What is Acute Anxiety?

Acute anxiety is a condition in which a person’s anxiety symptoms become so severe that it results in emotional distress. Acute anxiety is another term to refer having panic attacks. A panic attack is the result of severe stress and anxiety. Panic attacks can come about unexpectedly and feel debilitating. It is not uncommon for a person having a panic attack to feel like they are in extreme danger or even dying. When a person is having a panic attack they will feel like many different sensations in their body. These sensations are intense and can feel like a heart attack or suffocation. The most common symptoms of a panic attack are:

  • Hyperventilating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain, racing heartbeat
  • An intense fear of death

These symptoms can last up to 15 minutes, reaching a peak and gradually declining.

Risk Factors of Acute Anxiety

Life stressors typically trigger acute anxiety. If a person is overwhelmed with responsibilities, is experiencing personal or relationship issues, or is prone to general anxiety, they are likely to experience panic attacks. Sometimes it is easy to identify the triggers for acute anxiety, but symptoms can also seemingly come out of nowhere and be completely unexpected by the person having the attack. Acute anxiety is difficult to live with because of the uncertainty of when or for how long the affected will experience an attack. This uncertainty alone is enough to raise anxiety levels for the affected person, so when it is coupled with triggers it is almost inevitable to have an attack.

There are several predisposing factors that make a person susceptible to acute anxiety. For example, you are at higher risk for having acute anxiety if you suffer from other anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These other phobias have their own symptoms and triggers. People who suffer from one or more other anxiety disorders often have a hard time coping with even the most simple tasks, so in severe cases the affected could experience acute anxiety as a reaction to their other disorders. Acute anxiety is also prevalent in cases of abuse or trauma. If a person has a history of mental, physical, emotional or sexual abuse or trauma in his or her life, the experiences associated with the abuse can cause him or her to develop acute anxiety.

Having too much stress or poor coping strategies for stress can result in a person having acute anxiety. Having strong and effective stress management skills is important for managing anxiety. When a person has a high level of stress in his or her life and does not know how to manage that stress it is likely that he or she will develop acute anxiety. Acute anxiety is the reaction of your body and mind becoming overwhelmed. Getting overwhelmed causes the brain to identify a threat to the person’s safety and wellbeing. This triggers the nervous system to become overactive, resulting in a panic attack. Those with poor stress management skills will prevent the brain from discerning real from imagined threat, resulting in acute anxiety. Therefore, if someone has too many responsibilities or struggles with keeping up with their day-to-day lives, it is likely that they will develop acute anxiety.

What You Can Do to Manage Acute Anxiety

It is important that someone who is experiencing acute anxiety seek the attention from a mental health professional. If acute anxiety is not addressed it can become severe, and even result in a diagnosis of panic disorder. Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person’s acute anxiety causes the affected person to have a panic attack at least twice per month. Fortunately, with professional intervention it is possible to address acute anxiety and prevent it from intruding on one’s quality of life.

The overall goal of treatment of acute anxiety is to reduce the stress you experiences as much as possible. The first step toward this goal is to identify your triggers for stress and panic attacks. Triggers can be internal or external, meaning they can be the result of your environment, people around you, or your own internal dialog. It is important to be aware of your triggers for anxiety and how they affect you. It is likely you will need help from a therapist to understand how your triggers affect your life. Therapy can also help you learn how to manage your triggers. Research has found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly useful in the treatment of acute anxiety because it targets how you think and feel in reaction to stressors. After you and your therapist have identified your stress management needs you can learn new coping strategies to engage in exercises to reduce acute anxiety.

There are also lifestyle changes you can do to help manage your acute anxiety. For example, making sure you get adequate exercise during the week is important for managing anxiety. Exercise helps manage anxiety by providing a release for the anxious energy you store in your body. It also causes your body to release a chemical called endorphins, which will make you feel a relaxed and calming sensation.

Sleep is another lifestyle change that is important when learning to manage acute anxiety. It is always important to make sure you relax your mind throughout the day, but sometimes when you suffer from anxiety you will experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. A lack of sleep can make anxiety worse, so it is important that you get enough sleep to feel refreshed each morning. Some things you can try to improve your sleep are cutting out caffeine from your diet and meditating throughout the day. Meditation helps with sleep issues and managing anxiety because it helps calm the mind, making it easier to fall asleep.

Acute anxiety is a scary experience to go through, but it is possible to manage your symptoms and reduce how often you experience panic attacks. It sometimes can seem hopeless to feel better, but with therapy, lifestyle changes, and commitment, you can overcome acute anxiety.