what happens when you go to the ER with anxiety

What To Expect When You Go To The ER With Anxiety

01 Apr 2023

Most people have experienced anxiety at some point in their lives. For instance, you might feel anxious when going for an interview, exam, or giving a speech in a larger crowd. Such anxiety is normal and often goes away after the situation has passed.

However, you might need medical attention if you experience anxiety more regularly, say most days of the week or months. Keep reading to learn more about anxiety, symptoms that warrant a trip to the ER, and what to expect for treatment.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural response in which the body reacts to stress. It can be caused or triggered by varying factors and can vary in intensity from one person to another. For instance, it can lead to minor sweating or severe discomforting sensations. People with severe anxiety might have anxiety disorder and often require medication to control their emotions. Otherwise, their anxiety can significantly affect their overall quality of life.

Common types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety disorder (GAD): People with GAD often suffer from chronic anxiety that daily experiences do not trigger or provoke.
  • Panic Disorder: Panic attacks or disorder is an extreme case of anxiety that causes one to experience sudden moments of fear accompanied by physical symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest pain, fatigue, and weakness.
  • Social anxiety disorder: As the name suggests, social anxiety is caused by social environments or interactions. It can also be linked to the fear of public speaking or social phobias.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): As the name implies, PTSD is associated with a past event or experience where the sufferer experiences intense fear or harm. It can include car accidents, military combat, and natural disasters.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

General signs of anxiety disorders include:

  • Uncontrollable or obsessive thoughts
  • Repeated flashbacks and thoughts of a traumatic experience
  • Intense feelings of fear, panic, or uneasiness
  • Inability to stay calm or still
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Ritualistic behaviors like repeatedly washing hands

Anxiety disorders can also lead to physical symptoms such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Numbness or tingling in feet or hands

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When to go to the ER for Anxiety

While most cases of anxiety don’t require emergency medical attention, you may want to visit an ER near you or call 911 if you experience sudden and intense mental, behavioral, or physical symptoms. These can include:

  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Excessive sweating and shaking
  • Accelerated heart rate or pounding heartbeat
  • Dizziness and hot flashes
  • Your symptoms persist (anxiety symptoms only last for a few minutes, 20 to 30 minutes)

A severe anxiety attack is often mistaken for a cardiovascular disease like a heart attack or stroke. In some cases, the signs indicate serious health complications like heart attack, which can be fatal. Regardless of the cause of your symptoms, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Call your doctor immediately, call 911, or ask someone to drive you to the nearest ER.

Treatment for Anxiety

Immediate medical care is essential to reduce or treat your symptoms. Your treatment will depend on the intensity and duration of your symptoms.

When you get to the ER, the emergency team will take the necessary tests to diagnose your problems. They will begin by asking about your symptoms, like how they developed and feel, and your medical history. Most emergency teams will give you an electrocardiogram (EKG) to rule out a heart attack or problem. If they identify any urgent health condition, they will treat you immediately.

If you don’t have any health issues, your symptoms are likely caused by acute anxiety. Fortunately, the symptoms often fade away within 20 – 30 minutes. They will probably refer you to another doctor or mental health professional. Common treatments can include:

  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy: It helps you understand why your symptoms occur and how to identify and manage them. The psychotherapist can schedule regular therapy sessions.
  • Medications like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Benzodiazepines, and Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake inhibitors

Tips to Reduce or Prevent Anxiety Attacks

While you can’t prevent all cases of anxiety attacks, the following tips can help improve your health and help you cope with your symptoms better:

  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Engage in regular exercise.
  • Practice daily yoga and meditation.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Practice healthy activities like reading and spending time with family and friends.
  • Get enough sleep.

Are you looking for an emergency room in Houston, TX?

Do you have severe or life-threatening symptoms? Visit our Houston walk-in emergency clinic or contact Memorial Village Emergency Room for immediate medical care.

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