Although a certain amount of anxiety is normal, even desirable, excessive anxiety can be quite debilitating. Excessive anxiety is often characterized by "panic attacks", or episodes of intense anxiety usually lasting between 3 and 10 minutes. Listed below are common symptoms associated with panic attacks.

  • Unusual chest or heart sensations
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Strange feeling that things aren't real
  • Fear of losing control, dying or going crazy
  • Chills or hot flushes

Panic attacks can be quite frightening for three reasons:

  1. The symptoms can be quite intense often mimicking serious health conditions
  2. The attacks often come on with no notice
  3. It often feels that these attacks are out of one's control.

It is quite common to become anxious about having the panic attacks. Here are some suggestions for dealing with intense anxiety.

  1. Eliminate (or significantly reduce) caffeine consumption as it can aggravate anxiety.
  2. Exercise on a regular basis - a wonderful way to work off anxiety.
  3. Recognize that panic attacks (although quite unpleasant) are not fatal. Think of them as temporary adrenaline surges that generally last only a few minutes.
  4. At the first sign of anxiety, start deep breathing. Exhale first. Inhale to the count of "3" and exhale to the count of "4" allowing your stomach to expand and contract freely.
  5. Think of your anxiety as your body's way of signaling you that something in your life needs to change. Ask yourself what is your anxiety trying to say to you?
    • If your anxiety could talk, what would it be saying to you? (besides slow down, and listen)
    • Have you experienced any losses recently? Sometimes "insignificant" losses may have a big effect.
    • Are you satisfied with your life in general? If not, what is not satisfactory?
    • Are there issues from your childhood (e.g., abuse, parental alcoholism) that need to be resolved?
    • Do you like yourself? How do you compare yourself to others?
  6. Listen to what you tell yourself. Challenge any belief that contains the following words or phrases.

    Should Always It's their fault Never
    All Nothing Perfect Awful

  7. Find supportive people (friends, family, clergy, counselor) to talk to about your anxiety.
  8. Consider taking herbal remedies such as Valerian or Kava Kava or anti-anxiety medications. Please consult with your physician before taking these remedies.


Counseling Services can be reached at (815) 836-5455 during hours of operation.

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