What’s the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?
Life is stressful at times. Our human brain is as strong as it is fragile. We can endure pain, emotional outburst, rage, love, and every other emotion that governs us. Yet, some things can trigger us to the extent that it starts to affect our body and brain alike.
When our brain is unable to comprehend emotions, it shakes our body from inside. Our heartbeat increases, and we sweat like hell. These emotions could be referred to as attacks.
The most common of them are panic and anxiety attacks. You might have heard about these terms from a lot of people. You might also have experienced them yourself.
Both these attacks are pretty similar, but their effects can be different from moderate to severe. So, let’s see what’s the difference between a panic and anxiety attack and how we can differentiate it through its common symptoms.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack happens when we experience sheer stressful conditions. It could be high-pressure due to any ongoing event leading to an attack.
Additionally, an anxiety attack is temporary and not as severe as a panic attack. A typical anxiety attack can last some minutes, maybe hours, or if it is powerful, it could take almost a week.
Thus, an anxiety attack doesn’t feel like a typical day with anxiety. You will have additional symptoms with it. If you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), social anxiety, or if you are an introvert, then you are more likely to have an anxiety attack, especially among crowds.
What are the common symptoms?
Anxiety attacks vary in different individuals. Some common symptoms can better describe such attacks.
The common symptom of an anxiety attack could be restlessness. You don’t like to do any work and feel tired all of the time. You cannot concentrate on anything for a longer period. Also, you might have a range of thoughts or no thoughts at all inside your head. Your surroundings will irritate you, and you will sweat more.
Moreover, you have difficulty doing house chores due to constant muscle tension. You might also experience bizarre sleeping patterns and hours of restlessness in the middle of your sleep.
In extreme cases, you might even feel nausea due to your anxiety attacks. Your stomach cramps might become unbearable, and you start to feel dark too.
What to do?
Honestly, you don’t have to do much during an anxiety attack. Doing something could cause more anxiety, and that’s what we do not want to happen. So, for starters, we can take a small break from work and take deep breaths.
Self-talk is pretty helpful during anxiety attacks, so we can tell ourselves that everything is fine, it’s a phase, and this anxiety will be over soon. Drinking a glass of water can help those cramps. Just think that your body is floating in the water and all the nerves inside your body are relaxed.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is more intense than an anxiety attack. We can call it a sudden episode of intense fear that would trigger our greatest fears. Our body starts to lose control, and so does our mind. We begin to think something bad is happening to us while nothing is happening in reality.
If you have watched the Final Destination movie, it can best describe how a panic attack feels. Panic attacks can suddenly happen out of the blue, but mostly due to a triggered phobia.
For example, if you’re scared of clowns, you’ll freak out at the birthday party, and a scene will be created. In most cases, our mind takes control of our body, and our anxiety levels pick a fast pace. Panic attacks lead us to fight or flight response mode.
What are the common symptoms?
A panic attack is short-lived. It could last around a couple of minutes. 911 has received thousands of calls where people would complain of a heart attack or a sneaker alert, but there would be nothing there except for a panic attack. The victim feels helpless and wants to escape their surroundings as fast as possible.
Other common symptoms are chills all over the body. You might feel chest and abdominal pain. You feel lightheaded and might think that your time has come. In addition, you could also experience hallucinations. Headache and nausea might occur, too, with a heavy heart rate.
In severe cases, the victim might feel that their throat is being tightened, and their body will start to tremble badly. Panic attacks do not usually happen to most people, but if a person constantly has them, then it’s time they consult their doctor.
What to do?
Panic attacks are often caused by a recent traumatic event like losing a loved one or a terrible accident. Usually, it is good to ask for help from your friends and family if they could interfere.
Minor panic attacks can go away easily without therapy, but if someone is experiencing it repeatedly, ask a mental therapist to treat you. Cognitive behavioural therapy might help the patients.
What’s the difference?
Mental conditions are treated on a DSM-5 or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders scale.
- DSM-5 recognizes Panic attacks as they can be associated with panic and other psychiatric disorders, while anxiety attacks are not defined in the DSM-5.
- Panic attacks can occur without a trigger, while anxiety attacks happen due to perceived stress or trigger.
- A panic attack can lead to hallucinations and a sense of unreality, while anxiety attacks are milder.
- These Attacks usually happen suddenly due to any triggered phobia, while anxiety attacks are gradually built up.
- Most of the time panic attacks can fade within minutes, while anxiety attacks take a longer time to go.
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