You are having trouble breathing, you’re sweating, and your heart feels as if it could pound right out of your chest. You know those are all symptoms of a panic attack, but you find yourself wondering if you can actually die from anxiety and stress. Can anxiety kill you?
If you’ve ever suffered from an anxiety attack, you know how scary they can feel at the time. Even long after the attack is over, you may fear having another one. If this condition has left you scared, stressed, and worried, it’s normal to worry that you can die from a panic attack.
Let’s take a look at what happens to your body during a panic attack and why you might think you won’t survive a severe one.
Why Do I Feel as if I’m About to Die From Anxiety?
The key to understanding why it feels like you could die from anxiety is first understanding what the condition is. What does anxiety mean? It’s a condition starts in your head -- it’s basically like worry, but way more amplified. What causes anxiety? It could be any kind of real or even imaginary stress in your life -- work, relationship, health concerns, finances, and more.
Although the condition comes from your mind, it doesn’t stay there. The symptoms manifest throughout your whole body. Your heart rate climbs, your muscles tense up, you sweat, and even begin to shake. These attacks can mimic cardiac events, which is one of the reasons you may feel like you’re dying.
Knowing what are the symptoms of anxiety can help calm you down a bit. It can reassure you that you’re not having a heart attack -- that you’re just experiencing the normal symptoms of a panic attack.
One of the typical symptoms of these attacks is even having a sense of impending doom. You can feel faint, certain you’re going to blackout and possibly never wake up. That overriding and overwhelming panic can lead you to feel as if you won’t survive your latest episode.
If you don’t have these kinds of attacks but know someone who does, one of the things to remember if you love a person with anxiety is that they aren’t being melodramatic about their episode. To them, it can really feel like they are going to pass away from their attack.
But can you die from a panic attack? No, even though you may feel as if you will because of the attack’s physical toll on your body. But those symptoms will go away as soon as your panic attack does. Knowing that you can’t actually die from it can help you fight the panic you’re feeling and get over your attack sooner than you otherwise might.
How to Cope with Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
When you’re dealing with these attacks, your primary concern is finding how to reduce anxiety levels so you don’t have to keep fighting these episodes. Your mind is in total control of your body when these attacks hit. The key to getting through or preventing these episodes in the first place is working on your mind and finding coping mechanisms for when anxiety strikes.
The first step is prevention. You should avoid habits that make anxiety worse. It can help to know which types of anxiety there are and which you may have. If certain things cause episodes, you should stay away from them. Triggers can include people, places, situations, and even objects. Those who have social anxiety, for instance, may want to avoid parties or gatherings that make them uncomfortable.
You should have a mental list of coping strategies in place that you can try if avoidance doesn’t work and you end up in the middle of a full-blown panic attack.
If you’re in the midst of an episode, the first thing to do is take deep breaths. This will calm you down and help you manage some of the symptoms you’re experiencing, like rapid breathing and a faster heart rate. Try to get some fresh, cool air if possible, which will take the edge off of the sweating.
Reminding yourself that the attack won’t kill you can help tremendously because your fears about that can make the episode even worse.
Having attacks can be embarrassing. You can feel as if there is something wrong with you or that you’re being weak. So for many people, the natural tendency is to hide the panic attacks, to try to pretend to the outside world that they aren’t happening.
But that can hurt rather than help you. By confiding in a few people who are close to you, you’ll always have someone who knows the reasons why you may not be acting like yourself at times. Plus, you will have someone you can lean on if you need support.
Try to find any methods of self-soothing that you can. While you can seek professional help, it will be an ongoing expense and will require a time commitment. It might be preferable for some people to find ways to self-treat their issues.
One idea that has brought many people relief from their attacks is the use of an anxiety blanket. These blankets are heavier than traditional blankets and bring feelings of comfort and calmness to their users. If you want to try this option, look for a blanket that weighs around 10 percent of your body weight.
Where Can I Find Help?
Self-treatment for anxiety can be extremely effective, but for some people, it may not be enough. If you’re still struggling with managing your anxiety issues, you can consult medical professionals who will be able to help.
You can start with your regular doctor and let them know what you’ve been going through. They may recommend medication or sessions with therapists to help you address the issue. That may seem like an expensive option, particularly if finances is one of the reasons for your anxiety. But if you have health insurance, some of the costs may be covered.
You may also find relief from free support groups. You may be able to find one at your local hospital or by looking online. Sometimes it can be empowering to know you aren’t the only one struggling with this condition.
Find the Right Solution for You
Some people may want to seek medical help right away for severe anxiety, while others prefer to attempt to handle it on their own first. There is no right or wrong answer -- for some people self-treatment is enough. Others need more help than that. Do whatever feels best for you.
What works for a friend of yours may not work for you. So don’t stop looking for a solution if a couple of your self-treatment options don’t pan out.
If you keep giving your condition the attention and respect it deserves, you’ll find ways to help yourself.