hard breathing. Chest tightness. fast heartbeat You may be confused about what is happening to you. Is it a panic attack or an anxiety attack?
Most people don’t know the difference.
When it comes to anxiety and anxiety disorders, there is a myriad of misinformation and confusion in the common narrative. One such confusing aspect is understanding and inferring a panic attack versus an anxiety attack.
Although certain symptoms are shared, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are two different conditions. They have different intensities and durations. Confusion among people is incredibly detrimental to those with these two conditions. A clear distinction between anxiety and panic attacks is required to help those in need.
To help you understand these differences, let’s deduce panic attacks vs. anxiety attacks by first understanding the circumstances individually.
What is a panic attack?
Panic attacks are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V) under a larger category of disorders called panic disorders. Panic attacks are very sudden and triggered as an immediate reaction to a situation. It brings with it feelings of fear and anxiety and occurs for short periods, sometimes just minutes. However, its intensity can cause enormous psychological stress to a person even in that short period.
In the DSM-V, a panic attack is categorized by four of any of the following symptoms:
- fear of death,
- depersonalization or feeling detached from oneself,
- feeling out of control,
- hot flashes
- Heart palpitations ,
- excessive sweating
- Shortness of breath,
- chest pain and
What is an anxiety attack?
Unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks are more general in nature because they are not triggered by a specific life situation. Anxiety attacks are caused by a threat or fear that may be real or perceived by the person.
An anxiety attack does not happen suddenly. It slowly builds up over time as the fear or anxiety is not eliminated. Tension continues to build within the person until it begins to manifest. This final stage is where you will generally see someone having an anxiety attack.
Anxiety attacks are not classified in the DSM-V. However, scientists and mental health professionals classify the following as symptoms of an anxiety attack:
- fast heartbeat,
- insomnia or lack of sleep,
- Muscle tension, aches and pains
- Poor attention span.
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panic attack vs. Bout of anxiety
Although the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks seem similar on the surface, they differ in subtle but important ways. Some major differences separate the two conditions.
Panic attacks are frightening and sudden because they happen suddenly and without warning. Symptoms can be stressful, and one may feel a loss of touch with reality.
Anxiety attacks are a response to a stimulus that may be less stressful for some people. Symptoms range from mild to severe.
A panic attack often comes out of the blue, without clear warning or clear triggers. In contrast, the symptoms of an anxiety attack develop gradually over time.
Symptoms of anxiety attacks may last longer. In the case of panic attacks, symptoms peak around ten minutes and then subside.
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Panic attacks and anxiety attacks, although used interchangeably, are two different conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the distinction between them in order to provide or find appropriate assistance. Both conditions are treatable. Treatment options may include therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Now that you can deduce panic attack vs anxiety attack, let’s take you a step further. To learn more about the differences between a heart attack and a panic attack, see click here.
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