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Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Know the differences between panic attack and anxiety attack.

Published
Mind It
3 min read
Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack
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You may have heard people using the term panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably. Though there are a few symptoms that do overlap but the conditions are completely different from one another.

According to PubMed, panic attack may come on suddenly and is higher in intensity, but anxiety attacks generally have triggers involved.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), panic attack may be accompanied by a sudden, intense and overwhelming fear with physical symptoms of loss of breath, nausea and racing heartbeat. It can be categorized as expected or unexpected, expected ones are caused due to external stress or phobia. Unexpected panic attacks can affect a person out of the blue.

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According to Mayo Clinic, anxiety is a normal part of life if it occurs occasionally. Anxiety is characterised by a constant, intense and excessive worry about day-to-day life. There are different types of anxiety disorders like generalised anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and social anxiety. People often avoid situations to prevent the onset of the attack.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack: Causes 

According to Healthline, anxiety disorder can have various triggers including health issues like cancer or chronic illness, over the counter medicines like birth control pills, weight loss pills etc. According to PubMed, caffeine can also trigger or worsen your anxiety.

According to Mayo Clinic, different types of anxiety can have different causes:

Agoraphobia may make you feel anxious in places which cause embarrassment, helplessness or gives you a feeling of being trapped. Other causes may include separation from parents, fear of speaking in public, panic disorder, withdrawal from drugs, exposure to toxic substances, etc.

Risk factors that can induce a panic attack include: major stress, changes in the way brain function, genetics, family history, sensitivity to stressful situations, etc.

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack: Symptoms

According to the US NIH, there are various physical and mental symptoms that may be common in panic or anxiety attacks and they can affect a person simultaneously. According Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of anxiety attack include:

  • Nervousness or restlessness

  • Rapid breathing

  • Stress or fear with no solid reason

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Weakness

  • Sleep problems

  • Lack of concentration

  • Gastrointestinal problems

  • Urge to avoid places and situations that may be a trigger

According to the UK NHS, the symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Hot Flushes

  • Sweating

  • Chills

  • Increased heart palpitations

  • Nausea

  • Loss of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Chest pain

  • Shivering and shaking

  • Churning stomach

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack: Diagnosis 

Diagnosis can start with a physical examination to know if there is an underlying condition that causes the anxiety attacks, according to Mayo Clinic. Your doctor may give you a psychological situation and your reaction or discussion on that particular situation may help him diagnose the cause and complications of anxiety. Doctors also compare the symptoms of the patient with the criteria mentioned by the American Psychiatric Association.

According to the UK NHS, your mental health professional may talk to you to discuss the symptoms in certain situations to recognise your triggers, they may prescribe some physical tests, blood tests or ECG on your heart to rule out any conditions that may be the cause of panic attacks.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack:Treatment 

Medications and psychotherapy are the two main treatment for anxiety disorder and panic disorder. According to the US NIH, various therapies may be helpful to reduce the severity and frequency of these attacks may include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy which can help you recognise and manage your triggers.

  • Cognitive therapy helps you tackle the unhelpful and negative thoughts that can cause attacks.

  • Relaxation therapy includes breathing exercises, guided imagery, autogenic training, etc

Doctors may prescribe anti-depressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), beta-blockers to manage the physical symptoms or few anti-anxiety drugs.

It's important to consult your doctor before taking any drugs to deal with you panic or anxiety attacks.

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