Anxiety attack: symptoms, causes, treatment.


A panic attack is an episode of intense and excessive anxiety, discomfort or fear accompanied by various physical symptoms. Symptoms of an anxiety attack include shortness of breath, increased heart rate, uncontrollable thoughts, feelings of panic, and more.

If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know how scary it can be. It is scary to feel unable to control your own body and mind. That is why it is important to receive treatment for anxiety attacks, especially if they interfere with your daily life.

Teresa Chiechi / Get Drug Information


Although there is no definitive diagnosis of an anxiety attack, it is often understood as a sudden and intense attack of fear and anxiety. This concern is usually a response to a self-reported threat and may not be related to it. a truly dangerous or life-threatening situation.

A panic attack can last from a few seconds to 15 minutes or more. Some people may recognize the triggers for their panic attacks, while others may have their panic attacks out of nowhere.

Defining a panic attack is difficult because the term is often used interchangeably with other terms such as panic attack and acute anxiety. Anxiety attack is not really a clinical term and is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Therefore , there is a whole spectrum of experiences that people can have and define as a panic attack.

Hit or Run Response

Anxiety is associated with the body's response to fight or flight. It is an evolutionary response to stress in life-threatening situations. There is a physiological response from the sympathetic nervous system, including the release of stress hormones, that prepares the body for threat.

For some people, this stress response is overly reactive, and non-threatening triggers, such as a job presentation, a haunted house, or even something so small that it is difficult to identify, can lead to what we perceive as "anxiety attacks."

Panic attack vs panic attack

Unlike panic attacks, the term panic attack is recognized in DSM-5. Panic attack itself is not a diagnosable condition, but it is a core symptom of panic disorder, as well as other anxiety disorders. According to DSM-5, a panic attack can be expected or unexpected .

There is no clear rule of thumb on how a panic attack differs from a panic attack. However, you can think of a panic attack as something of a broader nature.

Anxiety attacks can be mild to moderate or severe and can include any symptoms of anxiety. In contrast, all panic attacks are devastating and severe to match the symptoms of a panic attack as defined in DSM-5.


Symptoms of an anxiety attack can vary from person to person and situation to situation. Since "panic attack" is not a clinical term, there is a gray area in how people experience it and how they describe their symptoms.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack can include :


There is no single cause for anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks are a symptom of many mental disorders. They can also be triggered by specific stressful life situations or individual triggers.


Any number of situations can trigger a panic attack. For many people, an already stressful life situation can turn into a panic attack. These situations can include:

  • Divorce
  • Unemployment
  • Work-related stress
  • Care responsibilities
  • Grief or loss of a loved one
  • Financial stress
  • Performances or presentations
  • Exams
  • Driving in heavy traffic
  • Global pandemic

Remember that anxiety as an emotion is a completely normal part of life. Major life changes can cause anxiety, but a healthy level of anxiety can keep you alert and focused. However, if your daily worries turn into a panic attack with acute symptoms, it can be very frustrating.

A 2017 study found that people who experience panic attacks are hypersensitive to unpredictable stimuli. Therefore, shocking and unpredictable situations can trigger anxiety attacks in some people. These situations can include a scared haunted house, a cat bite, a lost step on a ladder, or any other shocking situation.

Mental health

Anxiety attacks can also be a symptom of some broader mental health diagnoses. In particular, anxiety and panic attacks are a hallmark of many anxiety and related disorders, including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Specific phobias
  • Agoraphobia


You can lose control during a panic attack, but there are ways to regain control. Through self-care, you can lower your stress levels, reduce the severity of your panic attacks, and even prevent future panic attacks.

Some self-help strategies to help control panic attacks include:

  • Regular aerobic exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Social support
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing
  • Mantras
  • Positive visualization
  • Mediterranean diet

Watch out

It is very important to receive treatment for anxiety attacks. Not only can ongoing anxiety attacks lead to avoiding previously performed activities or situations, research also shows that anxiety attacks lead to an increased risk of suicide attempt .

Fortunately, there are many effective and affordable treatments for anxiety. While most of these treatments are designed to treat anxiety disorders, they will also be relevant and beneficial for people experiencing anxiety attacks. This is because for some people, panic attacks are a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.

If you have suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a qualified counselor. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.


Medication is a central treatment for anxiety disorders and helps reduce symptoms in many people. Usually your doctor or psychiatrist, if you have one, will prescribe medication for anxiety.

These medications can include:

  • Medications for anxiety : Benzodiazepines can be helpful in treating acute anxiety.
  • Antidepressants : Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants to treat anxiety.
  • Beta- blockers : These are unapproved medications used to treat the physical symptoms of acute anxiety, such as heart palpitations and tremors. This can make them a good treatment for people who experience panic attacks during social activities.


Anxiety attacks can also be treated with psychotherapy. Talk to your healthcare provider about referring you to a psychiatrist or therapist about your concern. Specifically, the two types of therapy are effective in reducing symptoms and decreasing the frequency of panic or anxiety attacks.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely studied and has been shown to effectively treat anxiety disorders. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapist teaches you to become aware of your distorted thoughts and behaviors and helps you change them in more emotionally adaptive ways.

Exposure therapy can also be effective in treating panic attacks, especially those associated with specific phobias. In exposure therapy, which can also be done through virtual reality, you gradually face intimidating stimuli. Through exposure, you are taught adaptive methods and adapt to stimuli that become less intimidating over time.

Get the word of drug information

Whether you experience it once or a hundred times, anxiety attacks are terrifying. When you have anxiety attacks, it is important to seek medical attention for a number of reasons. First, your healthcare provider can suggest appropriate treatments, such as medications and psychotherapy, as well as lifestyle changes that will help you return to the activities you love without fear of anxiety attacks in the future.

Also, anxiety symptoms can mimic the symptoms of serious illnesses, such as heart attacks. Your healthcare provider can help you diagnose or rule out these conditions and keep your health safe.

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