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Relieving An Anxiety Attack

Updated on August 19, 2016

Pathophysiology of an Anxiety Attack And What You Can Do To Relieve It

Anxiety can be crippling and unpredictable. Not only that, but it's signs and symptoms can closely mimic those of a host of other serious medical conditions. One of the keys to overcomingp anxiety is to be able to recognize it when it strikes.

Anxiety can manifest in many forms but typically, those suffering present with feelings of uneasiness or “impending doom”, feeling as though they may pass out, blurred vision or tunnel vision, tremors, racing heart and heart palpatations, the need to void their bowels or urinate, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue or restlessness. These are the most common symptoms, however, they can vary from individual to individual.

So, you’ve recognized your signs and symptoms of anxiety. Now what can you do about it? Fortunately there are many ways to relieve anxiety attacks. Lets start with a simple technique: breathing. How can breathing beat an axiety attack? To understand this, lets take a look at a little pathophysiology of an anxiety attack.

During a panic attack, your heart rate increases as well as your breathing rate. This is a somewhat primitive response to perceived danger, stemming from a time when humans were still in the food chain. Our "fight or flight" response is triggered and our body begins releasing epinephrine (adrenalin.) This causes our heart rate to increase as well as our breathing rate in order to keep up with a demand for more oxygen to be sent to our vital organs so that we may fight or escape danger. Because you are breathing too quickly, your body is giving off excess CO2 (carbon dioxide) and is also not taking in enough oxygen due to the low tidal volume (how much air you are moving in and out.) This triggers a response in your body due to the interruption of homeostasis, the body’s state of “balance” (heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, etc.) Your body is equipped with survival mechanisms to keep that balance. Increasing the heart rate sends more blood to your vital organs and therefore more oxygen. When your heart rate increases, your blood pressure increases. Your body is also breathing faster to take in more oxygen but breathing too quickly only let’s you take in so much. Therefore, an effective way to fight an axiery attack is to slow your breathing manually by taking in long deep breaths. Slower, deeper intake means more oxygen, and therefore a slower heart rate (because your body won’t have to compensate.)

Breathe in through your nose for about 10 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 10 seconds. Repeat this for a minute or so and you will begin to feel some relief.

Simple enough, right? Another great technique for relieving anxiety is exercise. There are many benefits to exercising but the two main ones are relieving muscle tension, and releasing endorphins. What better way to relieve tense muscles than wear them out? Go for a brisk walk or a run, turn on some music and get in the zone. Not only are you distracting yourself, but you’re burning calories, relieving stress and you may even get a better night’s sleep.

These are two of the simplest techniques you can employ to beat an anxiety attack. Of course there are many others worth inquiring about, but all in all, stick to what works best for you.

Please comment below if you would like to share a technique that works to relieve your anxiety.

For more information on generalized anxiety and other disorders please visit


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