Anxious feelings are normal to have from time to time and anxiety generally happens in response to stressful circumstances. However, for people with severe anxiety, experiencing excessive levels of anxiety and fear on a regular basis is not uncommon. Many people with high anxiety levels basically experience attacks of intensive stress, which can be described as having severe anxiety, for a substantial period.
Severe anxiety occurs when a person has worrisome thoughts, nervous tension and physical symptoms like increased heart rate, shortness of breath and sleeping difficulties. This typically happens if the anticipation of an event or circumstance accumulates and reaches a point where it becomes overwhelming. At this stage, it may feel like an ‘attack’ that is accompanied by various unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms.
The term ‘anxiety attack’ is actually an informal term that is not officially listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5). These types of attacks of anxiety are a casual term that anxiety sufferers generally use to describe severe and extended periods of anxiety. The definition of a panic attack, however, is listed in the DSM-5 so there is a clinical agreement on the definition of panic Anxiety Attacks
Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack
Although the words ‘panic’ and ‘anxiety’ are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not identical. They may have a number of similar symptoms but there are essential differences between these conditions.
The intensity of a panic attack is usually more severe than an anxiety attack. Panic attacks involve a fear of losing control as well as depersonalisation or derealisation. They are also unpredictable and happen spontaneously. An anxiety attack typically results from a buildup of worry and tension associated with a certain event or circumstance.
Anxiety symptoms are usually related to other psychiatric health conditions like generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or a traumatic life event. Panic attacks, on the other hand, mainly affect people with Anxiety Attack.
The duration of a panic attack is also considerably shorter than an anxiety attack. The following table shows the symptoms that are associated with panic attacks vs those associated with Anxiety Attack:
|Psychological||Feelings of worry and nervousness||– Less likely|
|Difficulty concentrating||– Less likely|
|Restlessness and irritability||– Less likely|
|Fear of losing control or dying|
|Feeling detached from surroundings (derealisation)|
|A feeling of detachment from oneself (depersonalisation)|
|Physical||Increased heart rate, pounding heart or palpitations|
|Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath|
|Tightness in throat|
|Trembling or shaking||– Less likely|
|Feeling light-headed or unsteady||– Less likely|
|Nausea, upset stomach or abdominal pain||– Less likely|
|Numbness or tingling sensations||– Less likely|
What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like?
Anxiety Attack typically cause a person to feel on edge and wound up for long periods. This often leads to other symptoms like feelings of irritability, difficulty concentrating and sleeping problems. These attacks can be frightening and seem terrifying, but thankfully they are not physically dangerous.
You can be assured that these attacks will eventually pass and it is important to understand that the negative feelings associated with anxiety are temporary. People who experience attacks generally regain a sense of calmness and self-control soon enough and there are coping strategies that can help. In addition, clinicians often recommend the use of medications like benzodiazepines to help calm an anxious mind. Anxiety Attack can be treated in several ways.
How Long do Anxiety Attacks Last?
These attacks can vary in terms of duration, depending on various factors like what is causing the anxiety and how you treat it. Unlike a panic attack, which typically reaches a peak within 5-10 minutes and subsides within about 30 minutes, an anxiety attack tends to develop gradually.
They also last longer and may be persistent, taking days, weeks or even months before the anxiety subsides. These attacks typically disappear when the stressor, such as a health issue or relationship problem, has been resolved. Anxiety Attack
How to Stop an Anxiety Attack
These attacks may induce unpleasant symptoms like chest pain and difficulty breathing but fortunately there are calming methods you can use to help. You can slow your heart rate, improve mood and reduce stress levels by taking deep breaths. Anxiety Attack
Start by breathing in for 5 seconds and allow 7 seconds to breathe out. This can increase the blood supply and oxygen to the brain, which promotes a sense of calmness. Another way to practise deep breathing is to learn how to breathe from the diaphragm of your body, also known as belly breathing.
Changing negative thoughts can also be a useful way to prevent anxiety or reduce the severity of it. If you feel anxious, try writing down the thoughts in your mind and see if they make any sense. Thoughts are often unclear and distorted when anxiety levels are high so they should be questioned. If you are experiencing automatic negative thoughts that make you feel anxious, try altering your thought process.
Identify negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, rational ones so you can have more control over your reaction to Anxiety Attack. In general, negative thoughts are associated with anxiety so restoring a positive mindset can help counteract anxiety. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to prevent anxiety or reduce the symptoms and these include:
- If you are feeling stressed, try to limit alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Make sure that you adhere to a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
- Regular exercise on a daily basis can also help reduce anxiety levels.
If you find that coping techniques do not provide adequate anxiety relief, anti-anxiety medication is available for the short-term treatment of acute anxiety. Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam 10 mg tablets and Xanax 1 mg pills are generally most recommended for anxiety which is severe and causing a significant amount of distress.
