Life Style

Are anxiety attacks actually a normal matter?

Human life has been running in a fast pace with little room left for emotions. Often either we do not have time or we do not opt to listen to another person share their feelings regarding a matter which troubles them the most. Is that the best way to go? Or are we turning into such materialistic beings pushing each other are on the verge of anxiety attacks and breakdown episodes?

Anxiety or stress is a normal response depicted to tackle difficult situations that emerge briefly. Adrenaline is the hormone secreted during fight-or-flight response that prepares the body to avoid danger or brace for the danger physically. Under standard levels, adrenaline regresses after the clearance or fear. Elevation of adrenaline levels for a considerable time results in different issues. This persistent issue of anxiety or stress leads to anxiety attacks or worse, anxiety related disorders. An anxiety attack or panic attacks are abrupt and intense episodes of fear and anxiety which usually occurs unexpectedly for no obvious reason, but they can also be provoked with certain triggers. In recent and time span surveys, it has been shown that adults aged to 18 or more have the most anxiety attacks with ages 30 to 44 accounting the highest rate of anxiety. Usually it is seen that children and teens that have anxiety attacks in growing years tend to develop anxiety in their adolescent and adult life. 

Anxiety attacks can occur due to various risk factors or due to certain anxiety disorders as well. Each cause of an anxiety attack bears a cocktail of different symptoms and risk factors that might lead to other sickness or discomforts and death by suicide at times. Anxiety conditions include-

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  5. Phobias and irrational fears
  6. Social anxiety disorder
  7. Separation anxiety disorder

Triggers of anxiety attacks:

A trigger is the origin of any anxiety attack. The causes of anxiety attacks generally includes several risk factors, such as, certain events, conditions and experiences, rather than a single cause which results in the symptoms of anxiety attack or aggravate the pre-existing anxiety condition. Peculiarly, the trigger works unusually for each individual. Some are prone to multiple triggers whereas some have unprecedented episodes of anxiety. A better perception of these triggers allows doctors and therapists to manage their patients well.  Common triggers include-

  • Stressful or chronic disease states
  • Certain medications
  • Having a negative mindset with frustrations and depression
  • Troublesome personal finances, job security, bills and payments
  • Relationship or workplace conflicts
  • Unhealthy behaviors like excessive drinking, drug abuse, excessive caffeine use
  • Genetic factors
  • Traumatic events like death, separation, divorces
  • Changes in the brain for example, short-term memory
  • Minimal events like public speaking or other phobias

Anxiety attacks generally surge within 10 minutes and rarely persist less than 30 minutes. Even in that brief duration, the attack imparts a terrifying experience allowing the victim to feel as if they are about to die or lose all self-control or feel being choked to death. The physical symptoms of these attacks are so dreadful and heart wrenching that individual often feels the symptoms of heart attack, breathlessness, nausea, and hypertension and even unconsciousness. After the attack, individual often fear of recurrences and empty void in their hearts having no one for support or enable to develop fleeing or escaping tendencies.  Other symptoms of an anxiety attack include:  episodes of overwhelming panic, heart palpitations or chest pain, state of being faint, hyperventilation, hot flashes or chills, trembling or shaking, stomach cramps, feeling detached or illusory, dry mouth, diarrhea, headache, extreme restlessness, sleeping difficulties, irritability, sudden surges of depression or sadness, sweating profusely, choking sensation, emotionally crying, etc. All cases of anxiety does not comprise of these symptoms ranging from mild, moderate or severe cases that mostly depends on the point of trigger and an individual’s reaction to the specific trigger. 

How to overcome anxiety:

Overcoming anxiety requires a lot of patience, and heaps of support from closed ones. To address an anxiety is the first step towards the clearance of anxiety itself. It is imperative to fathom the pressure of the triggers to prevent anxiety attacks or learn specified strategies to manage and control them. For mild or moderate patients, monitoring their own episodes of anxiety is an improved way of controlling the attacks. An individual could also opt to start writing a journal stating when an anxiety attack occurs and the feeling along with it along with the time duration and trigger behind the attack. For worsening cases, therapists as well as other treatments should be taken into account for relief and prevention of recurrences. 

Endeavoring to surpass the known triggers instead of avoiding them are always advised to overcome these horrifying episodes. To accelerate the recovery process, different diagnosis should be considered. For any recovery process to work, a patient should have the complete support from closed ones as well have a suitable environment in which the victim will begin to feel safe. Some of the ways for overcoming anxiety are:

  1. Medication-facilitated treatment, such as antidepressants.
  2. Individual, group, and family therapy programs
  3. Cognitive-behavioral therapy 
  4. Depression treatment program
  5. Dialectical behavior therapy
  6. Exposure therapies
  7. Support groups for patients with particular condition

SELF-HELP:

Before any medication, treatment schedule or support group the victim has to cope with their own predicaments and address and accept the mixture of emotions the anxiety attack is throwing at them. In order to prevent random breakdowns and anxiety attacks, an individual has to change their lifestyle that could help in manage and control the symptoms and lower anxiety.

Interaction with others: It is better to stay close and connected to friends and build new friendships and relationships. Loneliness and isolation acts as trigger of an anxiety attack and reaching out to close ones is always preferred as it lowers stress levels and anxiety.

Stress management: Any individual with anxiety should manage their responsibilities according to the intensity of strain they can tolerate. An excess would trigger to cause anxiety leading to attacks.

Exercise: Regular exercise is not only a medium of lowering anxiety and stress, it works on emotional, physical and mental levels to keep an individual’s mind and body fit.

Adequate sleep: Sufficient sleep is required for brain to reset and unload heavy loads of information an individual has processed in a day. Sleep allows an individual to relax and blow off stress and anxiety.

Diet: An adequate diet is required at all times. An excess proportion of unhealthy food causes the body to lag both physically and mentally. 

Trying relaxation techniques: Techniques like yoga, meditation, brief jogging, aromatherapy, acupuncture, full-body massages or other forms of relaxation techniques should be intended which relaxes the mind and lower anxiety attacks.

Trying out hobbies: Music, reading novels, gardening, painting or joining a coup eases off mind, taking unwanted attention from critical matters. This may also to meet new people with similar interests giving a chance of building new bonding. 

Limiting unhealthy use: limiting or ceasing the use of stimulants such as excessive alcohol intake, nicotine, drugs allows lowering anxiety levels as these stimulants can act as triggers.

One in four people struggles with their mental health at any phase of life. Anxiety attacks can be lethal and traumatic if it is not cured in time or sufficient measurements are taken. Treatment from anxiety is a long battle and is often a recurring one with no definite end. In order to find peace and solace, each person has to step out and help the next in need. 


Taslima Musa

Department of Biochemistry & Biotechnology

University of Science and Technology Chittagong, USTC

  • References:
  1. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-disorders-and-anxiety-attacks.htm, September 2020
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307863#treatment, December 2020
  3. https://www.rightsteprehabdfw.com/rehab-blog/triggers-of-an-anxiety-attack/ , May 2020

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