Panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks are being used interchangeably in the light of certain similar symptoms, risk factors, and causes, including rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and shortness of breath. They potentially disrupt the everyday life of individuals, last for a long time, and are difficult to administer. In contrast to that, both are different conditions, and behavioral health professionals accompany both terms for specific disorders and symptoms. 

A clinically defined syndrome is often referred to as a “panic attack.” while an anxiety attack is something that does not have any clinical definition. Based on research conducted by National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), an estimated 4.7% of US adults go through panic disorder at some point in their life. 

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness that affects 13.3% of the adult US population. If anyone is experiencing panic or anxiety disorders, then he must seek some professional help. Only an experienced and licensed therapist is capable of assisting someone to address the issues in the best possible manner.

Here are some cornerstones that will guide you in identifying whether you are having a panic attack or an anxiety attack.

Panic disorder is an assemblage of physical and mental health symptoms that take effect in an instant without any previous warning. Sometimes the state of mindfulness gets acutely indecisive that the body’s autonomous fight or flight response collapses. These patterns are further characterized by repeated and unexpected episodes of a sudden feeling of intense fear, terror, or anxiety that peak within a few minutes.

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Because of the extreme physical sensations and anxiety, people feel as if they are dying. A panic attack is markedly scary, and once people have one, they are often afraid it will overhaul again. As a result, people change the things they do, the way they interact with others, their activities, and even how much they go to school or work. 

Symptoms 

The most significant symptoms include sensibility of heart attack and immediate threat, encouraging them to stumble upon an escape or cry for help in whatever situation they are going through. The symptoms can either be mental or physical.

Mental Symptoms

  • Derealization (feeling of unreality)
  • Depersonalization (feeling of being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of going crazy or losing control
  • Fear of dying
  • Sense of impending danger or doom
  • Feeling of terror like something awful is about to happen

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms are sometimes so severe that they cause severe disruptions. A few are listed below;

  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling of choking
  • Abdominal distress or nausea
  • Heart palpitation, accelerated heart rate, or pounding heart.
  • Feeling unsteady, faint, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Tunnel or blurred vision
  • Hot flashes
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Paresthesias (Tingling sensations) or Numbness

People with anxiety disorder undergo frequent, persistent, excessive, and intense fear or worry about day-to-day situations. It is correlated to extensive perturbation about a particular danger, either perceived or real. Many people live with an adequate level of anxiety on a daily basis. It gets intensify over a definite period of time. 

A higher level of stress due to anticipation of stressful events, experiences, or situations becomes an anxiety attack when it reaches an overwhelming level. It is not a recognized medical condition from DSM-V. It is often referred to as a manifestation of a panic attack.

Symptoms

Some severe health conditions such as breathing or heart problems can give rise to symptoms of anxiety attacks. Most of the symptoms associated with anxiety attacks are similar to those of panic attacks but generally less severe. They can also categorize into mental or physical groupings;

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Fear 

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety Attack

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Pounding heart
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Increased startle response

Perhaps the most significant difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack is that a panic attack is a medical condition defined by DSM-V criteria: “a sudden and abrupt occurrence of intense fear triggering severe physical reaction when there is no apparent cause or real danger”. Conversely, an anxiety attack is a colloquial term that arises due to heightened periods of anxiousness. 

Some of the significant key differences between anxiety vs. panic attack include;

  • Most often panic attack occurs with or without a trigger, while an anxiety attack occurs in response to specific threats or perceived stressors.
  • Panic attacks are disruptive and intense. Also, the physical symptoms in case of a panic attack are worse than an anxiety attack.
  • The panic attack often encompasses the sense of unreality or detachment. Anxiety attacks can permutate from mild to severe trajectory.
  • Anxiety attacks lack diagnostic recognition, while panic attacks do not.
  • Panic attacks instigate all of a sudden and are spontaneous. Anxiety attacks occur gradually and take hours, days, weeks to reach the peak and thus get progressively intense.
  • Panic attacks do not persist longer than a few minutes, while anxiety attacks last for more extended periods.

Differences In Symptoms

The correlations and contrasts between symptoms of anxiety vs. panic attacks always exist. These are noticeable in terms of the intensity of various symptoms, as physical symptoms are the same in both types of attack. Anxiety attacks due to gradual onset come about to be self-evident with more symptoms as compared to panic attacks.

Differences In Duration 

There exists a substantial variance in the duration of anxiety vs. panic attacks. The duration of panic attack symptoms is incisive, lasting for about 10-15 minutes. Moreover, symptoms disappear when the attack is over. Anxiety attacks do not last longer than 30 minutes, and symptoms last even after the end of the attack. A person’s removal from the situation or change of situation is inevitable to overcome the onset of anxiety attacks.

Differences In Trigger

The symptoms can sometimes eventuate in response to a trigger, the “expected panic attack”. These can often come “out of the blue” irrespective of known fear or stressor, as an “unexpected panic attack”. Anxiety attacks invigorate in accordance with the situation. The triggers of anxiety attacks vary from person to person. Some endure a few mild symptoms, while others put up with a wide variety of terrible symptoms. 

Differences In Treatment

Panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks are treatable conditions and may include home treatments, lifestyle changes, medications, and therapies. Panic and anxiety attacks differ in the way they are treated. 

