What Happens During an Anxiety Attack & How Anxiety Treatment Can Help

Have you ever suffered or know of someone who suffers from anxiety attacks? If you do, you may know how stressful and scary they can be. But even though they can be difficult to manage and overcome, anxiety treatment can help. With that being said, however, it is important to know what goes on in your mind when an anxiety attack occurs, and how you can help yourself during one.  

Anxiety can occur in day-to-day life, it could be temporary or can persist and build. However, minimal anxiety is very different from having an anxiety disorder. With an anxiety disorder, your anxiety overwhelms you with a deep amount of panic and fear. 

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack

Many use the terms “anxiety attack” and “panic attack” interchangeably, but know that these two are very different from one another. A panic attack, by textbook definition, is a sudden episode of intense fear or anxiety and physical symptoms, based on a perceived threat rather than imminent danger. Panic attacks can happen suddenly one time or many times in a row. Although anxiety attacks have very similar characteristics to panic attacks, anxiety attacks are a little different. Anxiety attacks commonly build up over time from underlying anxiety symptoms, instead of randomly happening. 

If you have anxiety, it is common for you to experience these things in your everyday life.

  • Feeling nervous or restless
  • Having a sense of impending danger
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than present worry
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

During an anxiety attack, your body and mind go into a state of panic. It can be really stressful and scary. But, by looking at what exactly happens during an anxiety attack, hopefully, you can recognize and understand it. Here are some of the most commonly seen symptoms during an anxiety attack: 

  • Flood of overwhelming panic: During this time, you may feel as though you are in danger or something bad is going to happen. This happens out of nowhere, which causes an increase in panic.  
  • Feeling of losing control: Adding to the feeling of panic, you may feel like you are losing control of yourself or your surroundings. 
  • Chest pain or heart palpitations: Anxiety attacks don’t just have mental symptoms, but physical symptoms as well. These include things like increased heart rate, which can lead you to believe you are experiencing a heart attack
  • Trouble breathing: The feeling of panic and increased heart rate may have you feeling like you can’t breathe or are choking. You may also start to hyperventilate if you are gasping for breath. 
  • Hot flashes or chills: Another physical symptom of anxiety attacks is hot flashes or chills. Your body believes it’s under attack, and this is a part of your fight or flight response.  
  • Nausea: You may feel nauseous or have intense stomach cramps when you have an anxiety attack. 
  • A detached feeling from reality: You may feel a sense of detachment or feel like your situation isn’t real during an anxiety attack. 

If you are experiencing these types of symptoms and feel like they are increasing in frequency and getting out of your control, you should seek anxiety treatment, whether it’s from counseling or an anxiety treatment center.  But how is anxiety treated? 

Besides speaking with an anxiety therapist or going to counseling, there are some things that you can do on your own that can help you. Here are just a few: 

  • Getting a good night’s sleep 
  • Having a healthy diet
  • Regularly exercising
  • Meditation 

Despite all of this, know that finding what works for you is the most important thing, and taking that step forward towards recovery is vital.  

Treating Anxiety With Therapy

Do you ever find yourself struggling with things like obsessive thoughts, constant worrying, or panic attacks? Well, if you do, understand that even though these things can seem like they are never-ending, you don’t have to live with them for the rest of your life- there are ways that anxiety can be treated. 

A common and most effective kind of anxiety treatment is therapy. Why? Well, anxiety therapy doesn’t just scratch the surface of your problems. It dives deeper into the why. It can uncover the underlying causes of your fears and worries, teach you how to calm down, take a step back and look at a scary situation in less scary ways, and work with you to come up with better coping mechanisms. Anxiety therapy doesn’t just give you a toolbox to overcome anxiety but teaches you how to use each and every one of those tools in the most efficient way.

Anxiety and its severity can range from person to person, so finding an anxiety therapist that is best for you is vital to your therapy journey. This is why therapy is so great, though, because something like anxiety is different for everyone, the sessions can be specifically catered to your needs. This can also be true for the length of your therapy. However, many anxiety therapies are relatively short-term which makes the light at the end of the tunnel visible and can motivate you even more. 

Although there are multiple types of treatments and therapies for anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one of the most commonly used.  Research has proven it to be extremely effective in the treatment of panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, among many other conditions.

However, that doesn’t mean that this is the only method that can be used within your sessions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, can be combined with other types of therapy methods, and that is all determined from person to person. Whether you are in a group or private therapy, the end goal is the same, which is to decrease your anxiety levels or anxiety attacks, ease your mind, and help your mind overcome fears that can hold you back. 

