Anxiety & Panic Attacks Symptoms Explained
Why do you experience anxiety symptoms?
What do they really mean?
Whilst reassurance about the symptoms you experience can provide short term reductions in your anxiety levels, they do not provide a solution.
The list of symptoms we have created is not exhaustive but we have listed the most common in an attempt to show you that your anxiety and panic attack symptoms aren't harmful in any way.
Anxiety symptoms are not a sign of illness, they are the product of an anxious mind's ability to produce the flight or fight response which gives rise to many physiological changes in preparation for dealing with threats.
Anxiety and Panic Attack Symptoms List
- Smothering sensations and Shortness of breath
- Racing heart, slow heart beat, palpitations
- Chest Pain
- Lump in throat & Difficulty swallowing
- Skin losing colour (blanching)
- Shaking or shivering (Visibly or internally)
- Neck & shoulder pain & numbness in face or head
- Rapid gastric emptying
- Indigestion, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea
- Symptoms of urinary tract infection
- Skin rashes
- Weakness in arms & tingling in the hands or feet
- Electric shock feeling anywhere in the body
- Dry mouth
- Fears of going mad or losing control
- Increased depression & suicidal feelings
- Symptoms like 'flu'
- Distorted vision
- Disturbed hearing
- Hormone problems
- Headaches & feelings of having a tight band around head
- Sore eyes
- Creeping or pins and needles sensations in the skin
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell
- Dramatic increase in sexual feelings
- Pain in the face or jaw that resembles a toothache
- derealization and depersonalization
Smothering sensations and Shortness of breath
These anxiety and panic attack symptoms are likely to be the more distressing anxiety and panic attack symptoms sufferers experience. Sometimes it may feel like your chest won't expand , other times it might feel like something is smothering you. Always remember that if you experience this, it's only a sensation caused by anxious nerve impulses.
These symptoms cannot harm you; you will not stop breathing, pass out or suffocate. You are perfectly safe.
Racing heart, slow heart beat, palpitations
It is entirely normal during high anxiety and panic attacks to experience heart symptoms such as missed beats, palpitations, pain and increased heartrate. These are all due to the release of the stress hormones during flight or fight.
During anxiety and panic attacks, chest pain is caused by a combination of muscle tension, carbon dioxide in the bloodstream and indigestion. Most anxiety and panic attacks sufferers experience heart and chest pain during high anxiety.As with all anxiety and panic attack symptoms, heart-like pains will disappear completely as you recover.
Lump in throat & Difficulty swallowing
Globus Hystericus is very common during high anxiety and is caused by the tightening of a tiny muscle in the throat which was once, in our amphibious evolutionary past, part of the anxiety response mechanism which prevented water entering the lungs. It has no function in modern humans and will not prevent you from breathing or swallowing.
Skin losing colour (blanching)
Bloodflow changes rapidly as the emotion of fear is activated. As blood is diverted away from the superficial capilaries in the skin, the skin loses its healthy rosiness. This is a common featire in high anxiety conditions and not at all harmful.
Sweat is released onto the skin during high anxiety in order to cool your muscles which would, under normal circumstanes, be used to run from or fight a real threat. Of course in anxiety disorders, no real threat exists. Sweating is an unpleasant but natural anxiety response.
Shaking or shivering (Visibly or internally)
The brain activates shivering in order to create friction between bodily tissues; this generates heat. Heat is vital in the preparation of the body prior to exercise. In flight or fight, your body prepares for intense responses and shaking/shivering can occur.
Neck & shoulder pain & numbness in face or head
All of the blood vessels and nerves that feed the face and head travel across the scalp from the neck and down into the face. Tightness in the muscles around the shoulders and neck due to high anxiety, can restrict the blood-vessels and nerves causing numbness, pain and sensations anywhere in the head or face. Like all anxiety and panic attack symptoms, these will pass as you recover.
Indigestion, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea
gastrointestinal anxiety and panic attacks symptoms are dreadful for the sufferer. The gastrointestinal tract starts at the lips and ends at the anus and runs approximately 20 feet through a variety of organs in your body. In the flight or fight response, the digestive system slows and almost stops. Fluids are diverted away from it, the muscular contractions stop and the process slows significantly creating all of the digestive issues anxiety sufferers experience. IBS and other conditions can develop from prolonged anxiety related issues.
Impotency, loss of lubrication, loss of libido, inability to have penatrative sex... and the list goes on. It is very common for bot the need to have sex and the physical ability to do so to stop during anxiety disorders. This will all return to normal once the anxiety disorder has gone.
Symptoms of urinary tract infection
It is common for anxiety sufferers to experience a variety of symptoms such as burning when urinating, tenderness or pain. These usualy pass when the anxiety has gone. These may also be related to the medications you take.
The skin is a sensitive organ that relies on effective blood flow and lubrication. During anxiety, as blood flow to the skin decreases, it can become dry, itchy and sore. Some people also find that they develop acne or skin blemishes. This si quite normal during high anxiety.
