The Difference Between Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack

April 10, 2024

Many people can’t tell the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. Yet, it’s critical to understand the distinction between the two, as it could help you handle them on the spot. If you want to recognize the signs of panic attacks and anxiety attacks in yourself and others, you’re in the right place. Let’s clarify how to help someone in this condition—even if it’s yourself.

Defining the Terms: Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack

From 2020 to 2021, anxiety has seen an upsurge US-wide. Most states have had the same experience, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But general anxiety isn’t the same as anxiety attacks.

So, let’s explain what the term anxiety attack means—and then we’ll switch to panic attacks.

What Is an Anxiety Attack?

An anxiety attack is a sudden and intense period of discomfort or fear that peaks in a few minutes and lasts for about an hour or longer. Typically, this experience manifests with a variety of emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms that drastically surpass general feelings of anxiety. It’s like usual, everyday anxiety on steroids.

For illustration, general anxiety is a persistent worry. In other words, it’s all about the intensity and duration of the symptoms. General anxiety is more chronic and diffuse with tension that lasts for months.

A young woman leaning on a window with her hands
The difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack lies in the duration of the experience

However, an anxiety attack is an acute, short-lived, and more intense reaction to overwhelming situations. Anxiety attacks often occur as a response to threats and pressures you perceive as such around you.

To help you understand, let’s list a few symptoms of an anxiety attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Choking sensations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Fear of dying or losing control

Triggers for anxiety attacks are individual and range from specific stressors in your life to more generalized triggers. Yet, some of the most common anxiety attack triggers from both categories include:

  • Work pressure
  • Personal conflicts
  • Health concerns
  • Financial worries

In some cases, anxiety attacks happen without an obvious trigger. As a result, the condition may seem unpredictable, increasing your anxiety levels.

Hopefully, now you can tell the difference between general anxiety and anxiety attacks. But if you’re still unsure of whether you or someone you know are facing anxiety attacks, you can reach out to one of the mental health clinics in Arkansas for more information.

Mental health hospitals, like Time Wellness, usually offer specialized care for anxiety. Look for anxiety treatment centers in Arkansas and get the treatment plan that will help you manage your anxiety and prevent attacks effectively.

What Is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are sudden, intense displays of distress or fear that peak within a couple of minutes and last up to half an hour. According to experts, panic attacks are quite common in the general population.

During a panic attack, you may experience many psychological and physical symptoms that seem overwhelming and disproportionate to any real danger.

In many cases, panic attacks occur unexpectedly without any obvious causes. In other cases, phobias and stressors can cause a panic attack to transpire. Here’s how to recognize the symptoms of this condition:

  • Feelings of detachment from yourself
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Feelings of choking
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of unreality (derealization)
  • Accelerated heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath or smothering
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Abdominal distress or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Fear of going crazy or fear of dying
A young man grabbing his head with his both hands, a sign of the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack
Feelings of unreality can seriously mess up your day-to-day life

The onset of a panic attack can seem to you like you’ve found yourself in a life-threatening medical situation. Yet, panic attacks usually last up to half an hour and often are far shorter in duration than anxiety attacks.

In either case, you may benefit from professional help. Explore mental health services in Arkansas and let a team of professionals determine the best treatment plan for you. You may need therapy, medication, or a combination of both. You may also benefit from holistic mental health treatment approaches. Mental health professionals will talk to you, evaluate your symptoms and circumstances, and figure out the best course of action.

Key Difference Between an Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack

Some of the symptoms of anxiety attacks and panic attacks we listed above might seem similar. As always, the devil is in the details.

So, let’s discuss symptom onset, duration, intensity, triggers, and causes that often help people discover the differences.

Symptom Onset

Here’s a brief overview of the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety attacks:

  • Panic attacks strike without warning, creating a wave of overwhelming discomfort or fear. With panic attacks, one moment, you might feel fine and utterly overwhelmed the next.
  • Anxiety attacks develop more gradually than panic attacks. They intensify over time, with this build-up allowing you to get ready for it. In the face of specific situations or in response to stress you have accumulated, you might sense your anxiety getting even worse.

