An estimated 31% of all adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. (Anxiety Statistics 2021, Single Care)
Imagine walking towards a coastal edge. There’s a dramatic expanse of sea in front of you, the air is fresh and light, it’s quiet and you’re alone. Your mind wanders about nothing in particular, you’re feeling relaxed and then all of a sudden your at the edge. There’s a huge drop to the beach below. Your heart skips a beat and a small amount of adrenaline rushes around your body. Nothing bad was happening. You were just minding your own business, enjoying your walk, but you were suddenly confronted with something that made your whole body stop and your heart rate accelerate. We can rationally explain to ourselves and others what happened in this scenario and why our bodies reacted in this way - survival instinct. But what happens when our bodies have a similar reaction without such parameters?
What is an anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack can happen unexpectedly or be a response to an existing trigger. It can happen suddenly and is an intense episode of fear, panic and anxiety. It is a combination of emotional and physical symptoms that can feel familiar to a panic attack and sometimes have the same triggers.
A panic attack can take up to 10 minutes to reach the peak of its intensity and rarely exceeds 30 minutes, whereas anxiety attacks tend to build and hang around for a while. These attacks present themselves as a surge of overwhelming panic, hot flushes, shaking, nausea, lightheadedness, increased respiration and heart rate, chest pain and disorientation. However, all individuals have different experiences with some or all of these symptoms.
Anxiety can present in several shapes and can be exacerbated by many other pre-existing conditions. Anxiety attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks because of their similar presentation.
(Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, PC)
Why do they happen and how can you prevent them?
An anxiety attack can occur because of a trigger and identifying what this could be can dramatically increase the chances of resolution. The most likely scenario of having one of these attacks is due to increased stress, i.e an unexpected financial spend or an important work meeting. Both a build-up of stress, but also a sudden increased amount of stress, can trigger anxiety attacks. It can be experienced in different severities and the sense of them building gradually from a worry or fear is commonly described. Sometimes it is important to add, the worrying thought may be subconscious and the anxiety attack will take you unexpectedly.
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. (Facts and Statistics, ADAA)
If you know that you suffer from anxiety attacks it’s advisable to speak to a professional. There are many things you can try to relieve the symptoms of anxiety attacks but working on the cause of them is the best way to completely be rid of them. Many people can’t explain why they have anxiety attacks and struggle to rationalise them, meaning they often feel too shy to speak up and get help. An anxiety attack can be triggered by many things and they happen because of your in-built emotional response. Sometimes this response doesn’t make sense and speaking to someone can start to change this response so you can go on to live a much happier lifestyle.
What do you do in an anxiety attack?
There are many strategies and many people who can help devise plans to implement these strategies when these attacks occur. One of the key parts of helping to calm down an anxiety attack is recognising it and taking that first big breath in and long breath out. In doing this, you begin to remove yourself from it and by giving yourself some distance you can start to ground yourself. Some people like to then picture their happy place, think of things they’re grateful for or simply focus on an object until they feel calm again. The most important thing though is the slow deliberate breathing.
5.9% of adults in the UK reported experiencing Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) within a given week.
(Key Facts and Figures, Anxiety UK)
How do you recognise an anxiety attack in someone else?
One adult in six had a common mental disorder (CMD): about one woman in five and one man in eight.
(Mental Health and Wellbeing in England, NHS)
If you’ve experienced anxiety attacks yourself, you might be able to recognise them in someone else. Some people’s symptoms are physically obvious whereas others can shut down very quickly. If you notice someone having an anxiety attack you can help them by taking them to a quiet place. By asking them if they want to go outside, you take away the pressure of them having to move away from a place where they feel as though people might notice. You can also help them by talking to them about the nice things in the world or by encouraging them to breathe with you.
What natural remedies can soothe or prevent an anxiety attack?
Our sense of smell is closely associated with memory. If we smell something specific from our childhood we can instantly be transported back to this time. This is a great tool; what we can do is create associations with scents. There are scents specifically formulated to make us feel calmer and if we use these scents regularly, it can affect our state of mind if we need them to in an emergency. If we use a scent when we feel calm, when we don’t feel calm and we smell this scent it can help to bring balance back to that moment.
If you haven't already check out the Calm Atmosphere Mist, Sleepy Head Balm or the new Zen Room & Pillow Spray for a great place to start!
Anxiety attacks aren’t fun for anyone and they happen regularly behind closed doors. Maybe a friend is struggling but hasn’t reached out or you yourself aren’t enjoying life as much because of them. They can be extremely debilitating and can zap away your self esteem, so it is important to get help and learn the tools to prevent them. They happen all over the world, you’re not the first, but there are many ways to make them easier to manage or get rid of them completely. It’s time to finally reach out.
If you enjoyed this journal post, read how Made By Coopers founder Clare White healed her anxiety
Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks - HelpGuide.org
Anxiety attack: Symptoms, causes, and complications (medicalnewstoday.com)