Am I having an anxiety attack?

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, doesn't mention "anxiety attacks" specifically. The definition of an anxiety attack is somewhat informal and someone may say they are having an anxiety attack when what they are experiencing would be better described as a panic attack.

What is an anxiety attack?

When you experience intense anxiety there may be accompanying physical symptoms. Some people may describe these as an anxiety attack. These include:

  • A churning feeling, a “knot” in the stomach
  • Faster breathing
  • Feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • Diarrhea
  • Pins and needles
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Headaches and backaches
  • Racing heart
  • Irregular heartbeat

A panic attack:

  • Has symptoms that may feel intense
  • May happen unexpectedly, whether a person feels anxious or not
  • Has physical symptoms and feelings of intense terror such that the person fears loss of control or impending death
  • Often has a sudden onset and usually subsides within 10 minutes

What’s the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

There are some similarities between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. However anxiety is often triggered by certain stressors and may come on gradually. Panic attacks, on the other hand, can occur unexpectedly and without warning.

Both panic and anxiety may involve:

  • Fear
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • A pounding or racing heart
  • Irrational thoughts

In a panic attack, the feelings and sensations are far more intense. You may genuinely believe you are about to die.

The experience of a panic attack can feel similar to other actually dangerous conditions, such as heart disease. This can lead people to seek out medical assistance.

Anxiety generally does not peak and subside as a panic attack does. Some people with anxiety can progress to having panic attacks.

Can anxiety lead to panic?

Yes, a panic attack can be a symptom of anxiety.

What is resting heart rate?

It is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you have not been engaged in any activity for some time. It's the rate of you're heart when reading, sitting on the couch watching television, or eating a meal.

Resting heart rate contrasts with your heart rate during activity or exercise. It's important to not confuse the two measurements.

How can I measure my heart rate? Is there a way to check my pulse online?

Normally you'd have to count your heart beats for an entire minute, or for 30 seconds and multiply by 2, or 15 seconds and mupltiply by 4, etc. The heart rate counter on this page will do the calculations for you and give you your average heartbeat in just a few seconds.

How can I measure my resting heart rate?

Measure your heart rate after you've been inactive for a significant amount of time. 15-30 minutes should be sufficient.

How can I find my pulse?

Many locations around the body where blood flow is palpable can serve as locations to check your pulse. Most commonly you can easily feel your pulse with your finger on the thumb side of your wrist. You can also put 2 fingers on the side of your neck, next to your windpipe.

What are the normal ranges for resting heart rate?

Not everyone's pulse is the same. Heart rate varies from person to person. Tracking your own heart rate can give you valuable information about your heart health, and even more importantly, changes in your heart health.

What is deemed a healthy or unhealthy resting heart rate includes several factors, most notably, if you are male or female, and your age. The visualizer on this page will let you select your sex and age range to show you the spectrum of heart rate ranges for you.

Here is a more complete of factors that can affect your heart rate:

  • Age as you age your pulse and heart rate can change, including the regularity of your pulse can change.
  • Sex generally men have a higher heart rate than women.
  • Family history Some medical conditions are genetically inherited
  • Activity level your heart rate increases with activity, so it will go up if for example you've just walked up stairs.
  • Fitness level generally the fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate.
  • Ambient temperature hot weather and temperature requires your heart to pump faster.
  • Medicines medicines can affect your resting heart rate. Beta blockers for example may decrease your resting heart rate, and some thyroid medicines may increase it.
  • Substances alcohol, coffee & tea (caffeine), and smoking can all affect your resting heart rate.
  • Body position for example, whether you are sitting up or lying down.
  • Emotional state your pulse may quicken when you feel stressed or very excited.
  • Time of day your heart rate tends to be lower at night.

Is there a normal resting heart rate?

The "normal" resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM).

Generally speaking, the lower your resting heart rate, the more efficiently your heart is working and is an indicator of your fitness.

A long distance runner, for example, might have a resting heart rate around 40 beats per minute.

Does my heart rate say something about my blood pressure?

A "normal" resting heart rate is not an indication of "normal" blood pressure. Your blood pressure needs to be measured separately and directly.

Get immediate professional medical attention if:

  • you are having trouble breathing
  • your heart is beating very fast (racing) with an irregular rhythm
  • there is pain in your chest

Medical Disclaimer

This site is intended to help the average person with a casual interest in their heart rate. It is not intended as a medical diagnosis tool. It is not a professional peer-reviewed medical product. It is not intended to replace medical doctors or consultations with certified professionals. If you are having medical concerns, a medical crisis, feel sick, are having any other medical issues, please consult a licensed professional.