What Causes Anxiety Attacks?

You’re sitting calmly watching TV on a Saturday afternoon. Suddenly, things feel different. Something’s wrong, you think. You can’t pinpoint it but a feeling of nearby danger overwhelms you. You feel your temperature rise from warm to hot. Your heart beats faster. 90 beats per minute. 110 beats per minute. 130 beats per minute. You’re in full panic mode.

Have you ever had this experience? What you’re experiencing might be an anxiety attack.

What is an Anxiety Attack?

This can easily be defined as one of the worst experiences of some people’s lives. When an anxiety attack hits, the body is activating its fight or flight response to a perceived threat. Back when humans were routinely chased by predators and had to remain alert at all times, this sort of response was valuable. If a predator were nearby, the fight or flight response gives a person the short burst of energy needed to handle the situation.

Nowadays, the threats that we face can’t always be solved with the fight or flight response, but our bodies don’t understand that. Suppose you’re going through a stressful divorce and are constantly feeling anxious about it. Suddenly, your fight or flight response kicks in and you have a panic attack. Although the anxiety attack just makes things worse, this is your body’s way to responding to extremely high levels of stress.

What Causes an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks are brought on as a specific reaction to a stressor. One that stressor is removed from our lives, the anxiety attacks stop. Of course, it might not be possible to remove the stressor from our lives, so anxiety attacks are primarily caused by two different scenarios:

1. High Level Anxiety

If a stressor in your life has caused to experience anxiety, your reaction might be to handle the situation with more fear. For example, if you lost your job, you may reaction to this stressful situation by ruminating on what might happen to you. This causes more stress when you think of the future, causing more anxiety, thus perpetuating the cycle. The end result is a panic attack.

2. Constant High Anxiety

The other possible way is to feel anxiety on a constant basis. For example, your boss is constantly threatening to fire you if you don’t do a good job, putting you in a constant state of fear. Over time, this fear builds up and manifests itself as an anxiety attack. It can come without warning, and appear to be completely unrelated to the situation it’s tied to.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks?

You may experience all or some of these symptoms when you are having an anxiety attack. If you do find you are exhibiting these symptoms, it’s best to visit a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

  • Intense, overwhelming fear or feeling you are in life-threatening danger
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Burning sensation on your skin
  • Heart palpitations (unpleasant awareness of heartbeat, skipped beats)
  • Hot flashes/cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Feelings of going crazy/losing your mind
  • Sensation that you might pass out
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Intense urge to leave where you are

Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. An anxiety attack for you may involve completely different symptoms than the next person. Anxiety attacks can also mimic other, more serious health problems. This is why it’s important for you to see a medical professional when you have an anxiety attack and get a proper diagnosis.

These symptoms can vary in length, lasting from a few moments to hours, but anxiety attacks are not life-threatening. The feeling you are experiencing can indeed feel as though something is seriously wrong or that you might die, the feelings will pass.

What Can I Do When I’m Having an Anxiety Attack?

If you’ve never had one before, it’s imperative you get medical attention. Anxiety attacks have similar symptoms to other, more serious health problems. If you’re certain it’s an anxiety attack, try the following:

  • Breathe deeply. Focus on breathing into your stomach with slow, purposeful breaths. Inhale to the count of 5, hold your breathe, and exhale to the count of 5.
  • Tell yourself good things. Pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself, and change it. Repeat phrases like ‘this feeling will pass’, ‘I will be okay’, ‘I feel calm and relaxed’. Even If you may not feel those things right away, with practice it will get easier to believe.
  • Go for a relaxing walk, but don’t exert yourself.
  • Be good to yourself. Proper diet, exercise and leisure life can go a long way to combatting anxiety attacks.

Anxiety attacks can feel horrible, and their presence can greatly affect your life if you let them. But if you exert small amounts of control, make an effort to take care of yourself and engage in the necessary therapy, you will overcome your anxiety attacks and realize your potential.

How does alcohol affect the body?

The alcohol molecule is small, and this makes a big difference. It means that it can easily travel through the cells in nearly every organ in your body. The result is that when you drink, especially if you drink habitually, your entire body is affected. Alcohol makes its way to your heart, your liver, your sex organs and nearly everywhere else – and it can prevent your body from doing what it’s built to do.

Here are 8 ways drinking affects your body.

1. Brain

The Short Term

You’re out with your friends drinking and you slam back a few just to start off the night. Maybe you’re a quiet, shy, insecure person on any given day, but after the first few those worrisome personality traits start to fall away.

You forget about being quiet – you have things to say!

You don’t feel shy – you made three new friends!

And you certainly aren’t insecure when you’re out on the dance floor.

Of course, if two drinks make you abandon your inhibitions this well, then seven can only make it better – right?! Not quite.

On the surface, at the beginning of the night, this is what drinking can look like. There are some positive effects of alcohol (I mean, that’s why you started drinking in the first place right?), but compared to the list of negative effects both long-term and short-term – it’s like a mouse going up against an elephant.

