A lot of people say panic attack when they mean anxiety attack and vice versa, but they are distinct issues. While panic attacks and anxiety share some of the same symptoms, there are some definable differences between the two.
To know the differences between the two, it is a good idea to look at them separately. This can show the similarities and differences as well as the wide range of symptoms that may occur with each one.
What is a Panic Attack?
Table of Contents
A panic attack comes on suddenly and causes an intense feeling of discomfort and fear. The symptoms can be very severe and make it impossible to function. The feeling can be very overwhelming and make it hard to think clearly. There are several symptoms according to the DSM-5, and a panic attack is characterized by four or more of those symptoms.
The mental symptoms include a feeling of derealization. This means that things may not seem real. Our situation and the environment around us may seem unfamiliar, even if it is a place we know well. This can also contribute to a feeling of isolation and alienation.
A panic attack can also cause depersonalization. This means that we feel detached from our own identity. Whereas derealization causes the things around us to appear unreal, depersonalization causes us to feel that our identity and self is not real.
A person suffering from a panic attack may also feel like they are losing control or going crazy. They may also have an intense fear of death. They may not feel like there is any way to escape the dreadful moment during the panic attack.
Panic attacks can also cause a host of physical symptoms. It can increase heart rate and contribute to sweating and shaking. It may also cause someone to have difficulty breathing. This may coincide with hyperventilation or a feeling of choking as well as chest pain. Other physical symptoms of a panic attack include nausea, tingling or numbness, dizziness, chills, and hot flashes.
A panic attack can occur seemingly out of nowhere and there is often no easily identifiable trigger. However, there may be a stressor or trigger present in some cases that causes the person to expect a panic attack. The symptoms come on fast and subside fast, but it may seem like a long time during a panic attack. Typically, the symptoms will peak in around 10 minutes and then begin to dissipate gradually. In some cases, a panic attack can last longer or someone can have more than one panic attack in a row.
After a panic attack, a person can feel high levels of stress and excessive worries may linger through the mind. They may feel off for the rest of the day and be on edge. However, the panic should not last a long time in most cases.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety comes on gradually, unlike a panic attack. Over a prolonged period of time, worry pervades the mind and may increase. It can also be debilitating and distracting but is not rapid and intense like a panic attack.
Anxiety can cause a lot of different symptoms. It can make it hard to concentrate and can cause someone to be restless and irritable. It can also contribute to muscle tension and can even lead to mental and physical fatigue.
Anxiety can disrupt sleep and increase heart rate. Some people find that their anxiety causes dizziness and puts them on edge. The symptoms of anxiety can last a long time. They may lead to excessive worry over days, weeks, or months. The symptoms can fluctuate from mild to severe during that period as well.
Anxiety and panic attacks can reduce wellbeing and impact quality of life. There are some effective treatment options for them as well that can help you get the conditions under control. These methods can be used by themselves or together to achieve he desired results and improve wellbeing and mental health.
Psychotherapy can help you understand and manage your symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks. In addition, it may help you identify triggers and work towards a healthy solution. A qualified therapist can also help you learn coping mechanisms and how to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Medications can also be used for reducing symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks. They are often only prescribed short term, but there are other options available as well. Typically, medication will be used along with psychotherapy and other methods as a long term, healthy solution.
Finally, self-help techniques and coping strategies may be used to improve symptoms associated with anxiety or panic attacks. Things like breathing and relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, journaling, and reframing, can help a person to cope with their negative thoughts and feelings associated with worry, stress, anxiety, and panic.
Panic attacks and anxiety can both negatively impact our wellbeing. They can cause a host of symptoms that makes it difficult to function. However, they are not the same thing. Panic attacks are more sudden and intense and can lead to depersonalization and derealization.
Anxiety is more gradual and causes excessive worry. However, there are treatment options that can work for both like therapy and self-help techniques. These treatment options can help you take your life back into control and can improve your overall mental health and wellbeing.