Updated date:

Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks: Know the Difference

Eliza is a young writer who suffers from several mental disabilities and strives to inform others of the reality of having these disorders.

What's the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks generally result from a trigger or specific event, whereas a panic attack can occur unpredictably with no identifiable cause. Symptoms of a panic attack are usually more severe than those of an anxiety attack.

Symptoms of both kinds of attacks can appear very similar, but there are differences between the two. Below is a table comparing the symptoms people (including myself) have reported experiencing during a panic and/or anxiety attack.

Comparing the Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

SymptomAnxiety AttackPanic Attack

Excessive worrying

 

Restlessness

 

Distress

 

Tightness of the chest

Hot flashes

Fear

Fear of dying

 

Derealization or Depersonalize

 

Heart palpitations

Shortness of breath

Feeling of choking

Numbness

Trembling

Nausea or stomach pain

Dizzy/feeling faint

Headache

Sweating

Dry Mouth

Chills

Even though a panic attack is more debilitating than an anxiety attack, both can be extremely tiring to the body and mind—especially when people try to hide how hard they are fighting.

Even though a panic attack is more debilitating than an anxiety attack, both can be extremely tiring to the body and mind—especially when people try to hide how hard they are fighting.

More on the Differences

  • Anxiety attacks are not a diagnosable condition, but panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and panic disorders are.
  • Anxiety can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder or a panic disorder.
  • Anxiety attacks can range from barely noticeable (i.e., just a lingering feeling in the back of the mind) to quite severe, and symptoms usually come on gradually.
  • Panic attacks usually come on quite suddenly, and symptoms are almost always severe.
  • Panic attacks also bring more of the physical symptoms, while anxiety attacks mostly revolve around mental symptoms.

I am not saying that anxiety attacks aren't bad, they are, but there is a difference between the severity of the two.

If you are struggling there are people out there to help you. Don't fight this alone!

If you are struggling there are people out there to help you. Don't fight this alone!

What It's Like Living With Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Ever since I was a child, I have been very sensitive. I was homeschooled until third grade because at school, I would cry until I vomited. Eventually, my mom and dad couldn't teach me anymore and had a sit-down with me to persuade me to go to school. I was the quiet type—the friend that kids would ditch when a more popular person came along. I was always picked last and often forgotten due to my shy nature. Even with that, I had good grades, but I was always fatigued, and it got worse with age.

In high school, I joined color-guard and had fun. But in junior year, it became too much. I passed out at a football game from hyperventilating because of a panic attack. My heart rate was over 200bpm. I went home and had a lot to think about. I ended up quitting color-guard, even though I had enjoyed it in the beginning.

My life became very boring. I couldn't find entertainment in anything and became depressed. I had anxiety attacks and panic attacks throughout my schooling, but didn't know what they were. The panic attacks became more severe and frequent in high school until I was having at least three a day.

Senior year, I broke and went home-bound. I had a teacher bring my schoolwork to my house to teach me. I managed to graduate a semester early.

Now, my anxiety attacks still happen every now and then when I am left with nothing to do, and it comes with tightness in my chest and a very bad feeling. I don't have panic attacks as often since I got rid of the stress of school.

I attended college but had to drop out of college to manage my mental health. I have only had two jobs. Both lasted less than a year until I had to quit. I have a good relationship with both previous bosses as I was good at my jobs.

Exercising and having a healthy diet will greatly reduce attacks.

Exercising and having a healthy diet will greatly reduce attacks.

Ways to Reduce Attacks

There are many things a person can do themselves to help reduce attacks, whether it be anxiety or panic. Here are a few ways:

  • Breathing exercises such as meditation
  • Knowing your trigger (just knowing what causes these attacks can be a huge weight of your shoulders)
  • Accepting that you have attacks, and knowing no matter how bad it seems at the time you will get through it
  • Relaxing techniques such as yoga, aromatherapy (lavender can be very soothing), taking a bath, etc.
  • Exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet (surprisingly it can extremely reduce the chance of attacks if you keep your body healthy with diet and exercise)
  • Identify any negative thoughts and get rid of them (this can be hard if you have formed a habit of having negative thoughts)
  • Join a support group or get counseling
  • Reduce or completely eliminate the use of drugs, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Reduce any stressors/triggers you can

Concluding Thoughts

As you can see, anxiety and panic attacks can really impact someone's life. I am on my path of recovery and am receiving counseling. I also have a service dog in training. When I have a handle on my panic disorder, I plan on returning to school.

I hope my story will help someone out there. Just know that there is hope. I have made leaps and bounds in recovery, and I can now participate in social situations. I rarely have panic attacks anymore.

That being said, please keep in mind that symptoms and severity will be different for everyone. It is important to know your limits, but it is also important to try to push those limits every now and then—and only when you're ready.

If you know someone with a panic or anxiety disorder, please support them.

Thank you for reading!

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is homeopathy?

Answer: Homeopathy is, I believe, the use of small amounts of natural substances such as plants and minerals to help the body heal itself. Such as essential oils or certain supplements.

Question: Have you, the author of this article, tried homeopathy?

Answer: I have, but personally, it didn't help me much. I have had people I know who it did help. When it comes to mental health, everything is case by case. The reason people have these issues, the severity of it, and how it is taken care of is different for every person. With that being said, even though it didn't work for me, I would not discourage it for others. I do not know enough to recommend it, though. I do, however, encourage those who may need answers to do their own research and figure out what works for them.

© 2019 Elizandra Nara

Comments

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on February 28, 2019:

I have general anxiety disorder, and have had panic attacks in the past that have landed me in the emergency room. Since I have been involved with mental health treatment however, I have learned to recognize my triggers and manage my life in such a way that they are minimized. I see a counselor regularly and have found that writing about anxiety has been very helpful to me. I can go back and read what I have written, and as I read about other's experiences, I learn new techniques that are helpful.

Related Articles