02/24/2015 03:14 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What It's Like to Have an Anxiety Attack


I suffer from anxiety along with my depression. It's a tricky thing to manage. Anxiety attacks threaten to put me down at least once a week. What's an anxiety attack like, you ask? Well, let me tell you what happens to me.


First, I start to feel a little jittery, like I've had too much caffeine. My mind starts to race and my hands start to tingle, so much so that I start to rub them together aggressively. Meanwhile, my heart starts pounding and my breathing picks up.

This is the beginning. These are all signs that an anxiety attack is imminent.

I immediately start to assess my surroundings. Where am I? What am I doing that's causing this? I've had attacks come on in stores, in large crowds, and even at home in my own environment.

If I'm in a crowd and I realize I'm about to have a full-blown anxiety attack, I start to panic more. My heart beats faster, my hands tingle more, and I start to feel more and more jittery. I know I have to get somewhere where I can sort this out alone.

Now I'm starting to feel pressure in my chest, which is a sign, to me, that it's going to be a more difficult attack to overcome. With the initial symptoms, I can sometimes calm myself down with a few slow, deep breaths while I close my eyes. But once my chest starts to tighten, I will need more than air to solve my problem.

If I have Xanax with me, this is where I would take one. But if I don't, I will need to manage the problem on my own.

I start taking deep slow breaths with my eyes closed. I breathe in deep through my nose and exhale out through my mouth. This helps to relax my hands and clear my mind. If I need to, while I'm breathing, I'll clasp my hands together tightly so the anxiety has somewhere to go. With my eyes closed, I'm keeping out any distractions that might increase my anxiety.

I continue breathing and keep my hands clasped. Then, I start to talk to myself.

"You are OK."

"Everything will be fine."

"Clear your mind."

"Breathe in the good, wonderful oxygen."

"Breathe out the bad, negative air."

"You can do whatever you need to do right now."

I do this until my heart rate starts to return to normal and the clouds in my head start to disperse. (I like to shoot for 3-5 minutes but it can sometimes take longer.)

Once I can feel my hands hurting from clenching them so tightly, I release them and know the worst is over.

My breathing has slowed, the knot in my chest has loosened and my mind is a little clearer. I open my eyes and start to deal with whatever it is I need to deal with.

I know many people experience and handle them differently, but this is an example of what an anxiety attack is like for me. It's not fun to live with but after years of having them, I've figured out a few things that work to help me when one pops up.

What tricks do you use to manage an anxiety attack?


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