How does Cognitive Behavior Therapy Work though? Well, it is relatively simple. CBT finds and addresses negative patterns in the way we look at the world and ourselves. As the name suggests, this involves two main components:

  1. Cognitive therapy, which by textbook definition means: examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions, contribute to anxiety.
  2. Behavior therapy, which by textbook definition means examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.

In simpler terms, this means that our thoughts, rather than not external events, affect the way we feel. Instead of the situation that one finds themselves in determining the way you feel, it’s the perception of the situation that is the true factor of your feelings.

Here’s an example- You’ve just been invited to your friend’s big birthday party. Now, rather than thinking about how the party can affect you, examine the ways of perceiving the invitation, and how these perceptions can affect your emotions about the situation.  

Thought #1:  “Wow! That party sounds like it would be a lot of fun. I would love to go out, support my friend on her birthday, see my friends and meet new people.”

Emotions: Happy, excited.

Thought #2: “I don’t think this kind of big party is for me. I would rather stay home by myself.”

Emotions: Neutral, uninterested. 

Thought #3: I don’t know many people that are going to be there, and I never know what to do or say when I meet new people. I don’t want to make a bad impression and make a fool of myself.  

Emotions: Anxious, sad.

Instead of letting your negative emotions and thoughts get the best of you, here is where the challenging part comes in. It is time to reconstruct the way you think. So, instead of letting the negative emotions outweigh the positive, let the positive feelings shine through. This can have a huge impact on your anxiety. It is especially hard to do this by yourself though, when your anxiety and emotions are strong it can be tough to challenge yourself. This is why having a therapist there to guide you through it is so helpful.

What Anxiety Treatment Is Available to Help You Better Manage Your Anxiety

Whether you are suffering from General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Social Anxiety, it is important to know that you don’t have to live with anxiety and fear forever.

Anxiety treatment options are available and can help minimize the symptoms that are experienced. What is the most effective treatment for anxiety? Therapy is often considered the most effective and has shown to provide a great deal of relief from the constant worry and fear that anxiety disorders cause.

Therapy is a special form of assistance that can help with

  • Uncovering the deep root of your worries and fears
  • Providing appropriate coping skills.
  • Learning how to relax
  • Re-evaluating situations that normally cause anxiety
  • Working on increasing problem-solving skills.

Anxiety is not the same for all who experience it. This causes the anxiety care plans to differ slightly. An experienced therapist will tailor your treatment based on your specific symptoms and diagnosis. The length of therapy will also greatly vary depending on the root cause of your anxiety and the significant effects it has on you. While therapy sessions are not limited, according to the American Psychological Association, many people improve significantly within 8 to 10 therapy sessions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Anxiety

When treating anxiety, the most commonly used form of therapy within the counseling community is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. According to a wide array of research, CBT panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, among many other conditions.

Unlike other therapy types, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on how to appropriately address negative patterns and distortions in the things that are looked at on a daily basis. The main idea of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is that OUR thoughts NOT external events are the reason we feel the way we do. Similarly, the way we look at a situation can affect our emotions more than the actual event itself.

Why does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work for Anxiety?

Appropriate counseling with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides access to restructuring your thoughts, appropriately referred to as cognitive restructuring. Cognitive Restructuring is the process in which you spend time to learn how to challenge the negative thoughts or patterns that ultimately lead to your anxiety and then begin working on how to replace them. This is not a simple task and includes various steps in order to master.

  1. Identifying your Negative Thoughts – When thinking about anxiety, the situation is almost always worse than it appears. For example, one who is afraid of germs may feel as if their life is threatened by having to use a handrail while walking down the steps. Thinking about how many separate individuals that touch that handrail can cause their minds to race causing them to have various side effects and ultimately causing an anxiety attack. This may look like an irrational fear to most, getting to that point yourself is the hardest. This is a step that your counselor can help with.
  2. Challenging your Negative Thoughts – This step heavily relies on the help of your therapist. They work to help you learn how to evaluate your fear or anxiety-provoking thoughts. This includes discovering why those thoughts cause fear, analyzing the thoughts, and working to test the true reality of your fears. Many strategies are available for challenging those fears including, weighing the pros and cons of worrying, determining the realistic chances that the anxiety-causing event will actually occur, and ultimately avoiding the fear-causing situation. While the last option may not be the best, this may be the only option for some.
  3. Replacing Negative Thoughts with Positive Thoughts – Identifying negative predictions is difficult, but replacing them with positive ones may take a bit more time. Work with your therapist to identify ways to replace your original thought with one that brings peace, relaxation, or has a calming effect on you. Finding ways to express these new thoughts are essential, so it may be beneficial to come up with a calming saying that you can use when you are facing a stressful experience that would typically cause anxiety.

