How Long do Anxiety Attacks Last?


How Long do Anxiety Attacks Last?

May 5, 2020

According to some polls, 80% of Americans suffer from stress every day, with the majority blaming it on work. Other research says up to one million employees miss work each day because of stress (and this was before the coronavirus!). Most workers – 54% — say the stress affects and spills over to their home life. The repercussions are worrisome. Stress leads to anxiety, resulting in physical and mental problems like weight gain, trouble sleeping, sensations of impending doom, chest pain, and issues with personal relationships, among others.  At times, anxiety attacks can also happen, leading to even worse problems. Read further for information on managing these issues.

What is the difference between Anxiety and Panic?

Mental health professionals make distinctions between the emotions of anxiety and panic. A panic attack can be the direct result of intense anxiety bordering on the extreme. Anxiety is a normal part of life, but an attack might be something else.

Ricks Warren, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, describes anxiety and panic as “different emotional conditions.”

“Anxiety is basically what we experience when we are worrying about some future event — anticipating a bad outcome that might happen. It’s often involved with muscle tension and a general feeling of uneasiness. And it usually comes on gradually.”

Dr. Warren adds, “A panic attack is different. It’s associated with a very abrupt onset of intense fear because of a sense of threat happening right now, the fight-or-flight response that we’re hardwired to have in order to deal with immediate danger. It sets off that alarm.”

What are the Signs of an Anxiety Attack?

People often know when they’re getting sick. They may know the flu bug is bearing down on them because of fatigue, a cough, or a fever. The next thing they know, they’re bedridden with body aches, a headache, and the chills.

An anxiety attack may be similar, precipitated by symptoms like fatigue, restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, worry spells, or trouble sleeping. These things may occur slowly, but a full-on anxiety attack can be characterized by:

  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate.
  • Sensations of choking, smothering, or shortness of breath.
  • Feelings of sudden doom.
  • Feeling like you’re out of control.
  • Sweating
  • Body parts that are trembling or shaking.
  • Chest pains.
  • Hyperventilation, where the balance between oxygen you take in and carbon dioxide you exhale is off-kilter.
  • Intense fear.
  • Dizziness, or the sensation the room is spinning.
  • Feeling as if the walls are closing on you.

How Long Will an Anxiety Attack Last?

The length of an anxiety attack can differ, based on the situation, mental and physical wellbeing, and previous history. There is no definitive time for how long an attack will last, but research indicates some attacks can last up to 20 minutes. When an attack happens, record how long it lasts and note the circumstances under which it occurred. This is helpful to decide, either on your own or consulting with a mental health professional, what kind of treatment is advisable. Different factors will help inform this decision, and treatment advice may include individual therapy sessions, medication, or diet and lifestyle changes.

How to Prevent an Anxiety Attack

Mental health and medical professionals will tell you the same thing. There is no one size fits all solution to an anxiety attack. What works for your coworker may not work for you. But here are prevention tips worth remembering.

  • Seek treatment. Even after a panic attack subsides, schedule an appointment for a wellness checkup or talk with a mental health professional.
  • Follow any treatment plan as prescribed. If a mental health or other doctor prescribes a certain medication, take it as directed.
  • If you’re put on a diet or exercise regimen, the same advice applies.

Risk Factors

Anxiety attacks can happen to anyone, from childhood through adulthood. They’re the great equalizer, ignorant of creed, gender, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. What are some of the risk factors?

  • Family history. Have your parents or another blood relative experienced anxiety attacks?
  • Major stress events in your family, such as serious illness or even death.
  • An unexpected traumatic event like a violent accident or sexual assault.
  • Major change of life events, like divorce, the birth of a child, or loss of income.
  • Smoking or consuming too much caffeine.
  • Victimized by childhood physical or sexual abuse.
  • Overall physical and mental health.

COVID and anxiety

The pandemic we are currently experiencing touches on many of these risk factors including stress, isolation, fear of the unknown, and changes in financial and other life situations.  It’s no wonder that we are experiencing a mental health crisis over-laying the coronavirus crisis effecting our world today.

Getting Help

Putting off getting help could be a mistake.  If you are reading this article, chances are high that you or a loved one is experiencing troublesome anxiety.  Don’t delay treatment, there are effective medical and life-style changes that are proven to help. Suffering from an anxiety attack is nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. Your therapist or medical doctor may prescribe different treatment options, including a new treatment option called ketamine infusion therapy, which has been found to be successful in helping many patients.

Ketamine for Anxiety Treatment

Ketamine has been found to provide profound and rapid relief of depression and anxiety in most patients. Used for decades across the globe as an anesthetic, ketamine has recently been discovered by institutions like Harvard, Yale, and the NIH who are calling ketamine an important and innovative new tool for depression and anxiety treatment. Research shows that up to 75% of patients can find relief from their symptoms of depression and anxiety after a series of IV ketamine infusions. 

At Northwest Ketamine Clinics, we are experienced in treating patients with anxiety, depression, and other mood difficulties.  Ketamine is a powerful tool and, as part of a comprehensive plan to manage and reduce anxiety, can return a sense of calm and control during these difficult times.