anxiety attacks vs panic attacks

Anxiety Attacks vs Panic Attacks: 5 Ways To Tell These Apart

Anxiety attacks vs Panic attacks have been a debatable topic of discussion for as long as I can remember. Anxiety attacks and Panic attacks are two different mental illnesses and although it can be difficult for some to tell the two apart, it is important in identifying the appropriate treatment. Yes, they both have common symptoms and causes but actually differentiate dramatically. I’m here today to try and draw a definitive line between the two and bring a better understanding of why and what these two disorders are. 


Have you ever been at work, riding in your car, working out at the gym, and are stressed out to the point that your muscles tense up, your heart starts beating fast and you feel like you can’t breathe? If so, you are probably having some form of anxiety or panic attack. This can be frightening and many people don’t know how to handle these fragile situations. The best way to deal with anxiety attacks vs panic attacks is to get an understanding of what causes these attacks, the different types of disorders that exist, and how to safely deal with them.


What are Anxiety attacks vs Panic attacks?      


Anxiety attacks and Panic attacks are often confused as the same thing. Some may even think they are having a heart attack when it is just a case of an anxiety-related illness  Though certain characteristics of the two are similar, there are ways to differentiate. Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. An anxiety attack or anxiety is usually triggered by a certain situation or event that is worrisome to an individual. Anxiety can be experienced through one’s thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations.


Having a panic attack is a symptom of a panic disorder and there doesn’t have to be a specific reason for this to occur. It can seem to take place instantaneously and last from a few minutes to several hours. A panic attack is defined as a short episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. 


Key Differences of Anxiety attacks vs Panic attacks


The best way to tell the difference between Anxiety attacks vs Panic attacks is to compare the symptoms and understand how both happen. Anxiety Attacks are more common from a person having day-to-day stress about a certain situation or event, usually, in the near future, they perceive as stressful. The anxiety attack can vary in intensity being mild, moderate, and severe. Some of the key symptoms of anxiety are:


  • Chest pain
  • Fearful
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Worry and distressed
  • Having muscle pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Constant Worry
  • Tension
  • Heart Palpitations


To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the said person will need to show strong symptoms such as the ones listed above. He or she will also need to have these symptoms for a period of six months or longer. 


Depending on which type of anxiety disorder a person has, he or she may also experience panic attacks. Panic attacks can come out of nowhere and happen without warning. Some common symptoms of panic attacks can include:


  • Chest pain
  • Loss of control
  • Stomach pain
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Detachment
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness and Tingling
  • Sweating


The Five Major Types of Anxiety Disorders


You don’t have to feel alone if you are battling anxiety or panic attacks. Anxiety disorders are very common among both children and adults in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 19%  of Americans were diagnosed with Anxiety disorders last year alone. The five most prevalent types are as listed: 


  • Generalized Anxiety Disordera disorder is characterized by excessive or unrealistic anxiety about two or more aspects of life (work, social relationships, financial matters, etc.), often accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or dizziness.


  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)- is a disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions)


  • Panic Disorder (Panic Attacks)Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.


  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)- A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.


  • Social Anxiety ( Social Phobia)-A chronic mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety.


Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Many people will have some form of anxiety during their lifetime. It is perfectly normal to experience this when dealing with change such as starting a new job, meeting new people, or giving a presentation in front of a large audience. Other encounters with anxiety may happen with the loss of a loved one, divorcing from a spouse, or sending a child off to college. It is important to know that just having symptoms of anxiety for a short period of time doesn’t mean you have an anxiety disorder.


Anxiety only becomes a problem when everyday life for an individual becomes unmanageable. A few signs to identify that  an anxiety disorder might need to be diagnosed by a medical professional are:


  • Feelings of anxiety last for long periods of time
  • Fear and worrying is persistent about generally small situations or tasks
  • Avoiding situations that might cause one to feel anxious
  • Regularly having anxiety or panic attacks
  • Everyday life is unusually hard to navigate


Treatments for anxiety attacks vs panic attacks are very similar. Finding the right doctor or psychiatrist who is right for you is the first step in getting the right help needed to deal with the underlying condition. Taking medication, different types of therapy, and reading books are known to help manage these disorders. Some people may even choose to go to a recovery center that offers a variety of programs specializing in mental health. It is extremely common to find anxiety among people suffering from drug addiction. Treatment centers such as Oasis Recovery are a great place to start if one wants to seek help and get well. If you or someone you love is suffering from a mental health disorder please do not hesitate to reach out for help.


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