Difficulty walking, blurry vision, slow reaction time, impaired memory, slurred speech and lowered inhibitions. This is how alcohol affects your brain. Those lowered inhibitions that helped you get on the dance floor, they have a darker side too. They were the inhibitions that helped you make good decisions to obey the law, keep yourself safe, put savings away and even drive like the responsible person you are. Now that those inhibitions are lowered, your risk for engaging in this type of behaviour is much higher. Especially after repeated use.

Memory Impairment

If you drank more than your body could handle that night, there’s a good chance you might not be able to remember what happened the next day. Alcohol can shut down your memory and cause a blackout. In a study conducted by the Duke University Medical Centre, a significant number of undergraduate students that experienced blackouts had reported learning they engaged in risky events like driving, unprotected sex and vandalism.

The Long Term

If the night out at a bar description is your Monday – Friday experience, then you will start to feel some of the long term effects of alcohol on the brain and body – including addiction.

2. Skin

Alcohol can trigger rosacea. That’s why can you see a number of heavy drinkers have a redness to their skin. Their blood vessels are enlarging and producing more blood flow and leaving visible veins – and it can become permanent.

3. Liver

Your liver’s job is detoxify and metabolize. If you drink a small amount, your liver has no problem coping. If you drink a large amount on a constant basis, your liver starts to suffer. Fat cells build up in your liver, the tissue becomes scarred and eventually, the end result is usually liver cancer. Liver cancer survival rate for 5 years is around 11%.

4. Reproductive System

In men, drinking can cause a reduction in testosterone levels, which also means it can shrink the testicles. Over long periods of time, habitual drinking can result in infertility and impotence. Secondary sexual characteristics can be affected, such as a reduction in chest and facial hair, and fat accumulating around the abdomen rather than the hips.

Women have received the worse end of the deal when it comes to the effects on the reproductive system. Chronic drinking can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, failure to ovulate, spontaneous abortions, early menopause and a higher risk of breast cancer.

Both men and women have a higher risk of contracting an STD because of lowered inhibitions from alcohol.

5. Stomach

Your body does not like excessive amounts of alcohol. Your brain may tell you that you enjoy the feelings that you get (for the first little while), but alcohol is an irritant to your organs. Vomiting is your body’s way of letting you know. Drinking can lead to gastritis, inflammation of the stomach and ulcers. Your risk of cancer is increased. Particularly mouth, tongue, lip, throat and stomach cancer.

If you do vomit while drunk and aspirate it into your lungs, your body might not be aware enough to cough it up. This can lead to death.

6. Pancreas

If you are a heavy drinker, there are two types of pancreatitis you can develop. One is acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis’ cause isn’t quite known, but if you get acute pancreatitis on a constant basis, this becomes chronic pancreatitis. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to damage to the heart, lungs and/or kidneys and lead to visits to the ICU and, in some cases, death.

7. Heart

There are studies that indicate that too much alcohol can take a toll on the heart. Drinking raises blood pressure, increases the levels of certain fats in the blood and increases caloric intake. All of this put together means that your heart has to work hard to keep itself going. If it can’t, then you run into problems.

8. Risk of Alcoholism

Without a doubt, drinking too much alcohol can lead to alcoholism. Some people may drink for long periods of time, months on end and find that even although they thought they would be able to quit when the time came – they were unable. This is when the issue of addiction becomes a problem.

Help Your Body Perform It’s Best

Your body’s task is to function as best as it can for as long as it can. Our habits and behaviors, for better or for worse, have an incredible affect on how it does that job. In order to give your body the best chance at a long, healthy, meaningful life, consider how much alcohol you’re drinking and how it might be affecting your body.

The best part of drinking less? You’ll get to be truly present for all those life experiences.

Is Addiction a Disease?

The question is can we classify addiction as a disease or is it a harmfully repetitious choice that individuals make? Does that mean addicts and alcoholics are weak-willed? How does the distinction from choice and disease affect how a person receives treatment or recovers? Psychology and psychiatry haven’t any easy answers, and professionals are having a tough time when it comes to knowing the exact the answer.

What is a Disease?

By the strict definition that’s provided by Google, addiction does not constitute a disease – but many professionals do consider it a disease. Why? There’s a rich history associated with this shift in thought.

Where Did the ‘Disease’ Idea Come From?

Mental health hasn’t always been kind to individuals. Centuries ago, those suffering from mental disorders were regarded much differently than they are today. Specifically, addicts were seen to have extreme moral failings and made the irresponsible choice to drink solely of their own volition. The problem with a social stigma like this is that if someone spends their whole life being told they are immoral and irresponsible, they will invariably believe it. It’s damaging to a person’s chances of recovering. In this climate of harmful thought, Benjamin rush wrote An Inquiry into the Effects of Ardent Spirits Upon the Human Body and Mind, which was the first-time addiction was regarded as a ‘disease’ and the only partially the sole responsibility of the addict.

Thus, begun the shift from the addict being looked upon as a criminal, or a sinner, or a monster to someone who was suffering from a sickness.

So, Is it Really a Choice or Disease?

Since the shift from moral failing to disease, there have come two schools of thought that surround this issue.

