silent anxiety attacks everything you need to know

Picture this: you’re sitting in a crowded room, maybe surrounded by family or colleagues. Everyone is conversing and having a good time. You look normal on the surface, but inside a storm is brewing…

  • You feel your breath speed up – or that you’re not breathing much at all
  • Your heart is pounding and racing fast
  • You have this suffocating dread and fear washing over you. 

You are having an anxiety attack, but to others, you appear quite normal. While everyone is busy looking out for classic signs of panic such as hyperventilation, pacing, or trembling, a silent anxiety attack leaves minimal or no clues.

In this post, we are going to explore everything about silent anxiety attacks. From what it is, to causes, symptoms, and how you can handle it.

Let’s get started.

What Is A Silent Anxiety Attack?

Silent anxiety attacks are a form of panic attacks that do not manifest to others with physical symptoms. 

You may appear completely normal on the outside, while you’re battling with an intense feeling of dread and distress inside. However, just like panic attacks, you might feel like you’re about to pass out, and the effects are just as debilitating and disruptive.

It’s vital to know what an anxiety attack feels like, and what the symptoms are even though they’re less noticeable. This will help you and your family, and improve early detection and treatment.

What Does An Anxiety Attack Feel Like?

While people experience anxiety attacks differently, usually, there will be these symptoms:

  • An overwhelming sense of fear
  • Tightness in your chest where you feel you can’t breathe
  • Disassociation from people around you
  • Dizziness

Real-Life Anxiety Attack Experiences

Here are some silent anxiety attack experiences from people across the web.

“It’s like I breathe fine, but I feel pressure in my chest and throat. It’s just not visible to others. I also feel like I just closed off from the world. I kind of stop feeling anything, but at the same time, it hurts…Hard to describe.

For example, when I am stressed at work, normally, I would go to the bathroom to cry and catch my breath, but this time, I just felt like I went cold. There was pressure in my chest, but my brain was just…cold. No feeling, foggy brain, like on autopilot. It lasted for an hour, and I came back to “normal”.

— Reddit user @my_brokenbliss

“It’s a super weird feeling but my body is still (except for twitches) but my mind is reeling. I can’t keep my eyes still and the room feels like it’s spinning. I have the sensation of audio or even visual hallucinations. My brain is so out of control that sometimes it feels like a seizure (I had epilepsy as a child). Also, I’ll feel like I’m floating or having my spirit drift out of my body. I experience facial numbness, difficulty focusing or responding in conversation, and a heightened state of awareness.

— Reddit user @kjaisa

“I get this anxious feeling in my stomach. My heart starts beating really fast and I feel like I can’t breathe. My breathing becomes erratic and I can feel tears forming. I get claustrophobic and feel like everything is closing in on me and I start picking and scratching at my skin like I need to tear it off. If anyone tries to interact with me while this is happening I’m screaming inside my head for them to be quiet because I can’t focus. But on the outside, I maybe just smile or nod and they can’t understand why my mood has changed…”

— Reddit user @louanderson

A silent anxiety attack can be a dreadful thing to experience, as most people suppress their emotions or symptoms from those around them, and so do not have immediate support.

Panic Attacks vs. Silent Anxiety Attacks

While both attacks are similar, they have their differences.

A panic attack is a sudden fear, discomfort, or fear of losing control. It usually involves both physical and emotional symptoms which can occur at any time and can be as frequent as a couple of times per day or once a year.

If you’re having a panic attack, you may experience:

  • Shaking
  • Shortness of breath or gasping for air
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart, and
  • A feeling of doom

You may also feel like you’re losing control of your body or passing out. 

Panic attacks start suddenly, and peak within 10 minutes before you get back to normal. After-effects can linger for much longer. Most of the common symptoms of panic attacks are visible; so you can get the help you need if you’re surrounded by people as soon as the attack begins.

Similarities And Differences Between Panic Attacks And Silent Anxiety Attacks

Here’s a quick overview of how similar and different both attacks can be.

NameDescriptionPanic AttackSilent Anxiety Attack
Emotional intensityYou may feel engulfed by a wave of emotions and fearYes Yes
Physical intensityYou may gasp for air, shake, cry, or screamMore noticeableLess noticeable
TriggersBoth attacks may have shared triggers including stress, trauma, and phobiasYes (but may not include situational triggers)Yes
Onset and durationThey may occur suddenly, last for a short time or occur gradually, and last longerSuddenly, and shortGradually, and may last longer
Overall intensityHow intense symptoms and after-effects can beMore intenseLess intense

What Causes Silent Anxiety Attacks?

