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What’s The Difference Between Anxiety And Panic Attacks

Why A Diagnosis Is Important

What is the difference between Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder?

A diagnosis is the first step to recovery. Knowing what type of mental illness you have is vital to the treatment process. Anxiety disorders are treated individually, meaning no two approaches are exactly alike. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet less than 50 percent of people seek treatment for the condition.

Dont Let Anxiety Get In The Way

Its extremely normal to feel anxious, nervous or frustrated at certain things in life. But feeling anxious all the time isnt.

Understanding your triggers and mental patterns is essential in helping you reduce anxiety attacks. If you discover yourself feeling anxious, try one of the six tips we have above to cope with it.

What Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have anxiety or were recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, consider asking your doctor these questions at your next visit.

  • How did I get anxiety? Is there a chance I passed this on to my kids?
  • Are there any underlying medical problems that could be causing my anxiety symptoms?
  • What are my treatment options for anxiety? Will I need to take an anxiety drug? Will I take it every day or as needed? How long will I need to take it?
  • What side effects can I expect from medications? Is there a way to minimize or prevent side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose of medication?
  • Should I begin therapy sessions? Which type and for how long?
  • How long before I can expect to feel better?
  • Once treated, how likely is it that my anxiety symptoms will return?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to help me feel better?
  • How will alcohol or other drugs interact with my medication or affect my anxiety?
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    Whats The Difference Between An Anxiety Attack Vs Panic Attack

    One big difference between the two is that a panic attack has a greater sense of fear, losing control, and a sense of detachment from the world than an anxiety attack does. While you may feel like fear is also a symptom of your own personal anxiety attacks, that could possibly also be described as distress and worries. Another big difference is that panic attacks are sudden and typically pretty short. Anxiety attacks can build up over time and like said before, can later lead to a full-on panic attack. One other difference to note is that panic attacks can be diagnosed by therapists as they are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . On the other hand, the DSM-5 doesnt use the term anxiety attack and therefore its not something a therapist can diagnose. Although anxiety attacks are not technically diagnosable, you can still receive anxiety therapy. When youre looking for a therapist for panic attacks, its important that you see a professional that really specializes in working with this type of really intense anxiety. At Aspire Counseling, we have several mental health clinicians who specialize in anxiety treatment and provide evidence-based anxiety treatment to help you find real relief. Our therapists offer online anxiety treatment in Missouri or in-person in Columbia.

    What Is A Panic Attack

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    Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear. Theyre accompanied by very challenging physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.

    The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognizes panic attacks and categorizes them as unexpected or expected.

    Unexpected panic attacks occur without an obvious cause. Expected panic attacks are cued by external stressors, such as phobias.

    Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but having more than one may be a sign of panic disorder.

    Symptoms of anxiety include:

    • distress
    • fear

    Anxiety is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, experience, or event. It may come on gradually.

    The lack of diagnostic recognition of anxiety attacks means that the signs and symptoms are open to interpretation.

    That is, a person may describe having an anxiety attack and have symptoms that another person has never experienced despite indicating that they too have had an anxiety attack.

    Read on to find out more about the differences between panic attacks and anxiety.

    Panic and anxiety attacks may feel similar, and they share a lot of emotional and physical symptoms.

    You can experience both an anxiety and a panic attack at the same time.


    It may be difficult to know whether what youre experiencing is anxiety or a panic attack. Keep in mind the following:

    • a stressful job
    • anxiety symptoms
    • panic attacks
    • panic disorders

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    What You Can Do In An Anxiety Or Panic Attack

    Anxiety attacks or panic attacks are scary and can interfere with your day-to-day life. Because theyre brought on by specific triggers, you may not always be prepared. A therapist can help you reduce the frequency of these attacks. However, in the short term, you may still have some. So, what do you do when that anxiety comes on?

    Some at-home remedies to try and treat or even reverse the feelings of anxiety or panic attacks are:

    Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

    Unlike sudden panic attacks, anxiety attacks follow a period of excessive worry. Symptoms can become more intense over some time, which could be a few minutes or hours. They are generally less intense than those of panic attacks.

    Anxiety attack symptoms last longer than those of a panic attack and can last extended periods, days, even weeks at a time. They include:

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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.

    What Is Anxiety Attack Characteristics Signs And Symptoms Cause Method Of Treatment

    Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack – What’s The Difference?

    Anxiety, being the commonest mental health condition identified among people, is usually characterized by doubtful or vulnerable thoughts about future occurrences. The main concern of these people lies in their future goals and objectives, along with the fear that they will ultimately become failures. Affected individuals will experience anxious thoughts involving various life events, unexplainable physical sensations, and self-guarding behavioral patterns. One of the hardest things for these people to engage in is, explaining what they are going through and what they are feeling to others, which is a good catch- up line for psychiatrists in making the diagnosis.

    As a rule, periods of anxiety usually tend to get intensified over a period of time and highly correlate with excessive worrying and irritability. Other major symptoms of anxiety may include, tension in muscles, sleep disturbances, insomnia, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, and weakness, restlessness, increased heart rate and startle response, shortness of breath and dizziness.

