QUESTION: What is an anxiety attack? What do you mean by that term?
* An anxiety attack affects your body, your mind, and your behavior. During an attack, you become worried and anxious about something you believe will be dangerous in the future. Then your body and mind become focused on this fear.
* You may have physical sensations such as tension, shakiness, stomach distress, or sweating.
* You may find it difficult to stop worrying about this future danger that you are afraid will occur. If you are worried about certain themes such as your health or the well-being of loved ones, it may be hard to focus on anything else.
* Focusing on these concerns, you may prepare yourself either by avoiding certain places and activities, by constantly checking to make sure you are safe, or by procrastinating because your excess worry is blocking concentration.
* The diagnostic manual that mental health professionals use categorizes anxiety and related disorders. People with social phobias, for instance, fear being embarrassed in social situations. People with a generalized anxiety disorder often worry about issues such as health, physical danger, losing their job, and financial problems.
This article taken from Working with Groups to Overcome Panic, Anxiety and Phobias, Babior, LCSW and Goldman, LICSW, Whole Person Press.
Many people suffer from anxiety problems. You are not alone! Here is an anxiety and panic recovery story, called Jane's Story, from the self-help book Overcoming Panic, Anxiety & Phobias, Babior, LCSW, and Goldman, LICSW, Whole Person Press.
Understanding the ways in which we are affected by anxiety can help us overcome it. Anxiety affects each person differently. Read this list of some of the characteristics of anxiety.
Anxiety and Panic Symptom Checklist
Think about your anxiety and how it has affected you. Have you experienced any of the following symptoms?
- Palpitations, pounding heart, fast heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea ot stomach distress
- Feelings of dizziness, unsteadiness, light-headedness, or faintness
- Feelings of unreality or of being detached from yourself
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flashes
If you have had at least four of the previously listed feelings in a short period of time, you may have been having a panic attack.
- Have you had one or more panic attacks our of the blue?
- Have you worried repeatedly for a month or more about having another panic attack?
- When you panic, is your greatest fear that you might go crazy, have a heart attack, or lose control?
- Do you monitor yourself to detect tiny changes in your physical sensations, trying to prevent being caught unaware by a panic attack?
- Do you scan places you enter to see where the exits are, in case you might have a panic attack and have the urge to escape?
- Have these frightening episodes changed your life?
If some of the prior questions describe you, you may have a panic disorder.
- In addition to having had panic sensations, do you avoid or suffer through situations where you fear having a panic attack, particularly if escape may seem difficult or embarrassing?
- Is it easier for you to enter these situations with a trusted companion?
- Here are some examples of situations that are difficult to leave easily: getting your hair cut, driving, visiting the dentist, standing in lines, eating in restaurants, going to shopping malls, theaters or church. Are you especially frightened by being in any of these or similar situations?
If you answered year to some of the preceding questions, you may have developed agoraphobia.
- Do you suffer from a dread of something quite specific that most others are not worried about? It doesn’t matter what that specific thing or situation is; examples include flying, heights, enclosed spaces, an animal, needles, or seeing blood.
- Are you unaffected by excess anxiety in other areas of your life, but feel a sense of terror when approaching the thing or situation you fear?
- Do you try to avoid such things or situations?
- Does your anticipation, avoidance, and distress in these situations interfere with your life in significant ways?
If the previous descriptions apply to you, you may be experiencing a specific phobia.
- Are you bewildered by the strange and exaggerated physical responses you experience in social situations?
- Do you dread returning to these situations?
- Do you worry about behaving in a way you find humiliating or that might cause others to think less of you?
- Do you feel you are not making the kind of impression on others that you long to make?
- Are you convinced that people think less of you because the see signs of nervousness?
- Do these worries constrict you ability to live the way you want, with freedom and confidence?
- Do you avoid eating or socializing for fear that others will notice that your hands are shaking or that you’re blushing or sweating?
- Do you dread situations where you feel evaluated or scrutinized by others, such as public speaking, performance situations, being the center of attention or being watched while you work?
Saying yes to several of the prior questions may indicate that your problem is a social phobia.
- Have you answered no to most of the previous questions but still feel that anxiety is a big factor in your life?
- Does your mind tend to focus on the negative?
- Do you feel restless, keyed-up, and find it hard to relax?
- Do you notice that if one worry leaves you, another one tends to take its place?
- Do you pay attention to things that feed your worries and discount things that reassure other people?
- Do people tell you to relax?
- Do you wish you could be free from these worries, try to, but find it difficult or impossible?
- Do you notice that a lot of what you worry about doesn't happen or if it does, it’s not as bad as you thought?
- Do you sometimes have a feeling that bad events don’t occur because you’ve been worrying about them?
- Are you tired, tense, overloaded, or always afraid you won’t get everything done?
- Do you have trouble sleeping — either falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping soundly?
Saying yes to several of the preceding questions suggests that you may have a generalized anxiety disorder.
Understanding your particular anxiety disorder is the first step in your recovery. For more information about your own anxiety symptoms, click here for my blog or contact me at 619-542-0536 or 858-245-8477
QUESTION: Why am I having Anxiety?Typically, when an anxiety problem develops, certain cues become associated with the onset of symptoms. The cues may be specific situations, thoughts, images, sensations, or life transitions. Anxiety responses can become so automatic and panic attacks so frightening that it is hard to focus on these early anxiety cues. As you become more aware of these cues, you can stop and analyze the situation before your anxiety escalates.
Today, I'd like you to take a few minutes and recall your very first attack of severe anxiety or panic. Many people find that even months or years later the details of that first attack are very clear. Try to remember them now.
Have your symptoms become worse or better since they first began? What have you tried to do to decrease or eliminate your anxiety symptoms?
Memories of your first anxiety attack can be very powerful. We all remember traumatic events more clearly and intensely than the normal happenings of daily life. We remember these events because of the strong emotional impact that is caused by extreme excitement.
In the case of anxiety attacks, the sensations can be so severe that we begin to scan our bodies for any sign that we may be in danger again. If we are used to worrying a lot, we can begin to live our lives in such a way as to always be on guard for the worst to happen.
During your recovery program you will learn specific strategies to overcome your anxiety. By now, you may have tried all kinds of ways to contain your anxiety. Sometimes you may be successful, and sometimes it just seems to get worse. Your anxiety may have spread to many other situations since your initial attack or become more intolerable in its original form.
The anxiety may flood over you, unexplained and unstoppable. More than anything else, you probably want to put it out of your mind and never have to think about it.
Rather than ignoring your symptoms, however, I am going to encourage you to analyze them as a first step toward controlling them. By coming to my website, you have made an important step toward mastering your anxiety or panic. As you continue to participate in recovery strategies, your anxiety problems can become dim memories, and you can lose the overwhelming fear that is stealing your freedom to enjoy life. There is hope! Evidence-based strategies are available and can be tailored to your anxiety problems.
The preceding information is an exerpt from Working with Groups to Overcome Panic, Anxiety & Phobias, Babior, LCSW and Goldman, LICSW, Whole Person Press.