Anxiety attacks from moving...again

Originally Published: December 5, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: January 7, 2011
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Dear Alice,

The last week or so I've been having anxiety attacks or at least that's what I think they are. I've been tossing and turning at night. We have just moved, which isn't unusual. My husband's job moves us around a lot. I've never had this problem before and I'm starting to get worried. Should I see a doctor?

Worried

Dear Worried,

It's not at all uncommon to experience some degree of anxiety when you move, change jobs, graduate, get married, etc. — even if these big life events are positive ones. If change-related angst continues well after you've settled into your new situation, or if it seems like your worries are more extreme than warranted, then you might consider a visit to your doctor or a counselor.

Anxiety that goes beyond general stress is often characterized by the following:

  • Extreme and/or continuous worry and tension
  • Irrational worries that perhaps go beyond what the situation warrants
  • Physical symptoms like stomach aches, trouble sleeping, and headaches
  • Irritability or social withdrawal, sometimes accompanied by increases in drinking or drug use
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating

Your poor sleep may be a normal stress-related symptom or it may be something more, especially if any of the above sounds familiar. Anxiety attacks are usually characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, shaking, and sweating
  • Feelings of extreme fear or terror, sometimes accompanied by fears or thoughts of dying
  • Rapid onset
  • Usually no definable causes — they seem to come out of nowhere, though certain triggers may be present (a memory, sound, thought, a smell, etc.).

A counselor or therapist can be very helpful if concerns and worries (including frequent moves) impair your regular routine. Sometimes, therapy or a combination of therapy and medication can help alleviate the symptoms. Additionally, exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety.  Thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise every couple of days can help dial down the stress for some people dealing with stress and worry while for others, this option doesn't do enough or isn't feasible. It may be that what you are experiencing is normal stress that will subside as you settle, but if your sleep continues to be disrupted and you feel uneasy, a visit to a health care provider may be helpful.

Some of the resources below may also be of use to you:

Anxiety-Panic Internet Resource

National Mental Health Association

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

NIMH Anxiety Information Line: (888)-8-ANXIETY / -826-9438

NIMH Panic Information Line: (888)-64-PANIC / -647-2642

Hoping you're soon having lots of sweet dreams,

Alice