manchesteranxietyhelp

CBT therapy specialising in anxiety disorders

Symptoms explained

Heart-beat1 disoriented choking jelly dizzy

 RAPID HEARTBEAT, PALPITATIONS, THUMPING HEART

BREATHLESSNESS, HYPERVENTILATION, SMOTHERED OR CHOKING FEELINGS

FEELINGS OF UNREALITY, FEELING LIKE YOU’RE DISCONNECTED OR DISORIENTED

SPINNING SENSATIONS, VISION PROBLEMS, FEELING FAINT, DIZZY, LIGHT HEADED

FEELINGS LIKE YOUR STUCK ON THE SPOT OR PARALYZED, JELLY LEGS

pins-and-needles

TINGLING SENSATIONS IN THE BODY

sweating

SWEATING

toilet

STOMACH RELATED PROBLEMS 

Stomach upset, heartburn, butterflies, indigestion, constipation, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.

trapped

THE NEED TO ESCAPE, FEELING TRAPPED, LOSING CONTROL

Headache

HEADACHES

5044199-3d-little-person-who-very-frightened-trembling-in-fear-Stock-Photo

SHAKES, TREMBLING, MUSCLE SPASMS, ACHES, STIFFNESS

swallowing

DRY THROAT, DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING

poor concentration

DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING OR CONFUSION

tired

FEELING TIRED, WEAKNESS OR FATIGUED

intense fear of dying

FEELINGS OF INTENSE FEAR OR THE FEAR OF DYING

hypochondria

HYPOCHONDRIA

panicky thoughts

PANICKY AND ANXIOUS THOUGHTS

Common Thought Patterns

‘I'm having a heart attack', ‘My heart can’t take much more of this’, etc.

 

What is actually happening?

Adrenaline produced by the fight or flight response causes the heart to beat faster and harder. This is important as without this we would not be able to escape or flee from danger. In doing this blood is pumped to various parts of the body required for taking action, such as the muscles.  It can also help to reduce blood loss in the event of an injury from an attack perhaps from a predator. I can assure you that this reaction will not damage your heart in any way as some people may think. There is a big difference between someone having a panic attack and someone having a heart attack. Panic attacks cause heart palpitations, skipped heartbeats and rapid heartbeats and muscular, often sharp, chest pains. An important thing to remember is that if you were to move around and burn energy the sensations and pains would reduce. A heart attack is the opposite, the symptoms would get worse the more you exercised. Moreover, during the fight or flight response, there are no abnormal electrocardiogram results, it is a rapid heartbeat and that’s it. If you're concerned then get it checked over by having an ECG (electrocardiogram) or you can have a 24hr heart monitor strapped to your body. If you have never had an ECG done then perhaps you should as it will help to put your mind at rest.

 

What to tell yourself

“The Fight or Flight response is perfectly normal and it’s triggered because I am stressed and tense at this particular moment. Although it may feel uncomfortable, it's only adrenaline and muscle tension, and my body can perfectly cope with these sensations. It’s completely normal.  I understand what is happening to me and if I loosen my body and let is sag and try to accept the feelings then I have faith my body will return to normal.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Try to loosen the tight grip on yourself and 'belly' breathe. By letting the body sag you stop producing adrenaline and so begin recovery. It can help massively if you're able to do some sort of physical activity to burn off the adrenaline and relax your body, a short walk is perfect! Try distracting yourself, perhaps some music or a crossword.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feel like I cannot get enough air’, 'I can't take in a deep breath' etc

 

What is actually happening?

When you start to panic and release adrenaline into the bloodstream, muscles all over your body naturally contract. This constriction presents a strange sensation across your chest which mimics suffocation. This is no more than muscle tension. This sensation has nothing to do with choking, suffocating or not getting enough air as some anxiety sufferers believe. It is a completely normal reaction to the fight or flight response. Have faith in your body as it’s not trying to starve you of any oxygen. It will always make sure you can breathe. The choking feelings again comes down to muscle tension in the throat (there are many muscles in this area) and it can also be due to the body not wanting to swallow food because it perceives there is a threat and so goes into survival mode. Eating would be a bad idea if you’re being chased by a tiger!

