Physical Signs of an Anxiety Attack

Physical Signs of an Anxiety Attack

As we well know by now anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension and discomfort over any given situation. The feelings associated with anxiety are actually good and healthy in most cases, simply because it enables the body to recognize and react the way that it is supposed to.

Our built in “flight or fight” response gives the body an instant boost of energy that it needs to react in specific situations. In this case, anxiety is helpful. However, if it gets intense, recurring and exaggerated, it is considered an anxiety attack.

As we have discussed before, the exact cause of anxiety attacks isn’t fully understood, but research suggests that genetics, life experiences and brain chemistry contribute to the onset of attacks. What we do know is that during an attack, a person’s body shows certain signs and physical changes.

The immediate sign of an anxiety attack is increased heartbeat or palpitations. This is one of the most distressing among anxiety symptoms.

Under normal circumstances this is a good thing because the heart works harder to pump more blood to your body, especially to your arms and your legs, enabling a surge of energy that allows you to respond quicker than normal to an emergency.

Next the chest feels tight, as if it refuses to expand to accommodate air that the body needs. Sometimes, the feeling is like someone is pushing a pillow into your face.

During an anxiety attack, you breathe faster than normal. As your arms and legs receive more oxygen and energy, your muscles tend to get tense, which is important when abrupt movement is needed.

As your arms and legs receive more supply of oxygen through the blood, other parts of the body receive less than normal supply of oxygen. For example, the stomach can survive with less oxygen during emergency situations, so the oxygen that is normally supposed to go to the stomach is redirected to the arms and legs.

This explains why a person who is undergoing an anxiety attack often experiences nausea and a churning feeling in the stomach.

The brain can also survive with less oxygen for a short period of time and this causes a person to become light-headed and dizzy. There is no need to worry, the reduced supply of oxygen to the brain is just enough to produce these symptoms and doesn’t cause any permanent brain damage.

Because your heart pumps more blood to your muscles, your body temperature increases. So to keep a relatively normal temperature a person having an attack will begin to sweat.

Along with these signs, the person may also experience muscle weakness, fatigue, tingling sensations, and dry mouth. In some cases side- effects may also include diarrhea and constant urination.

These body responses are automatic. Meaning, there is no “switch” to turn it on and there is also no way you can turn it off. Simply thinking that you shouldn’t feel any of these symptoms will not work in this situation.

What can be done, especially if the attack is chronic, recurring and it already affects your life, is to seek medical help. This way, your doctor will be able to identify and rule out any other possible causes of these signs which are unrelated to anxiety.