You might have heard the terms anxiety attack and panic attack. Some people might look at these as the same experience. However, though they sound very similar, there are some key differences that are important to know. Once you know the differences, you will then be able to get the right kind of treatment. That said, let’s dive into the characteristics of an anxiety attack vs. panic attack.
Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack Symptoms
The classic symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- Feelings of uneasiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Uncontrollable worries
Panic attack symptoms include all of these things but may also involve:
- Painful tightness in chest
- Rapid heart rate
- Intense fear
- Loss of sensation in arms or legs
- Loss of consciousness
On paper, these symptoms look very similar. But when somebody experiences an anxiety attack vs. a panic attack, the feelings are usually drastically different. Of course, both anxiety attacks and panic attacks can cause a lot of distress. Speaking generally on anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks, the intensity and duration of these two things set them apart.
In most cases, panic attacks are usually more acute. They usually do not last as long as anxiety attacks do, but the symptoms can be much more intense. They are even confused with heart attacks by people experiencing them because of how severe the physical reaction can become.
Anxiety attacks may not be as intense in the moment, but the stress that comes from having them can be detrimental to somebody’s ability to function. People who experience anxiety attacks might try to avoid all future situations that could lead to having another one. This could lead to social isolation, difficulties at work, and interpersonal relationship strain. Not to mention that the fear of experiencing anxiety can make some people feel as though they cannot leave their house.
Knowing the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is challenging to begin with, but even harder in the moment if you are experiencing the symptoms. If you do have symptoms of either, it can be helpful to write them down after you are through the episode and consult with a mental health expert to know more about your experience.
What Causes Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks?
One of the biggest differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is the cause. There are certain factors that can increase the chances of experiencing either or both an anxiety attack and panic attack. Being in an unfamiliar environment that over-stimulates the senses can make it harder to control feelings of anxiety and panic, which then leads to the attacks.
Frequently, anxiety attacks specifically stem from untreated anxiety disorders. This might include conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), mood disorders, and co-occurring substance use disorders. These conditions can cause feelings of anxiety to build throughout time. Then, when the anxiety becomes too much to cope with, it results in the brain and body reacting with an attack.
Panic attacks, on the other hand, usually happen suddenly and without a lot of warning. Before a panic attack, you might start to feel overwhelmed. You might notice some of the physical symptoms as well, such as sweating or your breathing becoming more and more shallow. Many times after the start of these symptoms, the panic sets in.
When you have a panic attack, your brain might tell your body that you are in a life-threatening situation, even if you are somewhere safe. This often happens for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In these instances, a certain sensation, environment, or memory could trigger a panic attack. Though logically you know that you are safe, your brain and body feel as though you are in danger. This can lead to the fight or flight response in which you either flee a stressful situation or completely shut down.
Occasionally, panic attacks come from untreated panic disorders. This isn’t always the case, but if you experience recurring and unexpected panic attacks, the National Institute of Mental Health reports, you might have a panic disorder. However, depending on the cause of your anxiety or panic attacks, certain treatments can help to alleviate the symptoms and make it easier to cope when experiencing them in the moment.
Florida Mental Health Care Is Here
Treatment for anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks varies both while you are going through them and when you are trying to prevent them. If you are able to recognize when you are having an anxiety attack vs. panic attack, you might be able to get yourself to a quiet, safe environment to utilize coping strategies that ease the symptoms. This could include deep breathing, mindfulness, or talking to a trusted loved one.
Ultimately, the most effective way to prevent anxiety and panic attacks would be to get mental health treatment for the underlying disorders that cause them. Luckily, treatment facilities like Springbrook Behavioral Hospital specialize in treating mental health conditions as well as helping people in acute, crisis situations. Through our inpatient mental health treatment, you will be able to address the root cause of your anxiety or panic attacks with services such as:
- One-on-one therapy
- Group sessions
- Therapeutic activity groups
- Medication evaluation
- Psycho-educational focus groups
These therapies and services can introduce you to techniques on easing your anxiety and feelings of panic so that you aren’t inhibited by the threat of attacks. Recognizing the differences between anxiety and panic attacks is just the first step toward being able to manage the symptoms. Taking action and getting treatment for these conditions is the next stop on the road toward recovery.
For more information on anxiety attacks vs. panic attacks or for any other inquiries you might have, reach out to us by calling 772-408-5871. Not quite ready to speak on the phone? You can submit a confidential contact form instead. If you are hoping to reclaim control over your thoughts and feelings, Springbrook Behavioral Hospital can help.