My anxiety (or to be more precise my mixed anxiety-depressive panic attacks disorder) started in form of "real" pain in different parts of the body. It started when I've completed my master studies and I was about to start to live with my husband. It was done with my student life, I had to show the world who I am :-) Ready to be wife, mother, artist.
I started having strong headaches, then throat discomfort, then chest pain and it settled down around the heart. To this day it is always connected to the heart. Something is wrong with it. Either it is weak, or it will stop, or it will jump out of the chest. But it revolves around it (I will come back to the story of heart later. Anyway, as it started as real symptoms, I spent quite some time visiting doctors. I was 100% sure my heart will fail. I was afraid to stay alone during night - what if something happens. I was not locking the doors - if I die people should come in without breaking the door. I didn't want to go to gatherings - if I die I will make really unpleasant situation for everyone. I would feel half of my body numb - as I read those are the symptoms of heart attack. It was obvious that I am dying... It turned out it is not that easy to die. And it tuned out that death is not worst thing that may happen. It is worse to live with this constant fear. Falling asleep and waking up with it was really defeating. I couldn't see an end. Even if I would calm down, I would be afraid that another wave is coming.
My first stop in my 20 years long healing journey was cognitive behavioral therapist. He was quite cold person but has taught me some basics in treating anxiety and panic attacks: 1. write a diary of those anxiety/panic episodes (how it started, what were you thinking or doing before it started, how long it lasted, what were your thoughts during the attack, how you felt after it)
2. try identifying your wrong beliefs - mine was for
3. don't escape when attack is happening - continue with your original plan
4. don't avoid situations that scare you - go with a backup plan
5. breathe and count
After year of a therapy, I was coping much better. I have started to understand what is happening.
Then I got pregnant, my focus shifted and I didn't have single attack for almost two years.
That example is teaching us something? :-)