 

What to tell yourself

“My body has unneccessarily gone into fight or flight mode and has released adrenaline. This adrenaline has made my chest muscles tense and that's why I can’t seem to get my breath.  My body is only looking after me and I understand it will always give me enough oxygen.  If I belly breathe and slow my breathing down I know these feelings will go. If I feel choking sensations when I eat, I know why and that as soon as I relax it will go”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Take slow, deep belly (diaphragmatic) breath’s to relax your muscles. Make sure you haven’t eaten sugary foods and that your blood sugar is consistent. Exercise as always will help to use up adrenaline quickly and reduce the tension in your body.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feel strange, I must be going mad.’  ‘I don’t seem to feel I’m inside my body,

I feel that I’m on the outside.’

 

What is actually happening?

Your body is preparing to fight or fight so blood and oxygen is directed from the brain to other important parts of the body like the arms which may be used to get out of trouble. This can cause feelings of disorientation or unreality. You may also have a sense of your body feeling ‘heavy’ or ‘slow’. You are not going crazy and there is no need to fear you are dying.

 

What to tell yourself

“What I feel is simply a tired body filled with adrenaline. I should not give these symptoms my attention or energy, it’s simply the fight or flight response. These symptoms are very common and I feel better knowing other people feel them as well. These sensations are false alarms and nothing more. When I relax and take deep breaths I feel better.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Just improving your lifestyle and being more positive can make a great difference. Have plenty of sleep, relax and learn to breathe properly.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I think I’m going to faint or collapse, there must be something wrong with me.’

 

What is actually happening?

All the above symptoms are caused by two main things related to an anxious body.

1. The blood vessels narrow if you’re breathing rapidly. The arteries in your brain will slightly constrict meaning parts of your brain will receive less oxygen. However it’s highly unlikely you will faint. Remember fainting is caused by a decrease in blood pressure. Panic and anxiety does the opposite and increases your blood pressure. It’s nothing to be worried about.

2. If you haven’t been eating properly your blood sugar can drop rapidly causing adrenaline to be released and sometimes in extreme cases cause fainting.

 

What to tell yourself

If caused by rapid breathing, just thank your body for looking after you. It’s harmless and when you start getting better you know these feelings will subside. You know the science behind it and you know your blood pressure is fine. Say to yourself “I know by caring better for my mind and body my symptoms will improve.” If caused by low blood sugar remind yourself, “I know why I feel this way and I should not go longer than four hours without food. I should also stop eating sugary snacks. Although I feel weak at certain times, it’s just harmless sensations that cannot hurt me.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Improving your diet over time will make a difference psychologically and physically. By exercising more you can get fit and help your body be much stronger. Along with techniques of changing your perception and negative thoughts, you can change how you feel. By relaxing and controlling your breathing many symptoms can be reduced.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I can’t seem to move, I feel like I’m stuck on the spot.’ ‘My legs feel wobbly and I don’t think

they can support my body.’

 

What is actually happening?

The flight or fight response releases surges of blood to your legs so you can run. Your blood vessels dilate to cope with the extra blood supply. This can cause blood to accumulate in your legs causing poor circulation. These physical sensations can make your legs feel like jelly or numb. I can assure you these symptoms are harmless and you will not become paralyzed as you may believe.  Your legs will move and carry you just fine.

 

What to tell yourself

“My legs are strong and like steel springs. What I’m feeling is temporary and I know it has no scientific significance. I know I can move, so I’m going to put one leg in front of the other. In fact the more I move the better I feel as I’m burning energy and doing what my body expects“.

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Exercising will help significantly. This will reduce the symptoms by allowing the blood to circulate and to metabolize the adrenaline and other stress chemicals. By relaxing and letting your muscles become loose, and telling yourself you can do it, you can override the mistaken belief that you’re stuck on the spot. Having a 100% belief you can accomplish something will make all the difference.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I can feel my fingers and toes tingling. I am really scared.’