The reason being the symptoms of anxiety account for anxiety attack and panic attack also has a different approach. It is also helpful to take possession of productive and informed conversations with a doctor or therapist.

Anxiety Attack Treatment

These are treated on the basis of overall anxiety symptoms. There are several treatments available to prevent anxiety disorder. Also, there are some medications that can benefit from a regular basis. Anxiety attacks can also be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy, which is undoubtedly a good option. 

In this therapy, you learn to change your behavior through mindful practices that are reasonable of thoughts. Trained therapists teach you how to change your thoughts, and as a result, you make conscious decisions. You learn to keep yourself worry-free and calm under various circumstances through which you know how to cope with anxiety attacks and stop them with time. 

Panic Attack Treatment

As panic attacks are far different from anxiety attacks, so are their treatments. Panic attacks are marked as unpredictable because they usually occur infrequently and interchangeably, so one should make a serious effort to tackle these attacks. The best way to start getting over these attacks is by looking at the symptoms of these attacks and then navigating them accordingly. 

Until now, the best-known treatment to handle these attacks is therapy. Therapy will surely make a way to confront panic attacks by making you aware of the dos and don’ts during the attack, minimizing the duration of the attack, and making you stronger to undertake the attack. And in some cases, medications and exercises have also been proved an effective tool to calm a person of these attacks.

The risk factors that increase the probability of the development of panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks are the same. You are likely to have either panic or anxiety attacks if you have any of these risk factors. Some of the following common denominators exalted over time by exploring various studies are;

Trauma- children who witnessed traumatic events or endured upheaval heartbreaks are at greater risk of developing anxiety or panic disorder. Similarly, adults are not apart.

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Chronic Health Condition- a person incurring serious illness or having a health condition gets hold of significant worry about various issues such as future or treatment elevating the likelihood of panic vs. anxiety attack.

Stressful Life Event– a buildup of stressful life subjects or significant events can trigger excessive anxiety and thus, in return, anxiety or panic attacks. For instance, work stress, death in the family, and ongoing worry about finances. 

Personality– people with a specific personality type are more prone to panic or anxiety attacks or disorders than others. For example, some people have an inherent restlessness or anxious personality that is a substantial ground to put them at risk of these attacks.

Abusing Alcohol Or Drugs– alcohol or drug misuse or withdrawal can worsen or cause panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks.

Having A Blood Relative With Panic Or Anxiety Disorder- anxiety or panic disorder can run up in families.

Mental Health Disorders– people already dealing with stress, depression, and other mental health issues, often have anxiety or panic disorder. And when the situation arrives, these can culminate in anxiety or panic attacks.

People who experience long-term anxiety are susceptible to panic attacks. The onset of either attack is more in women than in men.

Initially, panic and anxiety attacks seem a hard nut to crack, but with a consistent and systematic approach and professional techniques, it does not remain an impossible task to set about. Usually, medications, prescriptions, and self-improving methods do best in this sense. Here we will put light on some effective treatments that will assist in this war against these depressing attacks:

Psychotherapy And Counseling Approaches

Regular psychotherapy and counseling sessions will undoubtedly better help you understand the symptoms of your attacks and then develop the ways to get out of them accordingly with tried and tested methodologies. 

These sessions assist you in gaining a more evident standpoint and positive outlook towards life and boost your willpower to knock down these attacks. These counseling and psychotherapy approaches help you learn breath controlling practices and other mind soothing skills that will effectively suppress these attacks.

Medications

Medications assist in treating panic and anxiety attacks by condensing the symptoms and shortening the attack span. These medications are often used for a short period and in severe cases. These medicines include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, beta-blockers, benzodiazepines, and SSRIs, and much more. The intelligent approach is to first talk with your doctor about the risks and factors of the medicine and then start medication according to consultation. 

Self-Help And Breathing Controlling Exercises

Grounding and self-help exercises aid a person in having control over thoughts that indulge a person in panic and anxiety attacks. These self-help exercises act as a potent tool and make a psychological distance between that person and these thoughts.

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Breath controlling exercises has been regarded as an efficient and beneficial way to relieve panic and anxiety attacks. Controlled breathing usually depicts taking 10 breaths per minute or, in most cases, 5 breaths per minute and by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth in a controlled fashion. 

Following strategies can be employed for instant relief from panic and anxiety attacks:

  • Firstly try to understand what is happening around you and sit in a calm and quiet place
  • Try to soothe your nerves and breathe slowly and deeply
  • Compose yourself with soothing techniques such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation
  • Practice daily exercise, mindfulness, a healthy diet, and eight hours of sound sleep at night.

In common parlance, both these terms, panic attack vs. anxiety attack, are used the same. But if we view both through a medical lens, these are different connotations. Panic attacks are recognized by the latest edition of DSM-5 ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and can be expected or unexpected. 

On the other hand, DSM-5 does not recognize the materiality of anxiety attacks. But to an exception, DSM-5 does define anxiety attack as a “characteristic of a number of common psychiatric disorders”. That’s why the signs and symptoms of anxiety attacks are open to interpretation. Expected panic attacks occur in response to obvious causes and are cued by external stressors like phobias. 

However, panic attacks are profoundly intense and are also accompanied by drastic physical conditions. One must not skip consulting a doctor if any stringent signs or symptoms of panic or anxiety attack are found. Anyone can be well-equipped to ride the waves with a few tools and tricks up their sleeves.