Having a Panic Attack or Anxiety Attack: How Do You Know?

Panic Attack or Anxiety Attack: How Do You Know?
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What is an anxiety attack?

Ever feeling really paranoid or just getting really restless? Well, you are probably having either a panic attack or an anxiety attack. People often consider panic attacks and anxiety attacks to be the same, but they are characteristically different from each other.  The symptoms of both the attacks often overlap but that doesn’t mean they are the same. The duration and intensities of both attacks are different.

In most cases, panic attacks are always more severe than Anxiety attacks. Panic attacks can hit you out of the blue, on the other hand, there is always a trigger for anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks are always provoked by some kind of association with a certain person, place, thing, or incidents.

Anxiety attacks are mostly linked to one of the other kinds of mental illness like trauma or OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). On the other hand, panic attacks only cause people who have panic disorder.

Symptoms And Signs of the Anxiety attack and Panic attack

To understand the difference between a panic attack and anxiety attack it is best to compare the symptoms of both the conditions:

Symptoms of Panic Attack

Panic attacks come on suddenly, without a clear trigger. Some symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Severe chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Shivering
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme numbness or extreme tingling
  • Sweating
  • Breathlessness
  • Stomach ache
  • Choking feeling

Apart from these symptoms, some people may also experience:

  • The feeling of losing their minds
  • Feeling of going crazy
  • The feeling of losing control
  • Feeling that your mind of detached from your body and surroundings, also known as depersonalization

These symptoms may last for up to 10 mins when someone is having a panic attack, reach a peak before they finally recede. But there are many cases where there are a couple of panic attacks occur one after another making if feel the symptoms are lasting for a much longer time. It’s hard for people to get about their daily schedule after going through a panic attack. People mostly end up feeling worried, stressed and unreal for the remaining part of the day.

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Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks

Panic attacks come to go in a gif, that’s not the case with anxiety attacks. Symptoms of anxiety include worrying way too much which can vary from 10 mins to a few hours. They are less intense as compared to panic attacks but a longer-lasting. Here are some symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Dizziness
  • The feeling of being startled
  • Chest pains
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth
  • Fear
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathlessness
  • Muscle pains
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling distressed
  • Disturbing sleep patterns
  • The feeling of being smothered or choked

These symptoms are mostly longer-lasting than the symptoms of panic attacks. They may stay for or even months.

Difference Between Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks

Panic Attack VS Anxiety Attack

There is a lot of overlap between the symptoms of anxiety attacks and panic attacks, because of this people often confuse both of them to be similar. But here are some things that can help you in understanding the difference between both conditions:Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

  • Anxiety attacks are always triggered by a perceived threat of some kind of stressor. Panic attacks, on the other hand, occur without any kind of trigger.
  • The symptoms of a panic attack can be very severe in nature. They come and go in a flash but leave a feeling of detachment from reality. Symptoms of an anxiety attack, on the other hand, can vary in severity. They can go from mild to intense.
  • Symptoms of panic attacks go away after a couple of mins but symptoms of anxiety attacks can last for a much longer time.
  • Panic attacks come and go in about minutes, anxiety attacks on the other hand just get worse with time. They can intensity for hours or even days.

What Can Cause These Attacks?

Panic attacks can be expected in case a person has had a history of having them, or they can be unexpected too. In case of unexpected attacks, it’s hard to pinpoint a trigger that causes the attack. They often occur randomly.

Anxiety attacks can be triggered by an array of reasons. Listing some below:

  • Social stresses
  • Driving
  • Work stresses
  • Caffeine
  • Flashbacks and memories from previous traumas
  • Different kinds of phobia
  • Withdrawals from drug or alcohol
  • Severe pains and other conditions
  • Some kinds of medications

    Some Risk Factors

Some people are more prone to panic attacks if:

  • A person has a restless or anxious personality
  • A person has some kind of mental issue like bipolar disorder, anxiety or depression
  • Any previous history of family members with manic or anxiety disorders
  • Issues with drug and alcohol abuse
  • Someone is already undergoing a lot of stress in their work and personal lives
  • Someone has been through or witnessed a stressful or traumatic event in the past.

As a matter of fact, females are more prone to having anxiety or panic attacks as compared to their male counterparts.

How to Diagnose?

A mental health professional or a doctor can help you in diagnosing a panic or anxiety attack.

Anxiety is not counted as a clinical condition as per the DSM-5, so it gets hard for the doctors to diagnose an anxiety attack. Doctors can, however, identify with the symptoms. Before coming to any kind of conclusion doctors will need to know about the medical and personal history of a patient. If need be, they also conduct some kind of psychological evaluation to categorize the disorder, if any. This helps them strike out any other conditions with the same symptoms.

What To Do I You Ever Experience A Panic Attack?

Even though the experience of going through any of the attacks is not easy but if the attacks are frequent it becomes mandatory for a person to understand and do things that can help him/her during a Panic attack. Here are some things that can be helpful:

Acknowledging and accepting what is happening

Just the thought of experiencing anxiety or panic attacks can be very scary. If you acknowledge a situation and try to understand the cause of a certain situation, things can start to get very helpful and can help a person in passing the illness sooner. Knowing that the attack will be over soon can help reduce fear and anxiety.

Controlling your breath

One of the major and the most alarming symptom in both the attacks is breathlessness. It becomes very important to take control of your breath. Focusing on your breath, slowing inhaling and exhaling till the heartbeat becomes stable till the symptoms subside. Following this routine can be very helpful. Counting and holding your breath can also be helpful. One can hold their breath and count till 4 before they exhale and then repeat the process.

Relaxing techniques

Some methods of relaxation like imagery and in some cases use of progressive muscle relaxation can be very helpful in releasing the feelings of anxiety and stress from the body. Both these techniques combined together have known to help a lot of people.

Practice Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness helps keeps one’s mind and body in sync. This can help a person in being grounded and can help them stay closer to reality.
Mindfulness helps to be aware of and accepting the thoughts and emotions that one is feeling without reacting to it.

Some home remedies

A daily workout can be very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety. Healthy body, healthy mind. Here are some more home remedies that can help with anxiety and stress:

  • Discovering triggers that cause panic and anxiety
  • Live with a positive attitude
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Workout everyday
  • Practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing
  • Involve yourself in fun activities
  • Build healthy network of support

Some Medical Treatments


Therapy can be helpful for a lot of people. It helps one identify the triggers which can later be worked on. Sometimes people experience anxiety attacks due to some trauma from the past, therapy also helps people are accepting and making peace with their past life and work past it for a better future.

One commonly known treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy

Anxiety Attack Medications

Some medications help people who experience frequent and severe symptoms. Medications work best when used alongside therapy but they can also be used on their own. Some kinds of medications that doctors may prescribe are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antianxiety drugs
  • Benzodiazepines
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