What does an anxiety attack feel like?

what does an anxiety attack feel likeWhat does an anxiety attack feel like? let’s be clear. It seems almost impossible but, in fact, the anxious syndrome begins especially in young and adults, we are talking about a state of mind characterized by an interweaving of fears and tensions – generally irrational – not related to any precise and concrete external stimulus.


Anxious syndrome often degenerates into palpitations, tachycardia, tremors, nausea, peripheral vasoconstriction, hyperhidrosis and respiratory fatigue, mainly (but not exclusively) a consequence of increased plasma levels of corticosteroids and adrenaline. The anxious syndrome is a psychological disease that translates into truly appreciable effects, leading to a series of negative consequences on the mood of the unfortunate: it is a painful feeling of imminent danger and fear.

Classification of anxieties

In general, the anxious syndrome is classified into two large groups:

The first group is characterized by anxiety in its own right, such as panic attacks, phobias (eg. arachnophobia), obsessive-compulsive disorders (tensions and obsessions perceived as inappropriate and intrusive, which besiege thoughts, becoming unbearable), stress anxiety; The second group includes several generalized types of anxious syndrome, such as situational anxieties, performance anxieties, separation anxieties, etc..


At the present time, in order to cope with the many daily commitments and obligations – work/school and sentimental – the people lives constantly in a frenetic way: it is clear, therefore, that the human being is continuously accompanied by stress and tensions which – when they degenerate and oppress him excessively – result in a syndrome anxious to all intents and purposes.  The “current” anxiety is nothing more than the reflection of a deep crisis typical of today’s civilization: a sort of law of survival, in which only the strongest can stay afloat, and the others, weaker and more fragile, fall to the ground in the darkest anxiety syndrome, often a prelude to real depression or psychosis.

This syndrome is “simply” a reflection of a marked maladjustment of man to the civilization in which he lives, a reality that, seen through the eyes of a “sick person”, is a minefield of hostile and dangerous stimuli. The anxious syndrome is one of the psychological disorders of difficult interpretation, given that anxiety – which can suddenly burst – is the effect of a multiplicity of elements embedded in each other: the anxious syndrome is a vicious circle including confused thoughts, unfounded fears, anxiety, torment and sometimes obsession, which often result in unpleasant body sensations. Unfortunately, the anxious syndrome is often underestimated by family members, sometimes even by specialists in the field: anxiety is a disorder with many facets, enriched by complex disorders, vague and imprecise.

What does an anxiety attack feel like?

A lightning bolt in the clear sky. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, a hurricane of sensations is unleashed: galloping palpitations, with the heart beating madly, tremors, dyspnoea, feeling of suffocation, chest pain, tingling or numbness in some body district, cold sweating, Panic attack, hot flashes, dizziness, nausea, feeling of emptiness ness in the head and skidding, feeling of fainting, derealization (that is: sense of loss of contact with reality), depersonalization (ie: sense of loss of contact with yourself), fear of losing control or going crazy, feeling of being to die. This is what does an anxiety attack feel like.  Often the person who is affected tries to “manage” it by implementing a series of protective behaviors (for example, begins to breathe very quickly), which in most cases worsen the situation by amplifying the feelings of panic (hyperventilation, for example, can aggravate the feelings of dizziness, disorientation and confusion).

what does an anxiety attack feel like

Recurring panic attacks

In the anguish of those suffering from panic attacks, there is always the reference to a terrible “first time” that leaves a memory so painful that it becomes, in itself, a continuous disturbance. Panic attacks are tremendous experiences, which make you feel terribly ill, and which, in turn, arouse an anticipatory anxiety. People are willing to do anything to avoid finding themselves there.

Often people live in terror that the panic attack may reoccur and implement strategies of preventive avoidance, which tend to become so massive and pervasive as to progressively lead patients to avoid any novelty, any unexpected, any opportunity for life, with serious discomfort and unhappiness. Not infrequently, therefore, the intense and persistent concern that the attack may reoccur is followed by the avoidance of situations (such as, for example, crowded places, public transport, queues, etc..) where no help would be available or from which it would be difficult to move away in the event of an attack .

Even a single attack can make people aware of the signs of anxiety, leading them to develop a real fear of fear. However on what does an anxiety attack feel like, it is important to underline that the panic attacks subsequent to the first one, are often not so much crises of direct anxiety, but are crises of fear that reactivate the anxiety of that “first time”. Fear of fear. A sort of “second-degree fear”. The fact is that the anguish of the “first time” is felt as “unbearable”, as “unsustainable”. So unbearable that sometimes we can’t even think of it, but only mention it implicitly by hints (“I don’t want that thing to happen anymore”, “Thinking about it makes me feel bad”).

This particular type of fear (known in the scientific literature as anxiety sensitivity) leads individuals to interpret neurovegetative activation signals (even those that are completely physiological) as seriously threatening their physical or mental integrity and therefore to react anxiously to them. The resulting anxiety in turn frightens the person, starting a real vicious circle that can lead to an attack in a short time. Fear of fear, together with the undesirable effects of protective behaviour, is therefore largely responsible for the appearance of new panic attacks and, ultimately, for the development and maintenance of the disorder.

Origin of the term

It is interesting to note that the experience of panic is intrinsically linked to the etymology of the term. The word “PANIC” comes from the name of the ancient Greek God Pan. The name Pan derives from the Greek “paein”, grazing, but literally pan means “everything” because, according to Greek mythology, Pan was the spirit of all natural creatures and this meaning links it to the forest, to the abyss, to the deep.

The abyss, in a psychological sense, corresponds to what is not known, what moves below our awareness, and in fact, panic feeds on the mists that envelop our mental functioning. From the name Pan derives the term panic, in fact the god is angry with those who disturb him, and emits terrifying screams causing fear in the disturber. Some stories tell us that Pan himself was seen fleeing because of his own fear, just as the person suffering from panic attacks tries to escape from his fear.