    Owing to a female predominance, anxiety can occur as a result of genetic factors, stress, positive family history, physical health issues or traumatic life events.

    Psychiatrists will use a complete history and a detailed questionnaire based on the pattern of symptoms associated with a recommended anxiety disorder criteria like Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 , which will often help to confirm the diagnosis.

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    How Are Anxiety Attacks Different From Panic Attacks

    While anxiety attacks are usually caused by stressors in your life, panic attacks dont have an apparent trigger.

    In contrast to anxiety attacks, panic attacks sneak up on you. Whether youre driving a car, having dinner or giving a presentation, panic attacks can strike at any time.

    One of the common signs of a panic attack is nausea, including the churning, uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, along with wanting to throw up.

    The sudden physical effects of a panic attack can be extremely frightening for most people.

    • You feel terrified and fearful all of a sudden.
    • Your heart rate increases rapidly, with your heart pounding in your chest.
    • You break out in a sweat and have trouble breathing.
    • Your hands start to tremble, or have a numbing and tingling feeling.
    • You get the chills and feel nauseous.
    • Theres pain in your chest, or you start having a headache.
    • You feel as though youre immobilised, or that you might lose control of the situation.

    Many people who suffer from panic attacks often mistake them for heart attacks due to their physical symptoms.

    You may also find yourself experiencing one or two panic attacks throughout your life, especially if youre under immense pressure or stress.

    Give Aromatherapy A Go

    Breathing in soothing plant oils can aid relaxation, helping to ease stress and anxiety.

    Another common way that people practice aromatherapy is using an aroma diffuser. These can come in the form of candles, reed diffusers or home diffusers.

    Simply place the diffuser in your room or work desk and drop a few drops of the essential oil into it.

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    Types Of Extreme Anxiety

    It is also essential to understand that there are many different types of anxiety disorders. Your doctor or therapist can evaluate your symptoms and determine what kind of condition you might have.

    If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

    For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

    What Is A Panic Attack And What Are The Symptoms

    Anxiety and Panic Attacks

    A panic attack comes on suddenly, leaving the person experiencing overwhelming fear, accompanied by intense physical symptoms of a racing heartbeat, chest pains, breathlessness or nausea.

    Panic attacks are recognised by the DSM , and can be both unexpected or expected, they are often brought on by external stressors such as phobias, they dont discriminate and can happen to anyone, however having more than 1 can be a telltale sign of panic disorder.

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    Is It Time To Get Some Help

    Life is rarely without its challenges. There are some, however, that can be so overbearing that it seems impossible to move on.

    Whether its the death of a loved one or overwhelming feelings of anxiety, its important you know that help is available for every problem life throws your way.

    Learn about common reasons people see psychologists.

    See A Doctor For Treatment

    Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health issues worldwide. If you feel that your anxiety is overwhelming and affecting your day-to-day life, do approach a mental health professional for help.

    Chat with your doctor about possible lines of treatment. Medical strategies to deal with anxiety disorders include a variety of treatments, from psychotherapy to medication.

    Medication such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines and anti-anxiety drugs might be prescribed by your doctor, depending on the severity of your condition.

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    Anxiety Can Be Our Friend

    We, as humans, need anxiety. Why? Anxiety is information.

    It tells us when we must freeze, flee, or fight and mobilizes our body to respond quickly, without thinking. Without anxiety, we would not be able to avoid real threats to our well-being.

    However, we also feel anxiety about imagined threats that may or may not be meaningful or real. In a sense, our minds have evolved to be extra careful about threat detection. They are more likely to evaluate things as threats than not. This way we do not miss anything that might harm us.

    Also, our minds do not have an off button. This means that sometimes anxiety becomes a problem because it doesnt give us useful information and contributes to our distress and avoidance.

    All humans experience anxiety when they experience stressful events, such as receiving an upsetting medical diagnosis. Public speaking, social events, relationship problems, stress on the job, and financial worries are also common triggers that make people feel anxious. However, sometimes life events can trigger anxiety disorders or panic disorder. So, whats the difference?

    Looking For An Anxiety Therapist In Missouri

    Panic attack vs anxiety, what’s the difference?

    If you feel like your anxiety or panic-related symptoms are affecting your everyday life, its time to reach out for help. Many of our therapists here at Aspire are trained in counseling for panic attacks. We would be happy to help you work on this. It is possible to heal and move on.

    While our counseling office is in Columbia, MO our counselors can treat anyone in Missouri through online therapy. This means that whether you are in Kirksville, Rolla, Cape Girardeau, Springfield, or anywhere else in the state, we are here to help. In fact, its important to state here that anxiety responds really well to online treatment as our therapist can virtually meet you where you are experiencing anxiety.

    To get started with anxiety treatment:

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    Symptoms Of A Panic Attack

    A panic attack is marked by a much more abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort. Panic attacks usually last a few minutes to an hour, reaching a peak within minutes. They include at least four of the following symptoms:

    • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
    • Feelings of choking
    • Paresthesia
    • Derealization
    • Depersonalization

    Panic attacks are discrete but are very frightening and unsettling. They are also surprisingly common. Statistics tell us that as many as one third of individuals will have at least one panic attack in their lifetime. Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldnt feel threatened.

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