Have you had a recent experience where seemingly out of nowhere: your heart begins to pound; you find it hard to catch your breath because of the pressure in your chest; you have the sensation that you may pass out; you feel your hands and feet tingling or going numb; you feel flushed and/or nauseous?

If so, I'm sure one of the first thoughts that went through your mind at the time were either..."Am I having a heart attack" and/or "Am I going crazy" and/or "Do I Have Anxiety"?

Since you are not in the hospital being treated for a heart attack and I doubt that you are crazy...it sounds like you more than likely had your first encounter with a full blown anxiety attack (also known as a panic attack). Those are many of the classic symptoms of an anxiety attack.

So what causes anxiety attacks? Researchers are still unsure of the exact trigger that sets off an anxiety attack. However, it is very common for anxiety attacks to happen at times in a person's life when they are under excessive stress and pressure.

Although, the odd thing is that the anxiety attack doesn't normally present itself (although it can) when you are given news that might cause you to feel stressed (like at the moment you are fired, or when a spouse requests a divorce etc.)

Generally many people have had an anxiety attack when they aren't even thinking about or experiencing something stressful at the moment. But more often than not, the pressures of life creep up and overtake a person. Most people suffering with anxiety attacks say that they can't pinpoint anything in particular was the "final straw" that pushed them over the edge into an anxiety attack.

When "pressure" or "stress" is mentioned as a factor in someone's anxiety, people always tend to gravitate towards thinking this only means negative pressure or stress. That is a misnomer. Even happy moments in a person's life such as marriage, a new baby or starting a new dream job can internally cause anxiety.

You may be surprised to learn that your body is actually in some ways doing what it was originally designed to do. It's called the fight or flight response. The "fight or flight" response is one of the most basic and powerful actions we have. Our natural defense system against stress was very useful for the caveman when a saber toothed tiger was after him. You can see how it would be useful if a tree were about to fall on you or anything else that might present itself that makes you fear for your safety or your life. The fight or flight response is meant to help you either stand up and cope with danger, or run away from it.

With an anxiety attack though, there is no "inherent danger". Sometimes there is no clear reason at all. But many times you can trace back your recent thought patterns and see that you've let thoughts run amuck in your mind of "expected danger". Meaning that you've been picturing worst case scenarios.

Your subconscious mind does not know the difference between real danger or imagined or assumed danger. Your anxiety attack is merely your body trying to look after you. Your subconscious is your most primitive part of your body...it works completely on instinct rather than logic or reasoning.

Sometimes just something in your environment either consciously or subconsciously reminds you of something you associate with danger which results in an anxiety attack. Sometimes it doesn't take much at all to trigger an anxiety attack. Have you ever accidentally brushed past a car alarm, barely touching it and it's gone off? It's because alarms are designed to be incredibly sensitive to protect the property it protecting. In the same way our fight or flight alarm can be like that too. We can become so sensitive that it starts up at the smallest incident and it's difficult to stop it once its screams of protest against perceived danger have begun.

Many people will have only one or two anxiety attacks in their life time. If you are experiencing them on a regular basis and they are beginning to impede the day to day rhythm of your life, you may in fact have an anxiety disorder.

Author's Bio: 

Renee Isenberg has a website and blog devoted to helping people understand and overcome anxiety related issues.

Want to know how you can stop anxiety and panic attacks? Click Here To Get Information On How To Eliminate Anxiety Attacks and Get Control Back Of Your Life.