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“Anxiety attack” is not a formal, clinical term. Instead, it is a term used by many people to describe all sorts of things, from feeling worried about an upcoming event to intense feelings of terror or fear that would meet the diagnostic criteria for a panic attack. In order to understand what someone means by “anxiety attack,” it is necessary to consider the context in which the symptoms occur.
Many people may not realize that depression has physical symptoms. When extra stress is added to our lives, we may be more likely to see manifestations of the physical symptoms of our depression. What are some of the physical symptoms we may experience due to depression? What, if anything, can we do about stress and its effect on the physical symptoms of depression?
The DSM-IV (the diagnostic Bible) divides bipolar disorder into two types, rather unimaginatively labeled bipolar I and bipolar II. “Raging” and “Swinging” are far more apt:
It was 1:30 p.m. on a Monday when a man walked into the therapy office for his usual therapy session, taking his usual seat on the leather couch and crossing his legs in that relaxed way that changes the entire atmosphere of a room. The light had shifted, I thought, as our eyes met and I tracked his expression to see where to begin our session. Actually, I realized, the light hadn’t shifted. The sun sneaking in through the blinds was highlighting the same patches of couch and carpet in the way it always did in the early afternoon, but the veil of gloom that had found a home over his face had been lifted.
Change is hard enough under “normal” circumstances. When things go along as usual each of us has our own way and time to experience life and to make the adjustments and changes necessary in order for life to unfold the way we wish it to. Since the pandemic arrived things have been very different. In a way, life went on “pause” for everyone; we’re on hold for a while. Some changes will inevitably, still happen. Life transitions continue on in the course of being born, living, and dying.
Anxiety and the alarming thoughts our anxiety conjures are normal to experience, especially under stressful and challenging times like now. But anxiety feels terrible so it's good to have a few tools to calm an anxious nervous system. Speaking supportive words to ourselves can provide relief, much like a parent reassures a child..
Stress, depression, even suicide has risen during the pandemic. By nature, each of us has a predominant style of coping with stress. But during extraordinary times, our stress levels are also extraordinary. When we can't control what's happening, we can challenge ourselves to change the way we respond to what's happening. The coping strategies you ordinarily use may need to be altered in the face of these unusual challenges.
When COVID-19 emerged as a clear and present public health threat, most people felt the same range of emotions: somewhere along the spectrum of fear and anxiety. People are still feeling this way of course. But as initial shock wears off, people are settling into a new normal. As new studies emerge predicting longer and longer periods of social distancing, we’re starting to strap ourselves in for the long haul.