What is anxiety and what are symptoms of a panic attack?

As a psychotherapist one of my specialities is anxiety. I have worked with many clients presenting with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and illness anxiety to name a few. Anxiety can have a wide variety of symptoms and some of them may be physical. Here are some common symptoms:

-aches and tense muscles
-trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
-feeling on edge, “keyed up”
-being angry or irritable
-worrying about everyday decisions for several days in a row
-feeling like something bad is going to happened
-difficulty concentrating

The key symptom for moderate to severe anxiety is constant worry. People with this type of anxiety worry often about current and future life events. Symptoms can cause the worrier to feel as if their thoughts are debilitating and they may find it hard to complete simple, everyday tasks. These clients may avoid certain places or things and pull away from other people and become more isolated. It is also typical to have someone with extreme anxiety have trouble with assertive communication and present more passive in work and social interactions. Their focus is on what isn’t going well and what could go wrong.

Some people with anxiety also experience panic attacks. It is important to note the difference between anxiety and a panic attack. Some of the symptoms for a panic attack include:

-trembling or shaking
-difficulty catching your breath
-heart pounding
-feeling fatigued
-tingling in arms, hands, and legs

To reduce anxiety symptoms it is important to first recognize and accept the symptoms, which can be hard for many clients. Many people who suffer with anxiety have a lot of shame around their symptoms so acceptance is the first step. Counseling is a great tool to support clients and educate them on how they can live with anxiety. Additionally, physical activity, eating healthy meals, and following a strict sleep routine can help reduce symptoms. There are also many smartphone apps to help clients practice relaxation techniques that can be done in the shower, at night before bed, or during the morning commute to work. Anxiety doesn’t have to take over someones life and with support and practice can be managed.