 

What is actually happening?

During a panic attack blood is diverted to areas of the body that’s required for vigorous action such as the biceps and thighs. Parts of the body like the toes and fingers are not important when it comes to protecting yourself, so blood is not pumped to these areas, hence the feelings of tingling. It also may well serve to limit blood loss through areas that may get damaged in the event of an attack from a predator. (It's highly likely you would use your hands to protect yourself). It’s basically a harmless fight or flight response.

 

What to tell yourself

“I know what these sensations are and I’m glad my body is taking care of me. I know these feelings cannot hurt me and when I learn to relax they will just disappear.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

There are several things you can do to help reduce the symptoms such as relax your breathing and moving parts of the body affected to help stimulate blood flow. You can change your perception of the feelings as they mean nothing.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I’m sweating continuously and feel so hot. Why do I feel this way?'

 

What is actually happening?

It’s simply your body trying to cool you down because its firing off chemicals as it expects you to physically exert yourself during the fight or flight response.

 

What to tell yourself

“Although it makes me a bit self-conscious I understand why my body is doing this. The symptoms are temporary and they are not that bad. I'm actually glad my body is trying to take care of me and soon it will calm down.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

The best way of eliminating the physical symptoms is by reducing the fight or flight response. Sweating is generally associated with heat or warmth, so try to cool yourself down. Things to try that will help you include:

•Remove any extra layers of clothing

•Turn off any artificial heat sources (radiators, fires, flat-screen TVs, computer monitors etc.)

•Turn on air conditioners

•Open windows

•Point a fan in your direction (direct air on your skin is great to make sweat evaporate before it stains your clothes)

•Use a cold, damp cloth to wipe sweat away (much better than a dry cloth because a cold cloth also cools your skin and prevents more sweating)

•Wear sports clothes that are designed to wipe away sweat before it has a chance to stain your clothes.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feel my stomach churning and it’s very tense. Lately I’ve been getting terrible indigestion and feeling sick. I hope I haven’t got anything wrong with me internally.’

 

What is actually happening?

Basically during the fight or fight response the body is not interested in eating so this area of the body becomes redundant and blood flow is diverted elsewhere. This causes us to lose our appetite and other symptoms (usually unpleasant!) especially if our bodies are constantly under stress. I’m sure you have felt nervousness before an interview or exam and it makes you want to go to the toilet and you certainly don’t feel like eating.

 

What to tell yourself

“I know I am perfectly healthy and if I learn to relax the symptoms will become less. My symptoms are magnified by a sensitised body. I know if I keep persevering and changing my negative thoughts my body will feel better.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Relaxation can play a huge role in reducing the symptoms. Also eating a balanced diet and looking after oneself can help. Worrying thoughts also play a major part in perpetuating the sensations.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I must get away and escape. I feel I’m going to lose it any second.’

 

What is actually happening?

During fight or flight the analytical side of our mind shuts down and we go into survival mode. Our mind perceives our immediate environment as potentially dangerous and our thoughts trigger an urge to escape. Also, it’s very difficult to concentrate as our mental focus narrows to find threats and exits from the situation. This desire to run can often make the sufferer believe he/she is going crazy. Ultimately the thoughts are just caused by a panicky mind and body.

 

What to tell yourself

Just knowing these sensations are all bluff means you can tell yourself to accept these feelings knowing they will subside after a while. Affirm to yourself  “I am healthy and safe". These feelings are not real and I’m comfortable in my surroundings. I know the fear is not real and just a false alarm.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Distraction can really help to divert your mind away from these feelings, but it has to be something you are genuinely interested in. Relaxation can reduce the tense sensations that build up along with challenging your thoughts (as they are not true) and replace them with more positive ones. Exercise can produce the feel the good chemicals which can help give yourself a natural boost before you enter the places where you may feel trapped.    

