If you suffer from anxiety attacks, you know that it can manifest in different parts of the body. The reason this occurs is because our sympathetic nervous system responds to a stimulus. This stimulus causes our body to prepare to fight or run using our fight or flight response. Our bodies developed this response in order to protect itself.
Millions of years ago we lived in caves. There were many things in nature that could harm us. In addition, we had to hunt for food to survive. Sometimes the animals we hunted were hunting us for the same reason. When we came upon a giant mastodon we had a choice. Either we could try to take it down with a spear or run for our lives. Either way our body prepared itself.
This response is the same in anxiety attack symptoms. Our body, for whatever reason, feels that it must ready itself for an attack or escape. It does this through what is called the autonomic nervous system. This system is split into two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
The sympathetic nervous system is what creates anxiety attack symptoms. It does this by stimulating the adrenal glands that are located in your kidneys. These glands release a substance into the bloodstream called adrenalin. This substance stimulates the heart. The heart beats faster to ensure that oxygen is brought to all the parts of the body. This also helps remove any toxins that need to be excreted. This need usually manifests in the strong desire to urinate or defecate when we become nervous.
The body also sends messages of where blood needs to go. An example is when blood is taken from the skin and sent to muscles so that they can be ready to run or fight. This increases their power and energy.
This natural response is great when it comes to being ready for a tiger attack, but can be miserable as a symptom of an anxiety attack. Because this symptom that deals with the heart, many people that experience anxiety attacks feel that this symptom is the precursor to a heart attack. One surefire way to determine if you have heart problems is to see a doctor. Having an anxiety attack does not mean you are having a heart attack. To compound the problem your body will also decrease the blood supply to the brain. This is not dangerous but it can make you feel light headed, dizzy and even have blurred vision.
Another anxiety attack symptom has to do with the respiratory system. People complain that when they are having an anxiety attack that they feel like they are suffocating. The natural response of the body during a time of crisis is to increase respirations. This brings more oxygen quicker into the body. You might think that slowing your breathing down and controlling your breathing may be the solution to the feeling that accelerated breathing can bring. This feeling is of being breathless and can make your throat feel like it is closing and your chest feels tight.
The contrary is true. If you try to slow your breathing, you are decreasing your body’s supply of oxygen. Your anxiety increases as your body steps up its response. Controlling your breathing only makes your anxiety attack symptoms worse.
There are other symptoms of anxiety attacks. Your eyes may be affected by changes in blood flow. Your pupils may dilate; you could see stars or have blurred vision. Another symptom of an anxiety attack is dry mouth which is the result of decreased salivation. As adrenalin hits your digestive system you can experience the symptoms of nausea, butterflies, constipation or diarrhea.
In your muscles you may feel a trembling or a tightness as your body is preparing to strike or run. All of these are symptoms of an anxiety attack, but they are the body’s natural response to an anxiety stimulus. When your body has completed its cycle of being ready and alert and when the anxiety has abated, you may feel sick, tired or weak. This is because your body has used up a lot of energy in getting ready to flee or fight.
It is in the area of the mind is where the real cause of an anxiety attack occurs. A symptom of an anxiety attack is that your mind becomes very alert and your senses acute. This is because you are scanning your environment for danger. This magnifies your perceptions. This includes the perceptions of what your body is doing such as your breathing and heart rate. Again this is a natural necessary process, but one that exacerbates an anxiety attack.
If, for instance, a trigger for an anxiety attack is a closed space, your mind will be looking for an exit. As you realize there is no easy exit your anxiety rises and feeds upon itself. It becomes worse because our mind is trying to process what it should do next, and without a solution becomes more alarmed.
The good news is that people can and do over come the symptoms of anxiety attacks. People have found a lot of success with a technique called the ‘One Move Technique’ which is derived from cognitive behavioural therapy and provides sufferers with an easy tool that they can use immediately and effectively.
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