Is Panic Attack And Anxiety Attack The Same Thing
January 8, 2015 by Jenny
Hi. Its Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Nicole in McClung, Virginia. Is panic attack and anxiety attack the same thing?
The short answer is no. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are not the same thing. There are, however, many similarities between the two. The key difference is that anxiety attacks are provoked by a specific stressor or trigger whereas, a panic attack is unprovoked or the trigger is unidentifiable and unpredictable.
The similarities and the physiological symptoms experienced during anxiety and panic attack is what makes people question whether they are the same thing. However, the differences are best identified by the intensity and duration of the predominant symptoms experienced.
In both panic and anxiety attacks, the symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. During a panic attack, these symptoms occur suddenly and unpredictably. They increase in intensity over a short period of time. In addition, you may experience additional symptoms of feelings of deep personalization or being detached from yourself, fear of dying, numbness, trembling or feeling of choking. Symptoms associated with panic attack usually subside as suddenly as they occur.
Panic Attacks Are A Common Symptom
A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense terror that may occur in certain situations or for no apparent reason. A panic attack does not mean a person is necessarily suffering an anxiety disorder. However, a panic attack is a common feature of each type of anxiety disorder. Symptoms of a panic attack may include:
- Shortness of breath
The cause of panic attacks is unknown, but they may be related to a chemical response in the brain, caused by actual threatening or stressful events or by thinking about stressful events. The brain response leads to physiological changes in the body, such as shallow breathing and rapid heartbeat.
Panic attacks can be frightening. Some people say they feel like they are going to die or go crazy. People affected by panic attacks may avoid situations in which they think attacks might occur. In some cases, this may lead to the development of other anxiety disorders including agoraphobia.
What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like
Panic attacks mimic life-threatening situations where the individual feels they are dying. They will often present with chest pain and shortness of breath that typically peaks within 10 minutes. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is diagnosed when individuals experience recurrent panic attacks followed by at least one-month duration of having a fear of an oncoming panic attack. The following are common signs and symptoms associated with panic attacks:
- Fear of dying
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Causes Of Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks
Panic and anxiety attacks can often be brought on by worry and fear, but in different ways.
Causes of a panic attack
A panic attack can be caused by a stressful event or nothing at all. They happen suddenly, usually without warning, and can even occur when youre sleeping or relaxed.
Panic attacks can be brought on by certain conditions:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety
Your panic attack can be the result of your body trying to get you out of a situation that is perceived as dangerous. This response puts your body into fight-or-flight mode.
Causes of an anxiety attack
Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry or fear about a certain situation. Anxiety can cause you to have trouble rationalizing the situation and brings about feelings of dread and apprehension.
People who have anxiety attacks may also have an anxiety disorder, of which there are several.
How Anxiety Plays A Role
Its important to remember that its both normal and healthy to feel anxiety. During uncomfortable situations, anxiety may even help you sense and avoid danger. But people tend to experience those feelings more intenselyand beyond a manageable amountduring anxiety and panic attacks.
The system gets activated in response to things that arent actually dangerous, or youre exaggerating the danger or concern, Forand says. In other words, your body is setting up false alarms.
While anxiety attacks can be triggered by anxiety, panic attacks are generally classified as either expectedmeaning the attack is triggered by something like a phobiaor unexpected, where there is no discernable cause for the episode. And for those who suffer from unexpected attacks, it can be frightening. Once you have one of these experiences, Forand says, you can become so frightened of it that you start to avoid places that might be associated with it, referring to the roughly 6 million Americans who will develop panic disorder, which is a fear of having more panic attacks. You start to avoid things that remind you of it and become quite attuned to any of the physical sensations that might be a cue for a panic attack happening.
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Anxiety And Panic Attacks
A lot of people use the terms anxiety attack and panic attack interchangeably, but anxiety and panic attacks are slightly different beasts, Dr. Josell says. Whats the difference?
Heres a basic breakdown:
- Anxiety is a typical human emotion. Big nerves before a big test, feeling super-stressed before a work presentation, fear before a medical exam anxiety is unpleasant in the moment, but can also motivate us and protect us from threats, Dr. Josell says. Everybody experiences anxiety.
- Anxiety disorders occur when anxiety starts to interfere with everyday life. They can come in many forms, like social anxiety, a phobia of spiders or planes, or generally feeling worried and on alert at all times. What anxiety disorders have in common: People respond to non-threatening things with outsized fear and dread.
- Anxiety attacks arent technically a thing, at least not according to medical terminology. Its a laypersons term for a panic attack.
- Panic attacks are intense attacks of fear and anxiety that may occur without warning. They often occur in response to a stressful event. But sometimes they strike for no apparent reason. The bodys fight-or-flight response gets triggered when it shouldnt. The body thinks its in danger, but its not, Dr. Josell says. Panic attacks are scary, but not dangerous and usually last just 15 or 20 minutes.
- Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It occurs when a person has repeated panic attacks.
Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
The main features of an anxiety disorder are fears or thoughts that are chronic and distressing and that interfere with daily living. Other symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include:
- Panic or anxiety attacks or a fear of these attacks
- Physical anxiety reactions for example trembling, sweating, faintness, rapid heartbeat, difficulties breathing or nausea
- Avoidance behaviour a person may go to extreme lengths to avoid a situation that they think could bring on anxiety or panic.