Related to what does an anxiety attack feel like. The prevalence of agoraphobia is between 0.6 and 6% and also in this case the favorable factor is a traumatic event. Agoraphobia is a condition in which anxiety is felt in the open, including public spaces and means of locomotion, from which it would be difficult or embarrassing to get away or in which there could be no help in case of symptoms of panic.

This results in avoidance behaviour, i.e. the subject keeps himself away from these places, or manifests anticipatory anxiety, i.e. a clear refusal to find himself in such situations out of fear. It is therefore common that these people tend to stay at home to go out only in company (conduct of reassurance), which inevitably results in difficulties for their lives, especially social and work. Agoraphobia also has a chronic course, and is generally more disabling than panic disorder, since, unlike it, it does not occur episodically but is constant. However, it should be considered that the two disorders are often associated.

Specific phobia

Phobias are the most common mental disorders: they have a prevalence of 11% and are more frequent (twice as frequent) in males than in females. The onset involves the young adult, although some phobias begin in childhood, such as fear of blood. Children’s phobias are very frequent (for example, those of darkness, lightning and animals), so much so that they are considered almost normal if they manifested between 2 and 5 years old. Then what does an anxiety attack feel like? Or in this case a specific phobia.

A phobia is the intense, marked, unreasonable and persistent fear of an object or a situation that are instead devoid of a real objective dangerousness, and in this sense the phobia is distinguished from the fear, which is a feeling that the individual manifests in the face of a real threat. Even in the specific phobia, as a consequence of the disorder, an anticipatory anxiety can occur with relative avoidance behaviour and, in particular cases, anxiety can reach the magnitude of the panic attack, because exposure to the phobic stimulus almost always causes an immediate anxious response. There are almost no limits to the number of phobias, as any object or situation may be involved.

The most common forms are phobias for: animals, blood, heights, enclosed spaces, darkness, death, means of locomotion, dirt, disease, weather. Those affected, except for children, are aware of how the problem that afflicts them is unreasonable or excessive; however, the disorder more or less significantly compromises their existence. In order to speak of specific phobia in adults, phobic manifestations must have a minimum duration of at least six months.

The avoidance developed by these subjects becomes lasting and difficult to eliminate: this is because the reduction of anxiety, which is achieved by avoiding feared objects and situations, leads to a stable reinforcement of these strategies precisely because they are effective in preventing anxiety attack. If avoidance becomes a habit, the subject will then develop real phobic traits. Generally, phobias suffer a clear reduction after childhood; cases that persist in adults are less favorable from the point of view of healing, because it occurs in only 20% of them. A possible consequence of phobia is the interference it creates in working life and in the life of relationships because, especially in the most serious forms, the person must shape his behavior according to the things or situations to avoid, facing limitations in his career and emotional .

Social Phobia

It has a prevalence of about 8% and affects women more, with an onset that is located more frequently between 10 and 20 years. Remaining on the subject what does an anxiety attack feel like, Social phobia consists in the fear of anxiety, up to the panic attack, when we are together with people, usually unfamiliar, in potentially embarrassing situations, from simple being with others, to social events .  The fear of these individuals manifest, in similar circumstances, due to anxiety, behaviors that determine the negative judgment of the people present.

As a consequence of this, conduct of avoidance, anticipatory anxiety or discomfort is established in conjunction with social situations , such as blushing in public or experiencing a considerable sense of tension. Among the clinical pictures that characterize social phobia are: public speaking, i.e. the so-called “stage fear”, which seems to be the most common form; speaking with important people; taking exams; attending parties or lunches; resisting pressure or expressing disagreement with people not little known, for example sellers; looking at others in the eye; working or writing while being observed.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It has a prevalence of 2-3%; in adolescence males are more affected while in adulthood there are no significant differences between the two sexes. The onset occurs on average around 20 years and is often sudden.In a fair number of cases (about 60%) the symptomatology starts after a stressful event.

How it manifests itself

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions, that is, ideas, thoughts, impulses or images, recurring or persistent, that are often felt as intrusive and inappropriate, and that besiege the mind causing anxiety and anguish. The subject is more or less aware that these are products of his own mind and tries to ignore them, or to suppress them, or to neutralize them with other thoughts or actions, but he fails to do so, if not by implementing compulsions, ie acts, which are repetitive behaviors or mental actions that he can not do and that are intended to reduce anxiety or discomfort or to prevent events or situations feared.

If they are not carried out, in fact, the anxiety worsens. The person is therefore forced to repeat the compulsive act that reduces anxiety, but establishes the vicious circle: obsession-anxiety-compulsion. Compulsion, for a short time reduces anxiety, but then ends up enslaving the person. He realizes that obsessions and compulsions are unreasonable (awareness), he tries to resist them (resistance) but he suffers; obsessions return repeatedly (repetitiveness), they enter into thought (intrusiveness or parasitism of thought), and they activate an attempt at response and control (defense psychism), which is precisely compulsion. In this sense, obsessive-compulsive disorder is also called “reasoning madness”.

Anxiety disorder

It has a prevalence of about 5% and in more than 2/3 of cases it is associated with another psychiatric disease, such as panic disorder, phobias or depression. The onset is more common in young adults, around the age of 20.It is characterized by excessive anxiety and concern about several situations or activities, such as work or school performance. They are associated with at least 3 neurovegetative symptoms such as restlessness, tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, easy fatigue, sleep disorders. These manifestations cause significant discomfort .
The trend tends to be chronic, and its evolution towards panic disorder or depression is common.

what does an anxiety attack feel like