Weakness in arms & tingling in the hands or feet
Changes in muscle tension, blood flow and nerve impulses and pooling of carbon dioxide in the limbs due to hyperventilation, can cause you to experience a wide range of pains, weakness and unusual sensations. These are quite normal and will go away once your anxiety disorder has gone.
Electric shock feeling anywhere in the body
Nerve impulses are dramatically affected during high anxiety and these can result in a number of strange and sometimes frightening symtoms. A feeling of an electric shock or jolt is common and often radiates from the chest.
Fluids are diverted away from moist tissues when fear is activated. These fluids are diverted to use in transportation of oxygen and glucose in the blood.
When anxiety is present, you will find it more difficult to rest. The fear response prepares your body for fight or flight and a mixture of physical tension and stress chemicals such as adrenalin in your bloodstream will make sleeping very difficult indeed.
Whilst you are unconscious during sleep, your subconscious mind continues to operate at a high level. The emotions, which never sleep, are activating and taking information from your life and creating the most incredible scenarios. These dreams can become nightmares in an anxious mind.
Fears of going mad or losing control
If you fear going mad it will never happen... people who become insane are completely unaware of their insanity. All anxiety sufferers have inappropriate fears about their situations and the fears of going mad or losing control are the highest on the list.
Increased depression & suicidal feelings
It is common to experience low mood, frustration, aggression, sadness, isolation and a wide range of other emotional responses during high anxiety. Anxiety is the inappropriate manifestation of the emotion of fear and when it has been deactivated all of these thoughts and symptoms will pass.
Fear and agression are very closely related. Fear includes risk assesments which manifest as your 'what if' thoughts... aggression is pretty much the same emotion but without 'what if' thoughts. Anxiety often leads to aggressive outbursts.
Symptoms like 'flu'
When anxious, the body and mind undergo many physical and chemical changes which can make you feel lethargic, weak, unwell and depleted. This is entirely normal when anxious. These symptoms will pass as you recover from your anxiety disorder.
Distorted vision and dry eyes
In flight or fight, the body prepares for identifying danger. The anxiety response mechanism changes eye function by dilating the pupils in order for you to be able to see finer movements at greater distances. The eye dryness is caused by fluids being diverted to be used in transit of glucose and oxygen within the bloodstream. When your anxiety has been removed, your eyes will return to normal function.
Disturbed hearing can cause you to feel like your hearing is muffled or to hear ringing or buzzing. This is commonly called tinnitus and is very common in anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is caused by the emotion of fear. The emotion of fear is created in the brain as a mixture of chemical and electrical responses. The chemicals in your body are controled by the endocrine system. Hormones are chemicals controled by the endocrine system. During high anxiety, the endocrine system becomes maladjusted.Your hormones will settle down as you recover and return to full and normal function.
Reduced lubrication in the eyes are caused by body fluids being diverted elsewhere in the body during anxiety causing the eyes to feel sore, dry and painful.
Agoraphobia is a natural response during anxiety disorders and is reffered to as 'safety seeking behavior'. Agoraphobia is not a separate disorder but a symptom of high anxiety.
Creeping or pins and needles sensations in The skin
Nerve endings are found in every square inch of your body and during anxiety, these can often feed back confused nerves signals as your mind and body work together to manage your physical and mental experiences. These are normal and expected anxiety and panic attack symptoms and will pass as your disorder is eliminated.
Increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell
During anxiety and panic attacks these symptoms arise from the hyper-vigilence created by the nervous system in order to make you more aware of your enviornment.
Dramatic increase and decrease in sexual feelings
The emotions involved in sexual responses can become increased or decreased during high anxiety and it is common for people to feel completely sexually unaware but also, less commonly, experience massively increased sexual thoughts and feelings. During flight or fight, the body becomes hyper-vigilant, meaning that senses become heightened. As the sex organs contain a massively higher quantity of nerve endings than other parts of the body, it is common for anxiety sufferers to have increased sensitivity. In some cases, this can cause sufferers to achieve orgasm through little or no sexual stimulation.
Pain in the face or jaw that resembles a toothache
The term 'face ache' comes from this feature of anxiety. It is common for sufferers of anxiety and panic attack symptoms to experience referred pain from the enck and shoulders in the face and head.
Derealization and depersonalization
Of all the anxiety and panic attack symptoms, derealization and depersonalization are the two that most sufferers find most disturbing but, ironically, they are the two symptoms that are created by relatively low level anxiety. They are caused when the mind shuts off sensory pathways in order to focus you on the 'threat'. Of course, in anxiety disorders, no real threat exists so these symptoms are meaningless and most unpleasant.
Successful Anxiety Treatments
What is the best treatment for anxiety disorders? Our own Dr Janette Brennan reviewed TLM and wrote this wonderful review - READ MORE