What are the Main Differences between Panic Attacks and Anxiety Attacks

With a panic attack or an anxiety attack, it is near impossible for the sufferer to know which of the mental health conditions they are experiencing since the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks present in a similar way.

Symptoms Associated with Panic and Anxiety Attacks

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Numbness and tingling sensations felt in the body
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Hot flashes

What is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack

People struggle to understand the difference between panic disorder and anxiety disorder, which means they often get interchangeable. In clinical practice, anxiety and panic disorders get identified as having different features, and mental health professionals use these terms to diagnose specific conditions and symptoms.

Panic Disorder

The diagnostic and statistical manual classifies panic attacks under an umbrella term known as panic disorder. A panic disorder gets observed in other psychiatric conditions too, however a person can experience panic attacks without any other mental health disorders present.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety attacks are currently not classified as a disorder under the statistical manual or mental health. However, anxiety is a term used to describe a set of features of several mental health illnesses under the umbrella term: Anxiety Disorder

Some of the anxiety disorders include:

  • Trauma Disorder
  • Stressor-related Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack

The differences between anxiety attacks and panic attacks are the intensity of the symptoms experienced and how long the symptoms occur

Panic Attacks

When someone experiences a panic attack, they usually experience sudden and intense feelings of discomfort, terror or fear. Other physical and mental symptoms accompany all of this.  The unpleasant signs and symptoms associated with panic attacks cause severe unease and dispruption in a person’s life.

Panic attacks usually happen suddenly, and without an exact trigger or external stimulus. They typically last a few minutes before subsiding, although some panic attacks may last longer. A person may also experience a succession of panic attacks that occur one after the other. Once the panic attack comes to an end, it is not uncommon for a person to feel shaken up, upset, emotional, and tired.

Physical  symptoms of a panic attack can include:

  • Dizziness, feeling faint or lightheaded, and unstable on the feet
  • Stomach trouble and nausea
  • Rapid heart rate and heart palpitations
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Chills and hot flashes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • A choking sensation
  • Numbness or tingling in the body
  • Felling as though you might be having a heart attack or other life-threatening disease
  • Chest pain

Mental symptoms of a panic attack can include

  • Feeling as though you are losing control
  • Feelings of panic or dread
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Fearing that you are going crazy or dying
  • Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks operate differently from panic attacks and are a cumulative mental health condition that develops over time. Panic attacks happen suddenly, where anxiety intensifies over a long period and gets connected to excessive worry and long-term exposure to stress.

Anxiety symptoms vary and may feel like a panic attack at times, especially if a person’s stress levels become overwhelming to the point that they feel they are unable to cope.

Physical symptoms of an anxiety attack include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleep patterns that are disturbed
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains in the body and muscle tension

Mental symptoms of an anxiety attack include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

Risk Factors

Anxiety is a prevalent mental disorder that affects many individuals. It is a fact while many people suffer from feelings of anxiety and panic, few people seek help and treatment from a mental health professional.

People must seek treatment for coping with anxiety and panic disorders, particularly as the intense fear (such as fear of dying) caused by anxiety and panic attacks, are conducive to a persons well being. Health information is helpful for people to understand the impact that anxiety and stress have on the body.

When a person experiences anxiety in the long-term, they are likely to be in a state of constant alertness, all of which triggers a fight or flight response making the anxiety symptoms worse.

Treatment Options

There are plenty of treatment options available to those experiencing anxiety and panic attack symptoms. Treatment may include various techniques such as mindfulness and meditation and other forms of therapy such as:

  • Self-help techniques. This may include breath work and various breathing exercises, all of which promote symptom management and a way to manage your feelings and take control
  • Therapy. This is beneficial for anxiety management and controlling the symptoms of anxiety. Therapy challenges any unhelpful thoughts that may lead to self-destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, allowing a person to adopt a healthier coping mechanism
  • Medication. Is useful in controlling anxiety symptoms and may be used in the short term combined with other therapies