge?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with your daily activities?
  • Do you experience fears that you know are illogical, but can't stop?
  • Do you have feelings something bad will happen if certain things aren't done the way they should?
  • Do you avoid everyday activities because they bring on anxiety?
  • Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of terrifying panic?
  • Do you feel like danger or something bad is going to happen continuously?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders

Anxiety Attacks and Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Because anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving, or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Yet another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.

Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn't feel threatened.

Physical and Emotional symptoms of anxiety

In addition to the primary symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Feeling like your mind's gone blank
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

The link between anxiety symptoms and depression

Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse (and vice versa), it's important to seek treatment for both conditions.

When to seek professional help for anxiety disorders

Not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. You may be anxious because of an overly demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at home or work, or even from too much coffee.

The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you're more likely to feel anxious-whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. So if you feel like you worry too much, take some time to evaluate how well you're caring for yourself.

While self-help coping strategies for anxiety can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they're causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, it is important to get the correct diagnosis. Below we have a list of the most common anxiety disorders questionnaires. You can go through each one and find out if the symptoms you are feeling match the conclusion of the specific questionnaire.

At time you should consider getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isn't caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, low potassium, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you're taking.

If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to decide what treatment options are the best for you. With all anxiety disorders what may work for one person may not work for the next, so you have to decide the best option for you.

Types of anxiety disorders

There are six major types of anxiety disorders, each with their own distinct symptom profile: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder (anxiety attacks), phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder. offers an entire article on each type of anxiety disorder. See related articles section below for more information.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorderGeneralized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a real illness. GAD can be treated with medicine, therapy or natural products or programs. If you have GAD, you worry all the time about your family, health, or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. Sometimes you aren't worried about anything special, but feel tense and worried all day. You also have aches and pains for no reason and feel tired a lot. Everyone gets worried sometimes, but if you have GAD you stay worried, fear the worse will happen, and cannot relax.

anxiety panic

Anxiety attacks (Panic disorder)

Anxiety attacks (Panic disorder)Panic Disorder is a real illness. It can be treated with medicine or therapy. If you have panic disorder, you feel suddenly terrified for no reason. These frequent bursts of terror are called panic attacks. During a panic attack, you also have scary physical feelings like a fast heartbeat trouble breathing, or dizziness

Panic attacks can happen at any time and any place without warning. They often happen in grocery stores, malls, crowds, or while traveling.

You may live in constant fear of another attack and may stay away from places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they are unable to leave their homes.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorderObsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. If you have OCD, you may be troubled by obsessions, such as a recurring worry that you forgot to turn off the oven or that you might hurt someone. You may also suffer from uncontrollable compulsions, such as washing your hands over and over.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


PhobiaA phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger. Common phobias include fear of animals such as snakes and spiders, fear of flying, and fear of heights. In the case of a severe phobia, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing you fear. Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.

Social Phobia

Social anxiety disorder

Social PhobiaSocial anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia. Social anxiety disorder can be thought of as extreme shyness. In severe cases, social situations are avoided altogether. Performance anxiety (better known as stage fright) is the most common type of social phobia.

Social Phobia

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Post Traumatic StressPost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event. PTSD can be thought of as a panic attack that rarely, if ever, lets up. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares about what happened, hyper vigilance, startling easily, withdrawing from others, and avoiding situations that remind you of the event.


If you feel you are not able to handle your anxiety alone. Look into joining an anxiety panic attack support group, join a blog or message board or call a friend. Just talking about your worries can make them seem less frightening.

Self-help for anxiety, anxiety attacks, and anxiety disorders

Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #1: Challenge negative thoughts

  • Write down your worries. Keep a pad and pencil on you, or type on a laptop, smart phone, or tablet. When you experience anxiety, write down your worries. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner.
  • Create an anxiety worry period. Choose one or two 10 minute "worry periods" each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on negative, anxious thoughts without trying to correct them. The rest of the day, however, is to be designated free of anxiety. When anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and "postpone" them to your worry period.
  • Accept uncertainty. Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn't make life any more predictable-it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept uncertainty and not require immediate solutions to life's problems.

Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #2: Take care of yourself

  • Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine. They lead to more anxiety, not less.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
  • Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.

Treatment options for anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders respond very well to treatment-and often in a relatively short amount of time. The specific treatment approach depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity. But in general, most anxiety disorders are treated with behavioral therapy, medication, or some combination of the two. Sometimes complementary or alternative treatments may also be helpful.

Behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past. Behavioral therapy for anxiety usually takes between 5 and 20 weekly sessions.
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy focuses on thoughts-or cognitions-in addition to behaviors. In anxiety disorder treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs that fuel your anxiety.
  • Exposure therapy for anxiety disorder treatment encourages you to confront your fears in a safe, controlled environment. Through repeated exposures to the feared object or situation, either in your imagination or in reality, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety gradually diminishes.

Medication for anxiety disorders

Is anxiety medication right for you?

Anxiety medications can be habit forming and cause unwanted side effects, so be sure to research your options. It's important to weigh the benefits and risks so you can make an informed decision about whether anxiety medication is the right treatment for you.

A variety of medications, including benzodiazepines and antidepressants, are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. But medication is most effective when combined with behavioral therapy and anxiety self-help strategies. Medication may sometimes be used in the short-term to relieve severe anxiety symptoms so that other forms of therapy can be pursued.

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