Anxiety attack symptoms: how to recognise and soothe them

If you think you're experiencing anxiety attack symptoms, here's what to do to feel better

anxiety attack symptoms
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Anxiety attack symptoms can be very distressing to experience, especially if you don't have a pre-diagnosed anxiety-related condition. With mental health problems soaring amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to be able to recognise symptoms of an anxiety attack in order to be able to find relief. 

This article is aimed at people who normally don't experience anxiety symptoms and are finding that their mental health is being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. If you think you may be suffering from anxiety disorder or another chronic mental health condition, visit the NHS website for guidance.

For more health-related tips, visit out hub page.

How to recognise anxiety attack symptoms

First of all, anyone can experience anxiety attack symptoms, but they typically won't be diagnosed by your doctor as a mental health condition, because anxiety attacks are usually associated with underlying life events or stressors that many people experience (e.g. a stressful job, or a change in life circumstances such as bereavement). 

Although the word attack suggests something very sudden, anxiety attack symptoms can build up over hours or even days, sometimes culminating in a more violent physical reaction. The main symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Listlessness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Persistent feelings of worry, fear, or dread
  • A headache that won't go away
  • An increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Excessive sweating or sudden changes in body temperature, accompanied by shivering
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, temporary breathing difficulties
  • A dry mouth
  • Nausea or diarrhea

Anxiety attack symptoms: are they the same as a panic attack?

They can feel similar for some people – if you've never experienced a panic attack, you might think you're having a panic attack while you're actually having an anxiety attack. 

The main difference is that panic attacks tend to come on very suddenly and for no apparent reason, whereas anxiety attack symptoms build up over time. Also, panic attacks are often accompanied by an intense fear of having another attack in the future as they can be quite terrifying. 

Panic attacks can be diagnosed by your GP – if you think that that's what you're experiencing, then speak to a doctor as soon as you can. 

How to manage anxiety attack symptoms

The most effective way to managing anxiety attack symptoms is by tackling the underlying cause; for instance, if the cause if your job, rethinking the pace of your working schedule is in order. If it's bereavement, then a course of appropriate therapy is the best solution.

However, if your anxiety attacks are caused by coronavirus-related worries, the option to tackle the root cause isn't there. 

The best course of action that might work is to practise deep breathing techniques, mindfulness techniques, or guided meditation. Also, consult our guide to dealing with anxiety for more coping tips. 

Going for a walk or doing home workouts may also help, as will ensuring you get the right amount of sleep – see our guide to getting better sleep if this is part of the problem. Similarly, eating well – and as healthily as you can – will help keep your energy levels (and mood) as stable as possible. 

It is also worth talking about how you are feeling to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor. Contact Samaritans if there's no one you can safely talk to at home, on the phone or video call. If that's not an option you feel comfortable with, you can listen to free mental wellbeing audio guides from the NHS. 

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