Anxiety is believed to be caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. One specific chemical is known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and it is responsible for calming activity in the nervous system. Benzodiazepines enhance the production of GABA, which alleviates nervousness and an anxiety attack.
What is Anti-Anxiety Medication?
Anti-anxiety, or anti-panic, medications include the benzodiazepine class which have the ability to counteract anxiety, prevent racing thoughts and relax muscles. Benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilisers, include medications such as Xanax pills, Ativan pills, Valium tablets and Klonopin. These medications act on the central nervous system to help manage the symptoms of severe anxiety and are often used to treat the following conditions:
- Panic disorder
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
Benzodiazepines also make it easier for a person to get a good night’s sleep, which is essential for reducing anxiety levels. Research has shown that there is a bidirectional relationship between insomnia andAnxiety Attack.
In other words, the one condition can make the other worse, leading to a vicious cycle that usually requires treatment. By inducing a calming effect, these medications reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and they help prevent nighttime awakenings.
Due to their ability to relax the central nervous system, these medications also have other uses. They can be taken as a premedication before a medical procedure like dental work or an endoscopy to help nervous patients stay calm. They can also be taken to treat muscle spasms, seizures and alcohol withdrawal. These tranquilisers are useful in the treatment of various conditions and are the most widely used nerve-calming medications in the world.
How Quickly does Anxiety Medication Work?
Anxiety medication works quickly, usually relieving anxiety within 30-60 minutes, although some patients may experience the effects within as little as 5-10 minutes. These medications are therefore highly effective in the treatment of conditions like panic disorder, which involves sudden and unexpected panic attacks. Benzodiazepines can be taken at regular times each day or as needed to prevent or reduce the intensity of Anxiety Attack.
These medications induce a relaxing effect by binding to GABA receptors, which are large protein systems that are found in certain nerve cells in the body. This is essential, as GABA is the primary inhibitory or nerve-relaxing, neurotransmitter in the brain. Most patients start feeling better within an hour after the first dose; however, it may take one or two weeks of treatment to experience the full benefits.
What is the Best Anxiety Medication to Take?
The best anti-anxiety medication a patient decides to use will usually depend on several factors. Aspects like the anxiety disorder being treated, your age and how well you tolerate the medication can determine the most suitable treatment. For example, diazepam tends to take effect faster than alprazolam and it stays active in the body for longer. However, it is not approved for panic disorder whereas alprazolam is approved for this condition.
People over the age of 65 tend to be more sensitive to the sedating properties of benzodiazepines. For this reason, they may benefit more from benzodiazepines with a short half-life such as alprazolam. This anti-anxiety medication generally does not accumulate in the body and is rapidly eliminated from the system, offering more flexibility with dosing schedules.
Benefits of Anxiety Medication
The beneficial effects of benzodiazepines are similar to one another, however, they differ slightly in terms of how long stay in the system. The following table consists of some of the most popular benzodiazepine medications available online along with their relevant half-life and primary uses:
|Brand name||Main ingredient||Half-life||Primary uses|
|Xanax||Alprazolam 1 mg||11 to 13 hours||Anxiety and panic disorders|
|Valium||Diazepam 10 mg||30 to 56 hours||Anxiety disorders, insomnia, muscle spasms, epilepsy, procedural anxiety and alcohol withdrawal|
|Ativan||Lorazepam||14 hours||Anxiety disorders, insomnia and procedural anxiety|
|Klonopin||Clonazepam||18 to 60 hours||Epilepsy and panic disorder|
Anti-anxiety medication is beneficial in the treatment of panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia. Panic disorder involves panic attacks that occur repeatedly and this can significantly interfere with a person’s general well-being. A panic attack is a sudden period of intense anxiety, even when there is no real or apparent danger.
Agoraphobia is a separate but closely related condition that can develop as a result of panic disorder. A patient with agoraphobia is generally afraid of experiencing a panic attack in circumstances that are difficult or embarrassing to escape.
Medications like benzodiazepines, particularly Xanax and Klonopin, play a crucial part in the treatment of panic disorder. These medications significantly reduce the symptoms of anxiety, which helps prevent panic attacks, ultimately restoring a person’s ability to function normally.
These medications are also beneficial in the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder. People with this condition tend to worry excessively about everyday circumstances like work, family, health or other similar circumstances.
An uncontrollable worry cycle is common among people with generalised anxiety disorder. Sometimes, just the thought of getting through the day can provoke anxiety and benzodiazepines can be used to restore a patient’s functional ability.
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a condition that involves exaggerated fear in social situations, particularly situations that are unfamiliar. A person with social phobia typically feels as if they are being watched or negatively evaluated by others and this can provoke excessive levels of anxiety.
Social phobia can interfere with a person’s daily activities but people with this condition can learn to feel at ease in social settings. Studies have found that the benzodiazepines are a superior treatment for social anxiety disorder.
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