What does an anxiety attack look like?

This article will cover what an anxiety attack looks like, we will also understand the difference between an anxiety disorder and an anxiety attack. We will learn what an anxiety disorder is, along with what its symptoms are. We will get a better understanding of the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is. We will also learn and understand how to recognize when someone is having an anxiety attack. Finally, we will discuss a few FAQs based on the given topic to get a better understanding of it.

What does an anxiety attack look like? 

The term “Anxiety attack” is often used to describe a very overwhelming anxiety episode that could have been triggered due to fear or an apparent threat, though this term is not a clinically diagnosed condition. An anxiety attack is often confused with a “panic attack”, which is a sudden episode of extreme fear which usually results in physical reactions, these attacks are uncontrollable and very disabling. The person experiences this feeling so intensely that it may feel like they can’t breathe or they may die.

Some people with anxiety have strong episodes and feel like anxiety is killing them.

When people say anxiety attacks it could be an expression of an anxiety disorder or a current to an overwhelming circumstance that could cause anxiety. The best way to treat this disorder is to know how to identify and manage it, this helps treat the condition.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal and healthy response to a stressful situation, the body goes into a fight-or-flight response which is triggered when someone feels threatened, facing a challenge, or under a lot of pressure.

Anxiety in moderation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it helps people stay alert and focused and motivates them to solve problems. Anxiety is only considered a problem when it is constant or overwhelming to a point that it disrupts the persons’ relationships and everyday life, this crosses the line from normal anxiety to what could be an anxiety disorder.

These people with panic attacks sometimes feel paranoid and wonder “Why do I feel like I’m going to die soon?

Though anxiety disorders prevent people from living the life they want or can be very disabling to do everyday activities, it is very important to know that people who suffer from it are not alone. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health issues and are highly treatable. There are many steps one can take to reduce the symptoms and gain control of their life again.

Symptoms of anxiety

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder vary from person to person, one may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that might strike without warning, some may feel anxious surrounded by a crowd, or feel socially anxious to interact at a party. Some people live in a constant state of tension, fear, or worry about anything and everything.  Despite their differences, all anxiety disorders show unauthorized fear or intense worry which is usually out of proportion to the situation at hand.  

The psychological symptoms are:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Tense and jumpy
  • Watching for signs of danger
  • Irritability
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling like your mind’s gone blank

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The physical symptoms are:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach upset
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension 
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Breathlessness 
  • Shaking or trembling

What is an anxiety attack?

Anxiety attacks are sometimes even called “panic attacks”, which are feelings of intense fear and panic. In some cases, it occurs ever suddenly and without any warning, but sometimes there is an obvious trigger, for example, preparing for an exam, attending a social event, etc. 

Anxiety attacks peak within 10 mins and could last for more than 30 mins. During this short time, the person may experience terror so severe that it could make the person feel as if they’re going to die or lose total control. 

The physical symptoms are so severe that the person feels they might be having a heart attack, anxiety attacks are so frightening that even after it is over, the person may still worry about having another attack, where they can’t easily escape it, or particularly in a public place where help is not readily available

When a person is having an anxiety attack, their heart is pounding, they can’t catch their breath, they feel consumed by fear and think they’re dying. Though there isn’t any actual threat or danger to the person, this is what it feels like to have an attack. 

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How would one know they are having an anxiety attack?

The first thing to remember is that it’s completely normal to feel anxious in response to certain experiences or situations, The human body has a natural fight-or-flight response to any type of danger or stress. 

Anxiety attacks are more than just an overwhelming feeling that is experienced, people undergo a lot of stress and the feeling of helplessness. 

Whilst having an anxiety attack, different people experience the symptoms and signs differently, usually, they experience both physiological and psychological indicators.

Anything can trigger a person, sometimes the symptoms that occur could be because they perceived a situation as a threat or danger. These episodes of extreme fear often happen without warning. People generally may have one or more panic attacks during their life or may never have one at all.

Symptoms of an anxiety attack 

Physiological symptoms 

  • Rapid heart rate or pounding heart
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensation
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension, pain, or aches
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Sleep disturbances

Psychological symptoms 

  • A deluge of overpowering panic
  • Spiraling out of control
  • Irritable
  • Feeling easily frightened or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling like their mind has gone blank
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Worry and distress
  • Feeling like they need to escape 

Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack 

When people talk about panic attacks and anxiety attacks they may think it’s the same thing but it is important to realize they have different conditions. 

Anxiety attacks aren’t recognized in the DSM 5, but it does define “anxiety” as a very common psychiatric disorder. We already looked at some of the symptoms of anxiety which included, watching for signs of danger, irritability, worry, anticipating the worst, and distress. Anxiety is basically anticipation of any stressful situation, event, or experience. It gradually comes on.

The fact that there is a lack of diagnostic of anxiety attacks means the symptoms and signs are open to interpretation.

Panic attacks are known to come on very suddenly and often are overwhelmingly fearful and intense. And it’s accompanied by many frightening physical symptoms, like heart palpitations, breathlessness, shaking and trembling, or nausea, etc. 

These attacks could either occur without any obvious cause or get cued by an external stimulus or stressor, like phobias. Panic attacks could happen to anyone but if someone has more than one symptom, that could mean they might be suffering a panic disorder.

Specific phobia is a form of anxiety that is related to internal fears of specific things or objects. For example fear of airplanes. If you’re fear of airplanes, you might use sedatives for Airplane Anxiety. Also, check the Best Airlines for Anxiety and things to take for airplane anxiety,

Unlike anxiety attacks, panic attacks are recognized in the DSM 5 and categorized as unexpected or expected attacks.

FAQs: What does an anxiety attack look like?

What are the most common triggers of an anxiety attack?

The common triggers for an anxiety attack could be, stressful health issues, such as chronic illness. Some medications, such as birth control pills and cough syrups can cause an anxiety attack, and also negative thinking, especially when you’re upset or frustrated. 

What should someone do after an anxiety attack?

It’s important to pay attention to what your body needs after you’ve had a panic attack. For example, you might need to rest somewhere quietly or eat or drink something. And tell someone you trust. If you feel able to, it could help to let someone know you’ve had a panic attack.

How can someone fight anxiety attacks?

The first step is to recognize that you’re having a panic attack, then close your eyes and take deep breaths. If possible practice mindfulness and try to find an objective to focus your attention on and picture your happy place. Use muscle relaxation techniques to help calm down.

How long does it take to recover from an anxiety attack?

A panic attack starts suddenly, symptoms peak after 10 minutes and usually abate after 30 minutes or so, although the effects may last longer. Anxiety generally does not peak in this way, but some people with anxiety can progress to panic attacks.

Can someone recover from anxiety?

Recovery is possible with appropriate treatment such as exposure therapy, attention training, and a range of anxiety management techniques that can help you manage your symptoms.


This article will cover what an anxiety attack looks like, we also understood the difference between an anxiety disorder and an anxiety attack. We even learned what an anxiety disorder is, and its symptoms. We got a better understanding of the differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is. We also learned how to recognize when someone is having an anxiety attack. If you have any more questions regarding this topic feel free to reach out to us.