 

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feels like my head is in a vice and my eyes are going to pop out.’

 

What is actually happening?

The fight or flight responses causes muscle tension especially around the forehead, eyes, face, neck and shoulders. The build-up of tension causes inflammation and pressure from the muscles. Quite often these areas can stay tense for long periods even after the sufferers fear has passed. Pressure around the eyes tends not to be a very common symptom, but if you suffer from this it’s very uncomfortable and distressing. Remember, these symptoms have no scientific significance and they are harmless.

 

What to tell yourself

“I know by really making an effort to learn relaxation techniques my symptoms will lessen over time. The feelings have no medical significance and if I stick to a nutritious diet, it will help my headaches as well.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Relaxation techniques combined with deep breathing will help. Eating healthily will reduce the symptoms. Also having fun and not worrying too much will put you in a better frame of mind.

 

Common Thought Patterns

'I have the shakes and other people are going to see and know something is terribly wrong me.' 'I feel so ashamed I have this condition. My body just has a mind of its own.'

 

What is actually happening?

Adrenaline and other stress chemicals build up and can cause spasms and trembling. It’s perfectly normal and as you get better the symptoms will reduce. Without the physical exertion your body is expecting, all the energy produced has to be released somehow. The shakes and stiffness are just some of the sensations you can expect to feel.

 

What to tell yourself

“I know my body is very tense and stressed but if I apply the belly breathing and relaxation techniques I will feel better. I will make sure I incorporate some exercise weekly to help burn off adrenaline and other chemicals. By working on my thoughts it will reduce my mind getting anxious and triggering physical symptoms.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Relaxing and deep breathing can help. Tackling the issues that are causing you to panic will greatly benefit you stopping the fight or flight alarm. As part of your weekly routine undertake some vigorous exercise to metabolise all the energy being produced. This will also promote your wellbeing. Let your mind go blank and think happy thoughts during these moments when you feel shaky. Just relax and let your body go as floppy as possible. These symptoms have no power over you.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feel like I can’t swallow food. My throat is so dry.’

 

What is actually happening?

This is due to your body shutting down non-essential activities like eating during the fight of flight response. If you need to run and fight your way out of trouble, eating is not going to help you. So difficulty swallowing is simply your body trying to protect you. Many people who experience this have social anxiety. At the meal table they feel panicky around other people and they find they have difficulty swallowing and a dry mouth. This is perfectly normal under the circumstances. Everyone experiences this from time to time, for example before an interview being too nervous to eat and your mouth going dry.

 

What to tell yourself

“It’s best not to take any notice of these sensations, they mean nothing. I know I can swallow and I’m not going to choke. This feeling will get better once I learn to overcome my anxieties and relax.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Often having a bottle of water with you and taking small sips can help a dry mouth and get you feeling like you can swallow. Ultimately by stopping the flight or fight response you can reduce the feeling until it eventually disappears. Relaxing and deep breathing can help. Remembering that enjoying a nice meal is fun and something you can enjoy. Distracting yourself with good conversation can take away the thoughts you cannot swallow. Good energetic exercise will also help to lessen the symptoms as you will feel better afterwards.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I feel like I’m going crazy, I can’t seem to concentrate.’  

 

What is actually happening?

It’s basically down to the fear factor in your brain. The hypothalamus has been aroused and this triggers anxiety. The fight or flight ‘kicks in’, and you will just want to escape. The analytical part of the brain (cortex) will shut down. Even doing simple maths calculations can become difficult. Physically blood supplies decrease in the brain and are diverted to other parts of the body where they may be required if you need to escape. These sensations are not anything to be concerned about and you are not going to lose your mind or do something stupid. It’s just a stressed, fearful mind. You will find when you start to relax your hazy mind will clear.

 

What to tell yourself

“My mind is under stress at the moment. As I learn to relax and feel more comfortable knowing these feelings are harmless, I will feel better. I realize my body is just trying to protect me. It’s a false alarm so there is no need to worry.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Try to use relaxation music and let your body sag. Your foggy mind will eventually clear promoting stronger feelings of confidence.