As mentioned before, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is by far the most effective way to maintain an anxiety-free life, but there are other options that can be used in conjunction with anxiety treatment in order to increase its effectiveness.

  • Exercise – The body’s natural stress and anxiety reliever. This takes as little as 30 minutes a couple of times a week to help minimize anxiety.
  • Learning Relaxation Techniques – Using techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and muscle relaxation can help decrease anxiety and increase happiness.
  • Hypnosis – A little less common, combining hypnosis and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is found to be beneficial for anxiety. This helps create a space of deep relaxation which allows the hypnotherapist to use various techniques to help face your underlying fears.

Overall, therapy at an anxiety treatment center gives you the tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them when in need. Take a moment to decompress and find the best solution for you. Anxiety treatment therapy is not one size fits all.

Is Anxiety To Blame For Your Sleepless Nights?

You’ve been in bed for two hours, and the clock reads 12:00 am. You have to be up at 5 am to get ready for work. At this point you may wonder if it is worth going to sleep..will you be rested enough to be able to function as needed with only 5 hours of sleep. Every time you try to close your eyes your mind starts to wonder about things that you didn’t get done or situations that may go wrong. You find this becoming a bigger and bigger problem. Sleep is no longer beneficial but instead an event full of anxiety.

More than realized before, anxiety is shown to be frequently connected to sleep concerns. The excess worrying and fear that most are experiencing within the current climate are making getting a good night’s sleep harder.

Sleep deprivation can in turn worsen anxiety which tends to lead to a very negative cycle of insomnia and anxiety. The strong relationship between sleep and anxiety indicated the importance of addressing both concerns. Without the proper assistance, such as counseling, both the anxiety and sleep concerns can become worse. If only one aspect is treated, it is unlikely that the treatment will have any real impact.

Tips for Bettering Your Sleep Pattern and Handling Your Anxiety

Move your body – Exercise has been found to be beneficial for both lowering anxiety and improving the quality of sleep. The best time to exercise is first thing in the morning. Extra movement first thing in the day helps create a positive sleep and waking cycle.

Modify your environment – Controlling light, sound, and temperature can help you get a good night’s rest. The best environment includes a dark, quiet, and cooler bedroom. This increases the chances of calming your mind and increases the ability to fall asleep. A bath and/or shower before bed is also a good idea as it may help calm your mind and lower your body temperature.

Limit caffeine and alcohol – While most of us rely on coffee in the morning to wake up or a drink with friends to socialize; too much of either can increase anxiety and cause trouble sleeping. Both increase heart rate and can easily cause you to stay up later than planned. Instead, turning to water throughout the day helps keep your body hydrated without the extra caffeine or sugar. The most important part is to remember to stop drinking earlier in the evening in order to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom.

Relax your mind – Ways to relax your mind will vary depending on how much time you have during the day and how dedicated you are. This can be as simple and quick as breathing exercises to make it a point to take a short walk throughout the day. The more you practice these techniques the easier it will be to trigger your relaxation at night.

Limit screen time – Technology is becoming more and more important within everyone’s daily life. However, most technologies including your phone and TV produce light that keeps your brain awake. Limiting these types of activities will help allow your brain to shut off and get some restful sleep. Turn to alternate sources of comfort, for example, listening to soothing music or reading a book.

Ask for help – Never forget! Even with all the appropriate tools and coping skills, managing anxiety and sleep can be more difficult than originally thought. Never be afraid to ask for help and reach out to your doctor or therapist at an anxiety treatment center for counseling if needed. While sleep problems and anxiety are highly treatable, at times help is needed. Build a list of people that you can turn to if it becomes too much to manage.

Anxiety is a true concern that needs to properly be addressed. If you find that it is causing problems with your sleep, additional help may be needed. While it is important to focus on your mental health, it is also just as important to focus on your body. The longer the situation occurs the more time goes by that your body is not getting what it needs. Seeking out assistance from a professional mental health professional is always available. Treatment may not need to be lifelong but can be used as a way to build appropriate coping skills in a safe environment.

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