Everyone feels nervous or worried at times. Anxiety is a useful feeling in some situations because it encourages people to take action. But anxiety disorders are characterized by chronic anxiety that persists regardless of external stressors. They are a group of conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and specific phobias.
Anxiety disorders are serious conditions that affect about 264 million people per year.1 Research shows that women are particularly at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Women are almost twice as likely as men to receive an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Compared to 14.3% of men, 23.4% of women experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year.
Anxiety attacks, also called panic attacks, are a primary symptom of anxiety disorders. These sudden and severe episodes of intense anxiety are far more debilitating than typical nervousness or worry of day-to-day life. So what are some symptoms of anxiety attacks in women, and how do you know when it’s time to ask for help?
What Are Anxiety Attacks?
Anxiety attacks are a terrifying part of the reality of anxiety disorders; they are sudden and severe episodes of fear coupled with physical reactions. Anxiety attacks come on out of nowhere and often with no real external threat of danger. People feel a loss of control over themselves during an anxiety attack and have a difficult time talking themselves through the experience.
Sometimes people without an anxiety disorder may experience an anxiety attack. They are usually caused by periods of extreme stress and go away when the stress dissipates. Other times people experience recurring panic attacks with few to no external stressors. These individuals are likely dealing with an anxiety disorder or panic disorder.
How Do Women Show Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks?
Again, women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders at a notably higher rate. It’s likely that at least one or two of the women you know experience an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, anxiety attacks come on suddenly with very little warning, which makes them so frightening.
Knowing the symptoms of anxiety attacks in women can help you identify the possibility of an oncoming attack so you can intervene as soon as possible.2 Keep an eye out for some of the following signs:
- Increased pounding heart rate
- Hot flashes
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the throat
- Chest pain
- Sudden and overwhelming sense of impending danger or doom
- Feeling detached from reality
- Sense of complete loss of control
- Fear of imminent death
Most episodes last between 5 and 20 minutes, although more extreme symptoms may have some residual effects in the following hours. Although they’re frightening to experience, anxiety attacks will not cause physical harm. If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, ensure they have the proper help and sit with them until the anxiety attack is over.
When is It Time to Ask for Help?
A person’s first anxiety attack may be a scary experience. If you or a loved one experienced a panic attack for the first time, or you’ve dealt with anxiety for some time but haven’t received treatment, it may be time to ask for help. There is no shame in seeking treatment for an anxiety disorder; mental health treatment is one of the best ways to learn to manage your condition.
Pasadena Villa is a psychiatric treatment network that helps women and men with anxiety disorders. We understand the difficulties that come with trying to manage symptoms while handling daily responsibilities. We work with many people every year who fear asking for help but find hope and healing through our high-quality, individualized approaches.
If you’d like to learn more about mental health treatment at Pasadena Villa, please reach out to us at 877-845-5235. One of our admissions specialists will answer your questions and help you find the program that best fits your needs!
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2022). Women and Anxiety.
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.