Acute anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder where patients develop episodes of sudden very intense fear and distress. It is also known as panic disorder and these episodes may be referred to as panic attacks. A patient's acute anxiety can be disabling if attacks occur frequently. There are treatments available to address the panic attacks and the underlying causes.
Women are more likely to develop this condition than men. In some cases, acute anxiety is linked with traumatic events, while in other instances, there is no clear cause. The severity of the condition often worsens over time without treatment because people with anxiety disorders can develop anxiety about their anxiety, setting off a spiral of panic attacks and other symptoms as the patient becomes concerned about having episodes.
The nature of a panic attack can vary from patient to patient. People develop a sensation of very intense fear and may experience physical symptoms like a racing heart, cold sweat, dizziness, nausea, and trembling. The patient may also feel depressed, unhappy, or worried, and the feelings associated with the panic attack can be overwhelming. Attacks can last for several minutes or many hours, and the patient may be withdrawn and distressed after an attack ends.
Patients with anxiety disorder can also have other mental health conditions such as agoraphobia or depression. The physical stress associated with anxiety and the flood of hormones and neurotransmitters that fills the body during attacks can also cause medical problems. Patients may develop high blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions as a result of the strain on the body caused by panic attacks. It can also be difficult for patients to complete daily tasks, as they may have multiple panic attacks during a day or be too worried about having attacks to focus.
Treatment for acute anxiety can include psychotherapy to explore possible causes of the condition and help patients work through those causes. Psychotherapy can also provide patients with coping tips and tricks, and some patients find it helpful to join a support group to network with patients who have similar conditions. Medications can also be beneficial, especially when patients are first starting treatment. These medications can reduce the intensity and frequency of panic attacks.
People with acute anxiety can also work with friends and family to identify and avoid triggers for anxiety attacks. Making people aware of the condition and asking them to help the patient set and maintain boundaries can be an integral part of managing this anxiety disorder.