ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Anxiety Attack Symptoms - What is an anxiety attack and how to spot one

Updated on January 11, 2017
Do you feel an anxiety attack coming?
Do you feel an anxiety attack coming? | Source

You feel it coming. Suddenly you start feeling dizzy, your heart feels like it will rip out of your chest, your hands start trembling and sweating and your head becomes heavy with fear. You're scared and you feel alone.

Anyone that has experienced an anxiety attack knows that these things are no laughing matter. During an anxiety attack the person starts feeling an intense (and sometimes unreasonable) and uncontrollable fear.

The last time I felt an anxiety attack I felt an immense amount of pressure in my chest. My heart was racing so fast that Speedy Gonzalez would have been put to shame by it. My body felt like a pressure cooker. I was so scared I thought I was having a heart attack, and then suddenly I started crying, sobbing like a little child who just lost her favorite toy. And then the pressure waned. While my tears were falling uncontrollaby down my face, I started feeling relief, and after a good 15 minutes of pure, uninhibited bawling I felt almost as good as new.

What are the symptoms of an anxiety attack?

If I could describe all of the symptoms in a few words, it would be: it feels like you're gonna die. Yes, it's that bad. But let's go through them one by one.

Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks

Panic attacks are not the same thing as anxiety attacks. In fact, the term "anxiety attacks" isn't even included in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Anxiety is a term used to describe a series of symptoms that can be felt chronically or for long periods of time. Panic is anxiety at its peak.

Anxiety is the feeling you get when you feel, well, anxious. When a person is anxious, they still retain certain level of reason, and could potentially minimize or calm down their fears without requiring much help. However, when a person is in panic, reason goes out the window, and the brain is reduced to nothing but basic survival skills.

However, the terms anxiety and panic attacks have become interchangeable, at least among the non-psychiatric population. For the purposes of this hub, I will use the term anxiety attack, since this is the name that most people use to refer to panic attacks, but now you know the difference.

What are anxiety attacks?

Anxiety attacks are the way your body responds to extreme stress or extreme fear. It's the way your body prepares to respond to what it perceives to be a great danger, and therefore begins releasing massive amounts of adrenaline. Your brain stops thinking and your body instincts take over. It's your fight-or-flight response at its utmost. Generally, the first physical symptoms of an anxiety attack are:

  • Increased, shallow breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shaking of the biggest muscles in your body (legs, arms)

Even though we all have bodies that come equipped to react to fear, not everyone will suffer an anxiety attack. The chances of anyone suffering an anxiety attack increase depending on genetics and even on your sex. You have higher chances of experiencing one of these attacks if you have any family history of Generalized Anxiety Disorder or if you're a woman.

Read as much as you can about anxiety so you can be better prepared when you feel an attack coming.
Read as much as you can about anxiety so you can be better prepared when you feel an attack coming. | Source

Chest pain

Many people confuse the beginning of an anxiety attack with a heart attack. And it's easy to see why. One of the first symptoms of anxiety attacks is chest pressure that slowly turns into pain, which just adds more fear to your horror. Don't worry, most heart attacks don't start with chest pain. So if you start feeling chest pain that you think might be related to anxiety, start breathing deeply until you slowly calm down. You will see how your pain starts diminishing.

Difficulty breathing

You feel like someone is holding a pillow to your face, and suddenly your breathing becomes very shallow and rapid. Once again, breathe deeply and count as you inhale (1-4) and count as you exhale (1-7). Let your exhale be longer than your inhale.


Since your body is getting ready to fight or flee, it starts getting very hot. Your body feels the temperature rising and it starts trying to cool you down and you start sweating like a pig.


Anxiety attacks and you.

Have you ever had an anxiety or panic attack?

See results

Rapid heart beat or palpitations

Anxiety increases the amount of adrenaline in your body, and adrenaline increases your heart beats.

A "lump" in your throat

Have you ever had this feeling? Like you have a lump in your throat that doesn't let you talk or swallow? Most of us get that feeling when we are trying to stop ourselves from crying, but you can also get this feeling before or during an anxiety attack. This feeling actually has a name: Globus Hystericus Syndrome. (Bet you didn't know that. High five if you did!)

This happens because anxiety causes even your throat muscles to contract, thus giving you that "lump" in your throat.

Shivering, chills or shaking

You shake when you're scared, you will shake even more when you're super scared or anxious.

Neck and shoulder pain

Usually, when muscles contract due to stress or anxiety, the first ones to tense up are your neck, shoulder and back muscles, so it is only natural that you will feel pain in these areas of your body.

When you star feeling the anxiety feeling coming, ask yourself this question...
When you star feeling the anxiety feeling coming, ask yourself this question... | Source

Face and/or head numbness

This one is especially scary! You might think you're having some kind of stroke or facial paralysis, but usually this is just another signal of extreme anxiety and stress. This might cause you to have tension headaches (when you feel like something is tight around your head), or even pains similar to toothache, which is another signal that your jaws and face muscles are as tight as your stress.


During fight-or-flight, your body decides there are better uses for your blood than keeping your face looking healthy and rosy. It sends as much blood as possible to your muscles so that they can be ready to use as soon as you need them. Sadly, our bodies have a hard time differentiating between real fight-or-flight situations and anxiety attacks. (I know, that makes me sad too...)

Breathing deeply can help calm your anxiety attacks.
Breathing deeply can help calm your anxiety attacks. | Source

Stomach problems

Your digestive system uses a lot of blood to digest and absorb all the necessary nutrients. However, during an anxiety attack, your body decides you might need your blood in your muscles rather than in your gut. This leaves you with feelings of indigestion, constipation, diarrhea or heartburn.

Feeling small shocks in different parts of your body

I remember one night I woke up to a loud noise. I opened my eyes and suddenly felt something akin to a small explosion in the back of my head. It felt as if a great electrical shock had popped a water balloon inside of my head. The water then started running all over my head, because, just after the "explosion" I felt coolness. Needless to say this freaked me out even more than I already was.

During an anxiety attack, your nerves (which are electrically charged) can fire in awkward ways, making you feel like you're being shocked left and right, or leaving you with "tiny explosion" sensations.

Blurry vision

This may sound a bit contradictory, so bear with me. During an anxiety attack, your body goes into high fight-or-flight response, which means your body is getting ready to act as a superhero if required. A superhero needs great, focused vision, so your pupils dilate. And for a second or two, your vision might be really good, but then it becomes so focused that everything else around starts getting blurry. So pupil dilation might cause good vision for a very small amount of time, but nothing too long for you to notice.


Hearing noises

The kind of noises you might hear during an anxiety attack are ringing or buzzing noises. This is known as tinnitus.


Hallucinations can be particularly scary because you feel like you are going crazy. You start seeing and/or hearing things that no one else can see or hear. However, know that hallucinations can be quite common among people that suffer extreme anxiety. However, just because you're not having hallucinations doesn't mean that you're not having an anxiety attack.


People with extreme anxiety can start to feel like everything else around them is not real, or that they're living in a dream.

Anxiety attacks can be really scary, but don't get discouraged! Keep working at controlling your anxiety, and you'll see that one day you will be able to live free of constant extreme anxiety.

Happy living!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)