Experiencing anxiety itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Anxiety can be a normal part of one’s life and can be a part of stressful events, such as going to a job interview or managing one’s finances. However, for those who suffer from an anxiety disorder, these feelings can become overwhelming and may even fundamentally alter one’s perception of their surroundings or events. Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are intense episodes of fear, and those who suffer from these attacks might change how they go about their day. However, there are ways to address these attacks to return to a normal daily routine, and the first step of understanding how to overcome these attacks is learning the difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks, as well as asking pertinent questions such as, “How long do anxiety attacks last?” or educating oneself on anxiety attack symptoms.
What Is an Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety attacks are periods where one’s stress or anxiety builds up over time and releases itself, resulting in a number of symptoms. A racing heartbeat, fatigue, and shaking are all common during anxiety attacks. Those experiencing this anxiety may have extraordinary difficulty focusing on any one aspect of their surroundings, and breathing patterns may become irregular, even leading to hyperventilation. The atmosphere for those feeling this level of anxiety can become very tense, and there may even be a sense of perceived fear, an overarching feeling of helplessness, or a perception of one’s environment as hostile itself.
Anxiety attacks gradually develop, usually compiling stress-inducing events in the back of one’s mind until there is a kind of “breaking point,” which can prompt the beginning of an anxiety attack. Anxiety attacks can usually be linked to specific triggers, and discovering the trigger or triggers is important to address these unhealthy sources of anxiety in one’s life, going forward.
How Long Does an Anxiety Attack Last?
“How long will this go on?” or “Can anxiety attacks last for days?” are common questions regarding anxiety. However, there is no set duration that an anxiety attack can last. Some may begin to feel the relief of some of their symptoms within a few minutes. However, for others, this dangerous feeling of anxiety can remain present for hours, or even days, after its onset. How long an anxiety attack will last depends on the person and their unique situation, and some anxiety attacks may continue to affect an individual until the stressors are directly addressed. For the individual suffering from the anxiety attack, what may be only a passing few minutes in reality can feel like hours, so setting a timer on anxiety attacks can prove fruitless. As a result, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of an anxiety attack as well as identify any potential sources of anxiety in order to help an individual process and move through these intense, even debilitating feelings.
Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack
There are several differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks, with major distinctions coming down to the duration and severity of the attack. Panic attacks, unlike anxiety attacks, may not come with an immediately recognizable source and aren’t necessarily the result of a constant build-up of external stressors. Rather, panic attacks can seem to occur much more suddenly. However, they also are confined to a shorter timeframe, with the symptoms seeming to set in quickly and then subside quickly, as well. Panic attacks also tend to have many of the same symptoms as anxiety attacks, though more severe. Sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, and a looming feeling of despair or danger are all incredibly common during a panic attack, and an individual may become physically and genuinely fearful for their own lives during a panic attack. Panic attacks can give the perception that the entire world seems hostile, and coupled with chills, nausea, lightheadedness, or a sense of detachment, it is possible that panic attacks will require medical attention. Due to their incredibly intense nature, the immediate effects of a panic attack may cause an individual to wonder, “Can anxiety kill you?” However, it is rare that a person would die from a panic attack alone.
Can Anxiety Lead to a Panic Attack?
Yes, anxiety does play a role in the development of a panic attack or panic disorder. While panic attacks can feel sourceless, intense feelings of anxiety can often surround a panic attack, and feelings of anxiety can also compound the severity of one’s symptoms. The constant feeling of anxiety can also be an exhausting experience on its own and can leave a person ill-prepared to cope with panic, should it arise. Lastly, the unpredictable nature of panic attacks can cause anxiety itself, as a person becomes hypervigilant in their preparedness — making the possibility of a panic attack a source of anxiety itself.
How Long Does a Panic Attack Last?
“How long do panic attacks last?” is an important question to ask when preparing a coping plan. A typical panic attack can last around 10 to 30 minutes. It is common for a person to still feel the effects of panic after this time, though symptoms should begin to subside or the person may begin processing this panic in a healthy way. It is also possible that multiple panic attacks can happen in quick succession, making quick-acting and effective coping skills essential to ensure that an individual remains safe for the duration of the attack.
How Long Do Anxiety Symptoms Last?
It is common that symptoms of a panic attack or anxiety attack can linger, even after the attack has been addressed. Physical symptoms, such as trembling, chills, or nausea tend to subside before other emotional effects of anxiety. It can also take time for an individual to return to a normal sleeping pattern, and the thoughts of one’s panic or anxiety attack may even continue to affect the way a person interacts with their world or daily routines. These anxiety symptoms can even persist until effective coping strategies are employed, and may not go away on their own. Just because an anxiety or panic attack has subsided doesn’t mean the effects of these intense periods are gone, and the persistent anxiety following an attack can even further nurture the next one, if left unaddressed.
Panic disorders are classified by the repeated panic attacks that an individual may suffer from. It is a severe anxiety disorder that not only indicates a repeated experience of panic, but also the unexpected nature of the panic attacks themselves. Panic disorders can develop as a result of one’s persistent anxiety or from traumatic experiences. Panic disorders are very serious and can produce a number of complex and intense symptoms, making them difficult to address without the assistance of treatment from a trained professional.
Coping Mechanisms and Prevention
Learning to cope with anxiety and panic is essential to ensure safety and the necessary return to normalcy. Not everyone will cope with anxiety or panic in the same way, and it is important for each individual to take into account a variety of personal approaches that are effective for them. Some options to explore are:
Grounding Techniques and Counting Strategies
Relaxation and Self-Care
Establishing Sleep Routines
Establishing Regular Hygiene Routines
Avoiding Drugs and Alcohol
These are just some ways in which an individual can begin to build their own coping strategies, and are by no means the only options available. Coping with anxiety and panic is a very individualized process, and it is important to adapt these strategies to fit one’s own best, most effective practices while keeping an open mind about other therapeutic approaches, as well.
Treating anxiety and panic disorders is a complicated process, and it is important to first better educate oneself about their own situation. This means learning more about your symptoms of anxiety and panic, as well as your stressors or indicators that an anxiety or panic attack may be coming. Furthermore, it is paramount to seek professional help to learn how to translate this information into an effective treatment plan, using any number of therapeutic approaches and coping strategies. While these strategies may begin by learning breathing exercises and counting techniques, they can continue to develop into highly personalized and specific practices that have proven to be pertinent to the individual in treatment.
Depending on the severity, it is also possible that medication-assisted therapy may be beneficial to help placate some of the sustained symptoms of anxiety or panic. This approach is dependent on the individual and is intended to help a person stabilize their own emotional processing in order to be more receptive and calm as they learn personalized techniques for overcoming their feelings of fear or despair. Individualizing this process with trained professionals is one of the best ways to create an effective plan for addressing the intense and debilitating nature of anxiety and panic attacks.