Symptoms that you are about to suffer an anxiety attack

People who have ever experienced an anxiety attack know that they generate a lot of discomfort and suffering. This concept also receives other names, such as panic, nervous breakdown or panic attack. With all these terms we refer to the same thing: the isolated and temporary appearance of fear or discomfort of an intense nature. It is also accompanied by a series of symptoms that indicate that you are about to suffer an anxiety attack, which we will see later.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) specifies its definition even more and specifies that at least 4 somatic and/or cognitive symptoms, out of a total of 13, are necessary to be able to speak of an anxiety attack.

Beyond the symptoms, we know that the crisis starts suddenly and reaches its maximum expression quickly (usually in 10 minutes or less). In addition, it is often accompanied by a feeling of being in danger or a great threat to life, a feeling of imminent death, and an urgent need to escape.

Anxiety attack vs. panic disorder: how are they different?

It is important to differentiate the anxiety crisis from panic. Thus, when the person suffers unexpected and recurring anxiety crises (or panic attacks), then we speak of a panic disorder.

In other words, panic disorder involves the appearance of several anxiety attacks over time, in addition to other symptoms such as: continuous restlessness or worry about other panic attacks (or their consequences) and/or interference in the daily life of the person. Person.

However, in this article we will focus on the of an anxiety attack, something that many people experience and that generates great discomfort.

The symptoms of the anxiety crisis that you should know

The symptoms of the anxiety crisis can vary greatly in intensity from one case to another.  Of the possible symptoms that we will mention, at least 4 of them must appear to be able to speak of a true anxiety crisis. However, in many cases many more appear. As we will see, these are somatic (physiological) or cognitive (psychological) symptoms.

Somatic or physiological symptoms

The somatic symptoms of anxiety attacks are determined by a hyper activation of the autonomic nervous system, and include:

  • General feeling of anxiety.
  • Chest pressure.
  • Palpitations or increased heart rate (may include a “thumping” feeling in the heart).
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Difficulty breathing or a feeling of suffocation/suffocation.
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest.
  • Nausea or abdominal discomfort.
  • Parenthesis (tingling, numbness or numbness of any part of the body…).
  • Sensation of heat in some part of the body.
  • Shaking chills.
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness.
  • Fainting.
  • Daze.

Cognitive and psychological symptoms

At the psychological level, a series of symptoms also appear:

  • Catastrophic thoughts.
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”
  • DE realization (feeling of unreality).
  • Depersonalization (feeling of being separate from oneself).

The most frequent symptoms of anxiety attacks

Not all the symptoms mentioned appear at the same time in an anxiety attack, nor do all those on the list appear with the same frequency. Among the most frequent symptoms  experienced by people with an anxiety crisis, we find:

General feeling of anxiety

When a person experiences an anxiety attack, they often experience a general feeling of anguish. This symptom is shared with disorders such as generalized (GAD).

It is a feeling of restlessness, which makes us alert and attentive to what we are experiencing at that moment. It appears along with a lot of discomfort and significant psychological suffering, as if something very bad was about to happen. We also have the feeling that we are going to lose control of ourselves and the situation.

Intense fear

Fear is one of the main symptoms of an anxiety attack . It is an irrational fear, of nothing in particular, that makes us fear the worst. We feel defenseless and without the ability to react, since this intense fear paralyzes us.


Tension is another frequent symptom in anxiety crises. Our bodies seize up and we feel tremendously rigid. This, along with fear, paralyzes us and leaves us defenseless when it comes to acting.

Breathing difficulties

The person with a panic attack may experience tightness in the chest with or without difficulty. That is to say, he feels that he is drowning, that the air does not reach him and that he could drown. However, the panic attack itself is not dangerous, but its symptoms are subjectively interpreted as dangerous.

Other characteristics of anxiety attacks

Beyond these symptoms, anxiety is characterized because they appear suddenly, often without a clear or identifiable trigger. Thus, they can occur in a calm state, for example.  They may also appear in a state of nervousness or anxiety.

On the other hand, it is important to know that symptoms often feedback on themselves. What does this mean? That we may be suffering the beginning of an anxiety crisis and little by little, when interpreting these symptoms as dangerous, they intensify.

That is why, when faced with an anxiety attack, it is best to find a safe place, sit down, try to breathe deeply little by little and remain calm, as far as possible.

Is an anxiety attack dangerous? An anxiety attack is not dangerous in itself, in the sense that we are not going to die from it or (unless we are in a dangerous area or start acting recklessly in panic). But in itself, the attack is not dangerous, what happens is that it is interpreted as such.

How to help someone suffering from an anxiety crisis?

Anxiety crises do not have a specific treatment, because they disappear on their own.  However, we can help to reduce it until it disappears. How to accompany someone suffering from an anxiety attack? We leave you 3 ideas that we can put into practice with it:

Accompany the person

Being there is already a great relief for the person. We can offer our hand from her to her, sit next to her, and just stay next to her. And, above all, let him know that we are there for whatever he needs, asking him directly: “What do you need?”, “Do you want some water?” Etc.

Practice deep breathing with her

Breathing is a technique that can greatly alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety attack. It consists of a simple breathing technique; there are multiple variations of it, although the general idea is to take deep breaths (in 4, 5 or 6 seconds), which will be followed by the relevant deep breaths (in 5, 6 or 7 seconds).

That is, it implies the following: inhalation at 4”, and exhalation at 5’’, or inhalation at 5” and exhalation at 6” (etc.). It is important that the expiration is always a little longer.  Sitting next to the person and doing this same exercise with them can help them feel better.

Help him focus on a stimulus other than his symptoms

As we said before, anxiety attacks often feedback on themselves (and the person focuses on their symptoms, which makes them increase in intensity). Thus, we can help someone with a crisis of this type to focus on a stimulus other than the symptom. It can be an object, a pleasant thought or image, a landscape…

Anxiety crises generate a lot of discomfort and suffering through their symptoms, and, although they are not dangerous by themselves, the person experiences them as such. If you suffer from anxiety attacks on a recurring basis, or are afraid of having one of them again, we recommend that you seek professional help. A psychologist can help you detect the cause of them and put into practice appropriate strategies so as not to panic and feel better and better when they appear.

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