My Chest Hurts: Understanding Panic & Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), are “the most common mental illness in the U.S.,” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Anxiety can range from a vague, uncomfortable feeling, such as dread or fear of something you can’t explain or pinpoint to a full-blown panic attack, complete with sweating, trembling, chest pain, and the feeling that you’re dying.
A certain amount of anxiety is actually normal and good for you because it can help you avoid dangerous situations or perform better under pressure. Your central nervous system is responsible for your fight or flight response. Anxiety disorders occur when this response is triggered when there is no real danger.
Though you may make you feel like you’re having a heart attack or dying, these feelings are harmless.
Why Do I Feel Like I’m Dying?
When you’re having a panic attack, your body is flooded with adrenaline that can cause:
- Chest pain and heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness and tingling around the mouth or in the hands and feet
- Muscle spasms
All of these symptoms feel life threatening, which makes the situation even scarier. This fear prompts more adrenaline, which escalates the problem.
The best way to stop this vicious cycle is to learn how to prevent anxiety triggers.
One common anxiety trigger is stress. Feeling guilty, fatigued, or even overworked can turn on your flight or fight reflex. Other triggers include emotions or frightening fantasies.
Pay attention to your feelings. Once you determine what arouses your anxiety, you can learn coping skills to help you get through them.
Worry and Anxiety
Often, people who suffer from anxiety are worriers. This worry can range from dwelling on irrational fears to obsessing over the opinions of others.
Many people avoid their anxiety triggers, but this is not always wise or feasible. Plus, avoidance will make your world smaller and smaller as you refrain from doing anything that makes you nervous. You must learn to face your fears and power through them. Learning coping skills, such as breathing techniques, can lessen the severity of a panic attack and may even prevent one. For example, if going to the grocery store triggers your anxiety, face your fear and use breathing techniques to get you through the crowded aisles and long lines. Once you learn to control your panic, you won’t feel afraid anymore, and the situation or place will no longer cause anxiety.
Work on Your Self-Worth
Another reason people feel anxious is low self-esteem and negative self-talk. If you choose to see yourself as you think others see you, or if you allow others to judge you, merely being around other people will begin to make you anxious.
You must learn to form a positive opinion of yourself and maintain it. If someone does not like you, that does not make you worthless, and you shouldn’t allow this to affect how you see yourself. Instead of wondering why this person does not like you or trying to become someone this person likes, replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, such as of all your great qualities.
You do not have to be liked by everyone, and you do not have to be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes, knowing that they are part of life. Making a mistake does not make you a loser or a lesser person.
It takes time to make positive changes, but working on them every day will enable you to build your self-worth and prevent panic attacks.