Position #1: It’s a Choice

Looking from the outside in, when you see a friend, family member or even a stranger on the street pick up a drink or a drug, it appears to be a choice. At some point, it very likely was. At the beginning of the cycle of addiction, people make the conscious choice to take drugs or have a drink, and when people stop they are making the conscious choice to stop. There are studies to support the idea that people are guided by their choices when they engage in addictive behaviours:

“The relevant research shows most of those who meet the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for addiction quit using illegal drugs by about age 30, that they usually quit without professional help.”

This would lead us to believe that we choose to use, and we choose stop using when the right factors come into play. Those who believe in the disease model of addiction, think in slightly different terms.

Position #2: It’s a Disease

When a person takes drugs habitually, there are significant changes that occur in the brain – enough to disrupt the way a person thinks. In simplistic terms, when a person uses a drug, it floods the brain with reward chemicals. The brain, sometimes desperately, wants to do things that provide it with more of those reward chemicals, and this creates the craving for more of the drug. When the brain’s chemical function changes, those who subscribe to the disease model of addiction believe that choice no longer defines a person’s actions – it’s now compulsion. Many of us have been in a situation when we are inebriated that we do and say things we wouldn’t normally do, and have experienced the feeling that apparent loss of choice can give us. When an addict is stuck in the throes, getting out isn’t easy.

With the disease model of addiction, the chance for intervening in the compulsion for someone who is a genuine addict typically only comes through great pain or the loss of ability to do the drug. This could be the feeling of pain that one has caused their family or losing money to the point of not being able to afford to use anymore.

The repercussions of modelling therapy around one position or the other changes the approach that professionals take to assist their patients.

What is the Most Helpful Terminology?

The terminology that we use for addiction means more than how we refer to it in literature or in therapy. Terminology can help define public opinion, allocate government resources and methods of treatment offered to addicts. So, when we choose one or the other, we are sending ripples through the community and those associated with it. But we can all agree on one thing.

The definition we use, the associated therapy approaches and professionals are there to help.

The ultimate goal is to fix the problem. Addicts and alcoholics that want to stop desire the best chance for a meaningful life free from using, so our approach is to help and heal. Some of those in the ‘addiction is a choice’ camp believe that calling it a disease removes the power of change from the individual, relegating themselves to lifetime of addictive behaviour. The other end of the spectrum is that calling it a choice paints it as a weakness, a moral failing and may not provide the best self-image for recovery.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each school of thought, and there aren’t any straightforward answers. For the time being, it’s imperative to keep an open mind, learn as much as you can about what differentiates the two, how it affects you and which one helps you the most. After all, the science behind the thought and method is there to support you and your choice for a better life.

Do I Have a Drinking /Drug Problem?


10 Questions to Ask

No one wants to admit it. It’s hard to do. But if you’re looking at this list, you’re questioning whether or not you have a drinking/drug problem. Millions of individuals find themselves faced with this question every year, so you’re not alone. Go through these questions, answer them honestly and they’ll help you find the answer to your question.

Here are 8 ways drinking affects your body.

1. Do you drink/use drugs to handle certain situations?

Do you ever feel the need to drink/use drugs before going into social situations? Do you drink/use drugs before speaking in public? Maybe you feel you need to have a few before going on a date.

2. Is drinking/drug use a reward for successes AND a coping mechanism for failures?

When you get a promotion at work, after landing a hard client or when you achieve any notable accomplishment in your life do you feel the need to drink/use drugs? Conversely, when you lose a potential promotion, failing to acquire that client or failing in something you see as important do you feel the need to drink/use drugs?

3. Does drinking/drug use have a negative impact on your life?

Are you missing days at work? Are you grades failing? Do you friends and family increasingly become more distant as your drinking/drug use increases? Are you running out of money because of your drinking/drug use?

4. Do people annoy you by criticizing your drinking/drug use?

When someone brings up how much you drink/use drugs, or expresses concern, do you become irritated, defensive or even angry?

5. Have you ever felt guilty about your drug use/drinking?

After drinking or drug use, do you ever feel guilty about using or how much you use? Do you ever feel guilty about the things you said or did while drunk or high?

6. Do you ever have a drink or drug in the morning?

Is there ever a time when you feel like you need a drink or a drug shortly after waking up to face the day?

7. Do you avoid honesty about your drinking/drug use?

Do you need to sneak out for a drink/drug? Do you hide alcohol/drugs around your house or from others?

8. Can you stop drinking/using drugs when you intend to?

If you have one or two drinks/drugs, can you stop yourself? Do you get more drunk/high than you originally intended to? Have you ever tried to cut down or stop your drinking/drug use and not been able to?

9. Do you ever drink/use drugs alone?

Do you continue to drink/use drugs long after your friends have gone home? Do you prefer to drink/use drugs by yourself rather than with people?

10. Do you get in trouble when you drink/use drugs?

Do you get into verbal or physical arguments? Do you have legal troubles because of drinking/drug use?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you might be drinking/using drugs too much. It could be time to take some positive action against your habits. You’ll be glad you did.

Take Action – Contact us today – the start to feeling better!