Intensity and Duration

Now, let’s focus on the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack in terms of duration and intensity. Here’s the overview:

  • Panic attacks are short-lived and last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. Their intensity peaks rapidly. If you experience a panic attack, you might feel physically exhausted or emotionally drained soon after it appears.
  • Anxiety attacks are less intense but persist for longer periods. Generally speaking, anxiety attacks aren’t as intense as panic attacks. Yet, the prolonged duration of anxiety attacks contributes to you feeling a lingering sense of distress or unease over longer periods.
A woman holding a door, with a sad face
One difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is whether triggers are known to you

Causes and Triggers

Finally, let’s look at the triggers and causes of panic attacks and anxiety attacks:

  • Panic attacks are typically unpredictable. In other words, they happen without apparent triggers. The absence of clear causes often exacerbates the confusion and fear you experience during an attack.
  • Anxiety attacks are usually triggered by threats and stressors you can identify. These range from upcoming events that provide worry to phobias that evoke intense fear.

Treatment and Management of Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

You can treat anxiety attacks and panic attacks with a blend of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Of course, all this should happen under the wakeful eyes of healthcare professionals.

Let’s explore a few approaches to treating and managing attacks of this kind—some more mainstream, others a tad alternative.

#1: General Approaches

Some of the general approaches to treating and managing panic attacks and anxiety attacks include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) effectively treats both conditions. CBT identifies and challenges negative behaviors and thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed to help with some symptoms. The daily dosage of the medicine depends on your individual needs and the severity of your symptoms.
  • Support groups provide a sense of understanding and community. Also, a supportive environment of this sort serves as a platform to share coping strategies and experiences.
  • Lifestyle modifications involve regular physical activities, practicing mindfulness, and maintaining a healthy diet. Finally, a regular sleep schedule also helps reduce the intensity and frequency of attacks.

#2: PTSD Treatment in Arkansas

Post-traumatic stress disorder is often marked by panic and anxiety. But PTSD treatment in Arkansas offers various treatment options, such as:

  • Biofeedback therapy gives you a glimpse into what’s happening in your body, including muscle tension and heartbeat. This therapy teaches you how to control these body functions to reduce stress.
  • FLOAT tank therapy helps you relax and sleep better. It’s a tank full of saltwater where you can’t see or hear anything outside of it.
  • Biosound therapy combines vibrations, guided images, and music to help you feel more at peace. Biosound therapy has proven effective in treating both panic attacks and anxiety attacks.
Two persons holding hands; the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is that an anxiety attack lasts longer
Family and group support are a critical component in treating anxiety and panic attacks

#3: Intensive Outpatient Programs

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are a structured treatment option for anyone suffering from anxiety, panic, or related conditions—without the need for inpatient hospitalization.

With IOPs, you get the chance to continue with your daily life and receive the treatment you need. Some of the hallmarks of IOP mental health in Arkansas include:

  • Scheduled therapy sessions occur several times per week. These include group therapy, individual counseling, and family therapy.
  • Holistic approaches such as art therapy, meditation, and exercise programs. These help you support your overall wellness.
  • Flexibility means that we work to accommodate your schedules, however busy. This makes it easier for you to balance treatment with school, work, and family responsibilities.

Whatever you do, please seek professional guidance to get personalized advice and treatment plans.

Seek Help for an Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack Today

Anxiety attacks and panic attacks aren’t something you should push under the rug. In fact, they can become worse over time, deteriorating your day-to-day functioning.

Not bound by convention, we provide treatment options that cater to your needs. For us, there is no such thing as “difficult cases.” In fact, we treat and help anyone who approaches us seeking assistance. In other words, we guide you through the thick and thin of your mental illness.

Contact Time Wellness Arkansas today and get the help you or your loved ones need!

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7040e3.htm
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7013e2.htm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430973/