The exact cause of silent panic attacks is not known. Research shows that individuals are more susceptible to having a silent anxiety attack if they are depressed or have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders can occur due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and personal experiences. For instance people with a history of trauma, chronic stress, or a family member suffering mental health challenges.

Additionally, personal experiences from personality traits that tend towards negative thinking or perfectionism can trigger anxiety attacks. Stress from environmental factors related to a significant change can also trigger silent panic attacks. 

For instance, if you lost a loved one, are starting a new job, or moving to a new city. Other triggers include stressful situations such as:

  • Public speaking
  • Giving presentations
  • Facing exams, and
  • Thoughts related to illness or failure

While silent anxiety attacks are invisible to the outside world, they can cause psychological damage to the person suffering from them. Embarrassment, stigmatization, or unnecessary demands to appear strong may make sufferers bottle up their emotions and keep the anxiety hidden.

Over time, this can impact the quality of your daily life, and intensify mental health problems.

How Long Does An Episode Last?

Unlike panic attacks that may last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes with a peak at 10 minutes, silent panic attacks can last for extended periods. 

This can range from hours to days or months. The duration of an episode may influenced by:

  • Individual differences
  • The severity of the anxiety, and 
  • The effectiveness of coping mechanisms used

Prolonged or frequent silent anxiety attacks may be an indication of an anxiety disorder. It’s important to seek professional help as soon as you can.

Coping With Silent Anxiety Attacks

Depending on the severity of the attacks, coping mechanisms or treatment can be minimal or elaborate. If you have just experienced an anxiety attack, you may incorporate some of the tips discussed below to cope with a recurrence.

However, if you have been having recurrent and severe attacks, it’s time to get the right help you need. Downplaying the effects of silent anxiety attacks can hurt your quality of life.

Immediate Steps

When experiencing a silent anxiety attack, here are steps to take control and try to get back to normal.

  • Take slow deep breaths. Count from one to four as you inhale through your nose, and count from one to four as you exhale through your mouth. This will help regulate your rapid heart rate or manage the tightness in your chest.
  • Use grounding techniques to bring you back from your intrusive thoughts to the present. For instance, focus on the sensation of your feet on the ground, describe objects you can see, or rub your fingertips together.
  • Repeat a calming mantra or positive affirmations like “I got this”, “I can handle this”, or “This feeling will pass”.
  • Engage in calming activities such as taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, or practicing mindfulness and meditation.

Long-Term Treatment for Anxiety Attacks

If you’re having frequent silent panic attacks with severe symptoms, the above immediate steps may not be effective in the long run. You need a more holistic and personalized approach that addresses the root cause of your triggers.

Experts recommend the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This involves identifying negative thoughts and behaviors and improving confidence in your relationship with yourself and others. Your CB therapist will also guide you through different steps to limit your anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, music therapy, guided imagery, or muscle relaxation can be incorporated to help you manage your anxiety
  • Medication management: Your doctor may prescribe medication such as antidepressants or Benzodiazepine to help manage the frequency and severity of your attacks.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This is a type of talking therapy based on CBT, but it’s used on people who feel emotions intensely. It can help you understand and accept your difficult feelings, and manage them better
  • Group therapy: can provide a supporting and validating environment for you to get help and manage your anxiety better. Therapy may include psychoeducation, skill building, experiential exercises, and gradual exposure to triggers
  • Hypnotherapy: hypnotherapy sessions can help induce relaxation in your subconscious mind where anxiety happens. It can help you understand your triggers and root cause, and empower you to face and address them.

Long-term treatment for silent anxiety attacks is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It may include one or more of the above treatment options. It’s best to consult with a medical professional for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Silicon Valley Hypnosis Center Can Help

Silent anxiety attacks can severely impact the quality of your life and intensify mental health problems. To learn more about anxiety related topics, check these resources below.

At Silicon Valley, we help you take back control of your life with hypnotherapy sessions to address the root cause of your anxiety and help you manage your attacks. Hypnotherapy is not magic, but many people report relief. Each session is customized based on your experience and goals to uncover what has been holding you back and how you can let go of it.

Don’t let silent anxiety attacks hold you back! Begin your journey to freedom by scheduling a consultation session today.

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide medical or mental health advice. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any type of mental health disorder or physical disease. Please seek care from a licensed mental health or medical doctor for these purposes.