How Anxiety Attacks Work And What to Do About Them

How common is anxiety in the Philippines?

As of 2020, mental illness has become the third most common disability in the Philippines. Among the most common of these mental illnesses is depression/anxiety, which affects around 6 million Filipinos. Despite the prevalence of this problem, there are still many Filipinos who remain untreated and undiagnosed, leaving them unable to manage depressive symptoms and anxiety attacks.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition that can often make it difficult for patients to go about a regular day. When experiencing anxiety disorder symptoms, one may feel intense nervousness, panic, or fear as well as other physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, or a rapid heartbeat. Because anxiety disorders can take different forms and manifest in different ways, it is important to distinguish between the different types and their root causes in order to treat them properly. Some of the most common anxiety disorders are:

Generalized anxiety disorder: 

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can manifest even without a specific trigger, making the condition difficult to manage especially when undiagnosed. Patients may feel persistent fear or intense and overwhelming worry, often unrealistically or with little to no reason.

Social anxiety disorder:
Symptoms for social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, will often arise when faced with social situations. Patients may feel intense and persistent feelings of fear and worry, often rooted in a fear of rejection, embarrassment, or being judged when interacting with people. 

Panic disorder: 

Panic disorder causes patients to feel the effects of anxiety manifesting intensely and  physically, resulting in a panic attack. Even in the absence of a specific trigger or fear-inducing situation, panic attacks can cause patients to experience palpitations, trembling, sweating, difficulty breathing, and chest pains. More intense panic attacks can make patients feel as though they are having a heart attack or choking. 

Specific phobias: 

Phobias are extreme aversions or fear towards specific objects or scenarios. They may cause patients to experience extreme feelings of distress and fear in certain situations, even though others around them might see them as harmless. 

Medication-induced anxiety disorder: 

Symptoms of medication-induced anxiety disorder are brought on by the consumption of or withdrawal from certain substances. Misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance, or withdrawing from drugs can lead patients to develop medication-induced anxiety disorder and experience anxiety attacks.

What are the causes of anxiety attacks?

Causes of anxiety attacks can root from many different factors, depending on a patient’s specific anxiety disorder. Environmental factors such as chronic stressors or threats, traumatic events and their subsequent triggers, or medical or substance-induced reasons can all lead to an attack.

Anxiety attacks can last from a few minutes to a few hours, making it difficult to focus or function due to the looming feelings of fear. Although anxiety attacks may seem debilitating and difficult to overcome in the moment, recognizing signs and symptoms of anxiety can help patients understand their condition and prepare for anxiety attacks in the future. 

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety has both physical and mental symptoms. Some mental symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Intense worrying about scenarios and outcomes regardless of plausibility
  • A feeling of nervousness,tension, or restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Feeling a sense of impending danger, panic or doom

These symptoms can lead to patients having difficulty maintaining a functional mental state. On the other hand, some physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Trembling
  • Hyperventilation (breathing rapidly)
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Feeling weak or tiring quickly
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Numbness

While people who have anxiety disorders may experience these symptoms intermittently, spikes in anxiety may lead to panic attacks and anxiety attacks.

What is the difference between a panic and anxiety attack?

While both are symptoms of anxiety disorders manifesting in a period of heightened anxiety, panic attacks, and anxiety attacks differ in their intensity, duration, and causes.

Anxiety Attacks 

Anxiety attacks follow a period of excessive worry and typically last longer than panic attacks. They are often a response to perceived threats and stressors, and anxiety attack symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Some anxiety attack symptoms include restlessness, distress, feeling faint or dizzy, numbness or tingling in the face and extremities, and irritability. 

Panic Attacks

Unlike anxiety attacks, panic attacks are characterized by a sudden spike of intense anxiety lasting for up to a few minutes, manifesting both physically and mentally. Patients who are experiencing a panic attack may feel a sudden increase in heart rate, chest pain, tremors, hyperventilation, nausea, or numbness or tingling in the extremities. They may also feel as though they are experiencing a heart attack and feel a loss of control or fear of impending doom or death. While there are many causes of panic attacks, they can also occur suddenly and without any triggers. 

How to cope with anxiety attacks?

If a patient finds themself suddenly experiencing anxiety attacks, they may feel paralyzed and unable to handle it. However, there are many methods on how to cope with anxiety attacks. Recommended strategies include: 

  • Understanding your triggers 

Because anxiety attacks can be caused by specific triggers, understanding them and how they affect patients may lessen the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. 

  • Mindful breathing

Practicing focused and deep breathing can help soften the effects of an anxiety attack and help patients relax. It can also guide patients away from hyperventilation, alleviating both mental and physical symptoms. 

  • Medication

As prescribed by a qualified health professional, anxiety attacks can also be managed through appropriate medication in proper doses.

  • Questioning your thought pattern

Because anxiety often stems from intense fear or worry towards certain situations and scenarios, making deliberate efforts to question your thought pattern and grounding yourself in reality can also help mitigate an anxiety attack. 

While there are strategies to cope with anxiety attacks, sustainable long-term treatment is recommended to help manage chronic anxiety disorders.

What is the recommended treatment for anxiety?

Anxiety disorder treatments are as personalized and customized as the disorders themselves, and often, a combination of approaches is implemented in order to help patients manage their anxiety. Some of the most widely accepted and recommended strategies to treat anxiety are: 

  • Self-management: 

Being able to develop a self-management process for managing your anxiety is a powerful tool that grants you control over your disorder. Sustainable ways to self-manage anxiety include stress management, relaxation techniques, mindful breathing, and cultivating a healthy and nurturing support system. 

  • Counseling & Psychotherapy:

Medical and professional help can allow patients to make progress coping with anxiety in ways that they are unable to do themselves. With the help of the right provider, different approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or exposure therapy have proven to be beneficial to anxiety patients. 

  • Medication:

Mental and physical anxiety symptoms can be managed by taking antidepressants, benzodiazepines, tricyclics, and beta-blockers. No matter which medication is prescribed, it is always best to consult with your doctors or online psychiatrists beforehand. 

How much is a psychiatrist session in the Philippines?

Because of the prevalence of mental health disorders in the Philippines, there are
several options patients may consider when seeking psychiatrists. Depending on the provider, where they are based, and their level of specialization or expertise, rates can range from Php 1000  to 4500 per session. Some patients may find it difficult to book a consultation and attend in person, but there are also options for online consultations and telehealth. To get started on this option, you may consider looking into how EVA works.

Conclusion

While anxiety attacks and other symptoms of anxiety are a struggle that many Filipinos have to face in their day-to-day lives, there are ways to manage it and take control of your mental health. The first step is always acknowledging that you need help, and the next step is taking the initiative to seek it. Start your journey towards better mental health and book a consult with us today.

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