 

Common Thought Patterns

‘I have been panicking all day and I feel tired and irritable. I can barely function. Why is this happening to me and no one else.’

 

What is actually happening?

Constantly having panic attacks is very tiring and leads the body to a state of hyper-alertness. Feeling stressed all the time produces lots of chemicals which drains the bodies systems of their strength and energy. It causes all sorts of funny sensations including feeling drained and irritable.

 

What to tell yourself

“It’s perfectly normal to feel this way as its only natural to feel tired as my body burns a lot of energy when I feel anxious. I know this is a temporary state and as I learn to go forward with my new found knowledge I will start to become healthier. “

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

Exercise (in moderation) actually gives you more energy rather than taking it away. So make sure you do some fitness activities.  Follow a good diet as this will make you feel better and have a more positive attitude. The more you get interested in life the more energy you will have. Interest is key!

Common Thought Patterns

‘Every part of my body just feels something is wrong. I believe I’m going to die or something bad will happen to me.’

 

What is actually happening?

Your mind is basically bluffing that something is wrong. In order to get you to escape from the situation your mind perceives something is dangerous. This is a very common symptom of anxiety/panic attacks and is caused as with many other symptoms by your mind triggering the fight or flight response. Quite often there is no threat, it’s just a tired mind firing off a false alarm causing distress and false feelings of fear.

 

What to tell yourself

“I am healthy and these feelings are just a tired mind activating false beliefs. I am a strong minded and calm individual. I will relax and distract myself with positive thoughts that reflect the reality of the situation.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

It is really important that you don’t believe these thoughts and sensations, and counteract them with positive statements. It’s just your body trying to trick you into believing something is wrong when you're perfectly healthy.

Common Thought Patterns

‘I’m getting all these nasty symptoms. I must have something really wrong with me like a heart defect, tumour, mental breakdown, etc.’

 

What is actually happening?

It’s one of the road blocks to recovery that the sufferer is convinced they have something seriously wrong with them, and may go to several doctors trying to find a diagnosis that fits in with their beliefs. Once they are diagnosed with anxiety they simply don’t believe it and continue searching for other reasons why they feel this way. It’s a form of denial and continues the cycle of fear adrenaline fear and exacerbates the condition. Also self-diagnosis using the internet often doesn’t help the situation.

 

What to tell yourself

“I am not ill and really all I have is a bad habit. My body has a low tolerance to stress therefore I must look after myself and stop trying to find a disease that I don’t have. I must think positively and promote my well-being.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

You must believe you are not ill and what you are experiencing is just a tired mind and body. Make your thoughts positive, this will encourage the feel good chemicals in your body. Your thoughts can make you happy as well as make you ill!

 

Common Thought Patterns

‘I’m such a nervous wreck. I need to see my doctor straight away as I think I’m having a mental breakdown.’

 

What is actually happening?

The thoughts are characterized by unfounded and illogical thought processes that are negative. The thoughts cover a variety of areas and each one needs to be tackled independently, although working through one thought process can often benefit other anxious thoughts. During the flight or fight response our minds change. We scan our environment for a perceived threat and our mental focus narrows. Our minds become obsessive about things leading to a ‘one track mind’. Often the sufferer will be transfixed on a physical symptom in their body or an anxious thought. This thought process is completely normal under the circumstances, however it’s very unproductive.

 

What to tell yourself

“I know this thought is unrealistic and my physical symptoms mean nothing. My racing thoughts are just a tired mind. I feel relaxed and calm. I know every day I feel stronger and I am correcting my thoughts to be more realistic.”

 

How to Reduce your Symptoms

By challenging and demystifying your thoughts it can have an amazing effect on the symptoms you feel. In doing this a true cure can be found as our thoughts give the physical sensations their energy. If you can learn to identify and not to react to negative thoughts you can calm your body down. Over time you can start to enjoy life again.  

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