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What Is The Difference Between A Panic And An Anxiety Attack?

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

Sometimes, the phrases “panic attack” and “anxiety attack” are used to mean the same thing, but it turns out that they are not the same at all. There are several characteristics that make them different, which is what we’ll be discussing here. They do,  in fact, have several things in common too, which we’ll also discuss.

The main differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the length of time they last and their intensity, with panic attacks being more intense and lasting longer. Also, panic attacks generally happen at random, which anxiety attacks are usually associated with some sort of triggering event.

Another main difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks is that panic attacks are generally associated with panic disorder, and anxiety attacks are generally linked to a mental health condition--like obsessive-compulsive disorder, for instance.

The following are some ways that you can tell the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack:

  • Panic attacks come on very suddenly, and without warning, while symptoms of an anxiety attack are more gradual and come on over a longer period of time--sometimes even days.
  • Anxiety attacks usually have a trigger, like being exposed to something you have a phobia of, while panic attacks generally have no trigger.
  • Anxiety attacks don’t usually involve a feeling of detachment or a removal from reality, while panic attacks do. Anxiety attacks are more mild, and don’t last nearly as long--usually only a few minutes.

How Will I Know if I am Having a Panic Attack?

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be having a panic attack:

  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Shaking
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Pounding, fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden sweating
  • The feeling of choking/not being able to breathe
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath/the feeling of not being able to take a deep breath or get enough air
  • A feeling of detachment (called depersonalization) from yourself and/or your surroundings
  • A feeling that you may die
  • A feeling that you are losing control
  • A feeling that you are going crazy

Thankfully, most panic attacks tend to reach their worst point after about 10 minutes, and then get better from there. Unfortunately, some people will have several panic attacks in a row, making it seem like one very long panic attack. Many people report feeling abnormal, anxious, or otherwise “off” for the remainder of the day following a panic attack.

How Will I Know if I am Having an Anxiety Attack?

If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may be experiencing an anxiety attack. These symptoms sometimes follow a period of worrying and are generally less severe than a panic attack.

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Easily startling
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability/restlessness
  • Fear/worry/distress
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Tingling/numbness in the hands and/or feet
  • Feeling choked
  • Sleep disturbances

Summary

Anxiety and panic attacks can be triggered by any number of stressors, or they may come on suddenly without warning. People are more likely to experience more severe panic attacks if they have an underlying mental health disorder or a history of experiencing trauma. Women are more likely than men to experience both kinds of attacks, and both kinds of attacks can be treated with slow, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and practicing mindfulness. There are also medications that may be helpful and cognitive behavioral therapy. These are treatable conditions, so talk to your doctor today if you think that you are suffering from panic or anxiety attacks.

Posted By : Matthew B.
On : 2.2.21
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