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How Do I Treat Or Manage These Attacks
All the health and wellness practices we should probably all be doing can go a long way in managing panic and anxiety, says Sawchuk. These include getting the right amount of sleep for you, following a healthy diet, eating regularly to avoid blood sugar dips, and exercising. Meditation, mindfulness, and a solid social support system can also keep you on an even keel.
Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown to help people manage both panic and anxiety. In CBT, you learn how to recognize the thoughts and triggers bring on these attacks, and how to think about them differently so they no longer amp you up, or if they do, you learn how to tolerate it. In the case of panic attacks, the CBT may involve exposure therapy in which the therapist carefully and gradually brings on the symptoms of a panic attack, says Sawchuk. Suppose you had a panic attack while running and felt like you were going to die a therapist might have you do something to get your heart pounding again, to show you that a pounding heart does not equal certain death.
“Its about retraining the brain and rewiring the alarm system to its not going off whenever those symptoms get stimulated,” he says. “You start to gain confidence, knowing that you can handle the symptoms and that theyre not dangerous. You can actually retrain your brain to become bored with these symptoms.”
Difference Between Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks
Knowing the difference between panic and anxiety attacks can help you understand the symptoms before and during the episode.
A panic attack causes you to feel intense, sudden fear that can be overwhelming and immobilizing. They can happen for no reason, or a triggering event can cause one. During a panic attack, you may feel terrified or threatened.
Some people experience panic attacks as a part of panic disorder, and others only have them once or occasionally. Panic attacks usually only last a few minutes.
An anxiety attack occurs when stress, anxiety, and worry become overwhelming. They are brought on by persistent worry either over big events, like illness and death, or small, everyday things. The attack is the result of building anxiety over time that reaches a breaking point.
An anxiety attack is not so much an attack but just when anxiety comes to a head. They are episodes of intense worry, fear, and dread that trigger physical symptoms. They feel more predictable since they are the result of you worrying about something.
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Treatment For Panic Disorder
The American Psychiatric Association recommends treating patients with panic disorder when symptoms cause dysfunction or significant distress in aspects of an individuals life as their such as work, family life, social obligation, and leisure activities. Benzodiazepines such as Valium are not a first-line recommended treatment approach for individuals with panic disorder and are for individuals who have panic disorder that has not been successfully treated with any other psychotherapy or pharmacological treatment. The first-line treatment for panic disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy with or without medication. Medications that are recommended include antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors .
When Anxiety Attacks: The Signs And Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack
If youre one of the 18.1% of people in the United States who suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may be familiar with the intense experience of an anxiety attack. Each second that passes during one of these episodes can feel like minutes or hours as your chest tightens up, breathing becomes difficult, and youre overcome with intense and irrational fear. Many people have described anxiety attacks as feeling like theyre drowning on dry land.
Anxiety attack is not a formal, medical term. Rather, its a term used by many people to describe a wide variety of anxious responses that can sometimes be linked to certain specific triggers but can also occur unexpectedly for no apparent reason. The term can be used to describe a wide range of negative thoughts and sensations such as worries about an upcoming event all the way to intense, paralyzing fear.
The first step toward managing and coping with anxiety attacks is to understand what they are and how to identify them.
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Treatments For Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks
The most effective treatments for both panic and anxiety attacks is therapy, even if it is short-term. As these attacks can be brought on by fear, worry, stress, or a disorder, a professional can help you get to the root of the problem.
Here are some types of therapy to treat panic and anxiety attacks and disorders:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy for panic disorder
- Exposure therapy for panic disorder with agoraphobia
You can also take preventative steps to avoid both kinds of attacks. Some helpful things to reduce panic and anxiety include:
- Managing your stress
Where To Get Help
Overcoming anxiety and dealing with panic attacks is easier if you seek help. Talk to your doctor, , or see below for online programs and tools that can help.
- ReachOut.com’s ReachOut Worry Time App can help to control everyday worries and anxieties.
- Black Dog Institutes’ myCompass provides a personalised online self-help program.
- MindSpot’s Mood Mechanic Course helps young adults aged 18 to 25 and Indigenous Wellbeing Course is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 18 years and over.
- This Way Up’s online courses teach individuals core skills to tackle symptoms of panic and generalized anxiety disorder.
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What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
Try Taking A Walk Or Exercising
When your anxiety gets too overwhelming, give yourself a short break away from what youre doing. Sometimes, forcing yourself to concentrate on an activity might lead to even more anxiety.
Be kind to your mind. Go for a walk around your neighbourhood, or to your pantry for a drink. Letting yourself take a few breaths to re-centre your thoughts is extremely effective in reducing anxious feelings.
Another tip you can try is exercising. For instance, doing yoga not only helps you to concentrate on your breathing, but also stretches out your body. Trying out yoga or stretching activities can also help to loosen the tension in your muscles.
Of course, doing more strenuous activities such as going for a run or signing up for a gym class can also have positive effects on reducing anxiety. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that could help you feel more relaxed post-workout.
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Are Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks The Same
We all worry from time to time. Yet panic and anxiety attacks are distinct from normal fear. Theyre accompanied by emotional and physical symptoms that can make it difficult to get on with your day.
Panic attacks appear to come out of nowhere. They are considered to be more intense than anxiety attacks, and usually peak and subside within 10 minutes or so.
Panic attacks are recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . Theyre linked with panic disorder, which impacts 2.7% of adults in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America .
On the other hand, anxiety attacks arent officially recognized by the DSM-5, so the definition of what constitutes an attack can be a bit vague.
Anxiety attacks are associated with a few conditions, including: