Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack Guide. Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack Symptoms. How Are They Different?

Understanding the differences between an anxiety attack vs panic attack is essential for recognizing the varying levels of unease and fear experienced during each episode.


Understanding the Distinction Between Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Anxiety is a vital tool that helps us recognize and respond to potential danger. It prompts us to take swift action in the face of perceived threats. Without anxiety, we wouldn’t be able to protect ourselves from harm. However, anxiety can also be triggered by imagined dangers that have no basis in reality.

It’s crucial to note that anxiety is not always negative. In many cases, it benefits us by helping us remain vigilant and attentive to our surroundings. Our brains are wired to anticipate potential threats, but this can sometimes be an issue when it becomes chronic anxiety. Our minds don’t have an off-switch, which can lead to anxiety disorders and panic disorders that cause significant emotional distress and avoidance.

It’s natural to experience anxiety during challenging times, such as dealing with health issues, public speaking, social events, work pressure, and financial worries. But when these feelings become debilitating and interfere with everyday living, it may be necessary to seek help from a healthcare professional. Understanding the distinction between healthy anxiety and anxiety disorders can help people make informed decisions about seeking help and adopting appropriate coping strategies.

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack Guide

This guide will explore the key difference between a panic attack vs anxiety attack, two commonly experienced mental health conditions. Understanding the distinctions between these two phenomena gives you valuable insights into their symptoms, causes, and potential treatments. Whether you’re seeking to manage your symptoms or to support someone dealing with these challenges, this guide will provide essential information to navigate the complexities of panic attacks and anxiety attacks

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

When comparing an anxiety attack vs panic attack, they share some similarities but also have distinct characteristics. Both anxiety attacks and panic attacks involve intense feelings of fear or apprehension. However, anxiety attacks are often associated with a specific trigger or stressor, while panic attacks tend to occur unexpectedly and without an identifiable cause.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack Symptoms

So, what are the major differences between anxiety attacks vs panic attack symptoms? Anxiety attacks and panic attacks share similar symptoms, but there are some differences between the two. Here are some of the major panic attack vs anxiety attack symptoms:

Anxiety Attack Symptoms:

  1. Excessive worry or apprehension
  2. Restlessness or feeling on edge
  3. Irritability or feeling easily agitated
  4. Muscle tension and aches
  5. Difficulty concentrating or feeling easily distracted
  6. Fatigue or feeling tired easily
  7. Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia
  8. Racing thoughts or racing heartbeat
  9. Sweating or trembling
  10. Gastrointestinal issues, such as stomachaches or nausea

Panic Attack Symptoms:

  1. Sudden and intense feelings of fear or terror
  2. Rapid and pounding heartbeat (palpitations)
  3. Chest pain or discomfort
  4. Shortness of breath or a sensation of choking
  5. Feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or faint
  6. Trembling or shaking
  7. Sweating or chills
  8. Numbness or tingling sensations
  9. Hot flashes or cold sweats
  10. Fear of losing control or going crazy
A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or terror accompanied by significant physical and psychological symptoms. It can be a distressing experience that occurs without warning or apparent reason. Continue reading for more about panic attack vs anxiety attack symptoms.
A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or terror accompanied by significant physical and psychological symptoms. It can be a distressing experience that occurs without warning or apparent reason. Continue reading for more about panic attack vs anxiety attack symptoms.

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack Attributes

Understanding the differences between a panic attack vs anxiety attack is essential for recognizing the varying levels of unease and fear experienced during each episode.
Understanding the differences between a panic attack vs anxiety attack is essential for recognizing the varying levels of unease and fear experienced during each episode.

Learn More:

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack Differences Chart

Here is a table comparing some common symptoms and experiences of panic attacks and anxiety attacks:

Panic attack vs anxiety attack symptomsAnxiety AttackPanic Attack
Physical symptomsHeart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizzinessFatigue, muscle tension, restlessness, stomach problems, headaches
Psychological symptoms Intense fear and a sense of impending doom, disorientation, feeling out of control Excessive worry and apprehension about the future, fear of social situations or specific phobias
Triggers Often triggered by specific situations or objects, such as crowds, tunnels, flying Triggered by everyday stressors such as work, finances, or relationships
Duration Typically intense and short-lived, lasting only a few minutesCan be ongoing, lasting for hours or even days
Frequency Usually sporadic, often occurring infrequentlyCan be chronic, happening repeatedly over time
TreatmentOften managed with medication and therapy, such as exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapyOften treated with therapy, including mindfulness techniques, psychotherapy, and making positive lifestyle changes
Use the above panic attack vs anxiety attack chart to understand the difference between the two quickly.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack Examples

Understanding the Differences Between Anxiety, Worry, and Panic.

Anxiety attacks. Are you experiencing panic or anxiety?

Example 1: Anxiety. Hectic political discourse on social media, economic uncertainty leading to potential layoffs, and no end in sight can overwhelm you. Add a pressing project deadline to the mix, and it’s no wonder you’re worried about the future and unsure of your ability to cope.

Example 2: Anxiety. Middle-of-the-night racing thoughts and catastrophic worries can affect mental and physical health. Your heart may pound, and exhaustion sets in as you watch the clock tick past 3 am.

Example 3: Out with friends, a sudden physical reaction of flushed cheeks, racing heart, and clammy hands may cause you to fear a heart attack. Intense fear can grip you, and the urge to flee the uncomfortable situation may overcome you.

Panic Attacks. Recognizing and Supporting Panic Attacks:

Panic attacks require care and understanding. Learn to recognize the signs and support those with panic disorder. Understanding the differences between anxiety, worry, and panic can help individuals take steps to address their feelings and recognize if treatment is needed.

Example 1: Natural Anxiety. Feeling anxious around challenging situations is natural, but fear, memories, threats, and confusion can trigger it.

Example 2: Concerning Anxiety. Worrying is a mental activity that doesn’t work well as an anxiety avoidance strategy. Learning acceptance and mindfulness skills can benefit those stuck in a worry cycle.

Example 3: Panic Attacks. Panic attacks are rare, severe, and come without warning. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea. Panic disorder is highly treatable with exposure therapy. Don’t suffer in silence – seek treatment and support.

Anxiety vs Panic Attack Fact Sheet

Anxiety Disorders Overview

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety. They can significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical well-being.


Anxiety Symptoms

Behavioral: Hypervigilance, irritability, or restlessness.

Cognitive: Lack of concentration, racing thoughts, or unwanted thoughts.

Whole body: Fatigue or sweating.

Also common:  Anxiety, excessive worry, fear, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, or trembling.

Panic Attack Overview

A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or terror accompanied by significant physical and psychological symptoms. It can be a distressing experience that occurs without warning or apparent reason.


Panic Attack Symptoms

Physical Symptoms: Rapid heartbeat (palpitations), chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath or a sensation of choking, dizziness or lightheadedness, trembling or shaking, sweating, hot flashes or chills, nausea or gastrointestinal distress, numbness or tingling sensations, and a feeling of being detached from oneself.

Psychological Symptoms: Intense fear or terror, a sense of impending doom or death, losing control or going crazy, and a desperate urge to escape the situation.

Anxiety Attacks vs Panic Attacks Symptoms

Anxiety attacks vs panic attacks share similar symptoms, but the two have some differences. Here are some of the major panic attack vs anxiety attack symptoms differences:

  1. Intensity: Panic attacks are typically more intense than anxiety attacks and can overwhelm the person. Anxiety attacks may be milder in intensity.
  2. Duration: Panic attacks tend to reach their peak within 10 minutes and generally last no longer than 30 minutes. Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, may last for several hours.
  3. Triggers: Panic attacks often have a specific trigger, such as a phobia or traumatic event, whereas various stressors or triggers, including social situations, work, or relationships, can trigger anxiety attacks.
  4. Physical symptoms: Both anxiety and panic attacks can have physical symptoms, but panic attacks are more likely to cause symptoms like chest pain, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shortness of breath.
  5. Psychological symptoms: Panic attacks often involve a feeling of imminent doom, while anxiety attacks may be marked by persistent worrying and fear.

These are generalities, and panic attack vs anxiety attack symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help from a healthcare provider.

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Panic vs Anxiety Attack Statistics

Panic and anxiety attacks are common manifestations of anxiety disorders, affecting millions worldwide. These statistics highlight the significant impact of panic and anxiety attacks on individuals’ lives and underscore the importance of understanding and addressing these conditions.

Here is some information on the prevalence of panic attack vs anxiety attack disorders in general:

  • According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults yearly, or 18.1%.
  • Panic disorder affects around 2-3% of the population worldwide in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to experience panic disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Panic disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, while anxiety disorders can develop at any age.

Not all panic attacks vs anxiety attacks meet the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety or panic disorder. Many people experience occasional panic or anxiety symptoms without meeting the criteria for a diagnosis. If you are experiencing anxiety or panic symptoms impacting your daily life, obtain help from a healthcare provider.


264 million

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide, affecting a significant portion of the population. An estimated 264 million people globally were living with anxiety disorders in 2017.

Source: WHO

2-3%

It is estimated to affect approximately 2-3% of the population worldwide, with women being more commonly diagnosed than men.

Source: CDC

50%

Panic attacks and anxiety disorders often co-occur with other mental health conditions. It is reported that approximately 50% of individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.

Source: ADAA


Difference Between Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack

The terms panic attack vs anxiety attack are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences between a panic attack and anxiety attack. Here are the key differences:

  1. Intensity and Duration:
    • Panic Attack: Panic attacks are intense and sudden episodes of fear or terror that reach their peak within minutes. A rapid onset of severe physical and psychological symptoms characterizes them.
    • Anxiety Attack: Anxiety attacks are often considered milder and more gradual in their onset. Depending on the individual and the triggering factors, they can last longer than panic attacks, ranging from minutes to hours or even days.
  2. Triggering Factors:
    • Panic Attack: Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly without any identifiable trigger. They often arise out of the blue, seemingly out of proportion to the current situation.
    • Anxiety Attack: Anxiety attacks are usually triggered by specific stressors, situations, or phobias. They are often associated with a known cause, such as a fear of public speaking or upcoming stressful events.
  3. Physical Symptoms:
    • Panic Attack: Panic attacks involve intense physical symptoms, such as a rapid and pounding heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating, and a sense of choking or smothering.
    • Anxiety Attack: Anxiety attacks may also involve physical symptoms, but they are typically less severe than those experienced during a panic attack. Symptoms may include muscle tension, headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues.
  4. Psychological Symptoms:
    • Panic Attack: Panic attacks are characterized by a sense of impending doom, fear of losing control or going crazy, and a strong urge to escape the situation.
    • Anxiety Attack: Anxiety attacks focus on excessive worry, restlessness, irritability, and unease or apprehension.
  5. Diagnostic Classification:
    • Panic Attack: Panic attacks are recognized as a specific symptom of panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. To receive a diagnosis of panic disorder, an individual must experience recurrent unexpected panic attacks and develop a persistent concern about future attacks.
    • Anxiety Attack: The term “anxiety attack” is not officially recognized as a distinct diagnostic category in psychiatric or psychological classifications, such as the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

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The Best Medication for Panic Attacks and Anxiety

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are antidepressant medications that effectively treat both panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Examples include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and escitalopram (Lexapro). SSRIs help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, improving mood and reducing anxiety symptoms.
  2. Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are fast-acting sedatives that can provide rapid relief for acute symptoms of panic attacks or severe anxiety. They work by enhancing the calming effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and diazepam (Valium). However, benzodiazepines are generally prescribed for short-term use due to their potential for dependence and other side effects.
  3. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta), are another type of antidepressant that can be used to manage panic attacks and anxiety. SNRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which can help regulate mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
  4. Beta-Blockers: Beta-blockers, such as propranolol (Inderal), are primarily used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions. However, they can also be prescribed off-label to manage physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, trembling, and sweating. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline and reducing the body’s physical response to anxiety.

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CBD for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

  1. Relaxation and Calming Effects: CBD has been reported to have relaxing and calming effects on the body and mind. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates various bodily functions, including mood and stress response.
  2. Anxiety Reduction: CBD has shown promise in reducing anxiety symptoms in preclinical and some human studies. It may help modulate serotonin receptors in the brain, which regulate mood. However, more research is needed to understand its exact mechanisms and effectiveness.
  3. Potential for Panic Attack Relief: Some anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD may help reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. However, scientific studies specifically focused on CBD’s effect on panic attacks are limited, and more research is necessary to establish its efficacy and safety.
  4. Non-Psychoactive Nature: CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce the intoxicating effects associated with THC, another compound found in cannabis. This makes CBD a potentially attractive option for individuals seeking relief from anxiety without the mind-altering effects of THC.
  5. Individual Variations: It’s important to note that CBD’s effects can vary among individuals. Factors such as dosage, formulation, quality, and individual body chemistry can influence the response to CBD.
  6. Consultation with Healthcare Professional: If considering CBD for anxiety or panic attacks, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice, consider potential interactions with other medications, and ensure they align with your needs.

Natural Herbs for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Several natural herbs have been used traditionally to help manage anxiety and panic attacks. While their effectiveness may vary for each individual, here are some commonly mentioned herbs:

  1. Chamomile: Chamomile is well-known for its calming properties. It can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety symptoms. It is often consumed as a tea.
  2. Lavender: Lavender has a soothing aroma and is believed to have anxiolytic effects. It can be used as an essential oil, inhaled, or applied topically.
  3. Passionflower: Passionflower has been used to treat anxiety and insomnia. It may help reduce feelings of restlessness and promote relaxation.
  4. Valerian Root: Valerian root is known for its sedative properties and is often used as a sleep aid. It may also help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote calmness.
  5. Lemon Balm: Lemon balm has calming effects and may help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. It is often consumed as tea or used as an essential oil.
  6. Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that can help the body adapt to stress. It may help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall well-being.

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  1. What is the difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks?

    Panic attacks are intense, sudden episodes of fear with physical symptoms, while anxiety attacks are milder, longer-lasting experiences triggered by specific stressors, involving general unease or worry.

  2. Are panic attacks and anxiety attacks the same thing?

    While panic attacks and anxiety attacks share similar symptoms, they are distinct experiences. Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of fear or discomfort that peak rapidly and typically last for a short duration. Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, are often milder and triggered by specific stressors or situations, causing feelings of unease or distress.

  3. What is a panic attack anxiety tattoo?

    If you’ve searched for anxiety tattoos, you’ve likely encountered a large number of options with semicolons. Project Semicolon, a non-profit organization dedicated to suicide prevention, inspired semicolon tattoos. The semicolon has come to represent mental health awareness, including anxiety, over time.

We Level Up Washington Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack Treatment Center

A comprehensive treatment program for panic attacks vs anxiety attacks should include a variety of therapies customized to meet each client’s individual needs. Some key components of a successful panic attack vs anxiety attack program might include:

  1. Assessment and Diagnosis: A professional assessment and diagnosis is the starting point of any effective treatment program. This includes understanding the client’s history, medical background, and symptomatology related to anxiety and panic attacks.
  2. Medication Management: In some cases, medication can be beneficial in treating the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. A psychiatrist may determine if medication can help clients better manage their symptoms.
  3. Individual Therapy: One-on-one therapy with a licensed therapist can help clients identify triggers, cope with the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, and develop skills to overcome them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in treating panic and anxiety disorders.
  4. Group Therapy: Group therapy sessions can provide a supportive environment where individuals with similar experiences share their struggles and successes. Support groups can also help people feel less isolated.
  5. Mindfulness Training: Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help clients learn how to calm their minds and reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing.
  6. Lifestyle changes: Learning new stress management skills and adjusting to daily routines can help reduce anxiety and panic attack symptoms. Healthy lifestyle choices, exercise, and stress-reducing techniques like yoga or meditation can be helpful.
  7. Aftercare Support: Long-term management of anxiety and panic attacks may require ongoing treatment and support. To maintain progress, clients may benefit from periodic check-ins and follow-up appointments with mental health professionals.

A multidisciplinary approach that includes several of these components is essential for treating the underlying causes of panic and anxiety disorders and maintaining long-term recovery.

Watch the Powerful Coping Skills for Anxiety Video. Find Top Mental Health Tips & Anxiety Tips Advice from a Therapist.


“Anxiety, when gone untreated, can increase over time. So here are four tips to calm your everyday anxiety. Take a breath. Do something that you enjoy. Remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk. Doing these four things gives you a better chance of calming your anxiety.”

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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack Topics & Resources
Sources
  1. National Institute of Mental Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – “Mental Health – Anxiety and Depression” Link: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – “Coping With Stress and Anxiety” Link: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coping-with-stress-and-anxiety
  4. MedlinePlus – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.samhsa.gov/conditions/anxiety-disorders
  6. National Institute on Aging – “Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults” Link: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/anxiety-disorders-older-adults
  7. Office on Women’s Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/anxiety-disorders
  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – “Anxiety” Link: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/anxiety-at-a-glance
  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/anxiety.asp
  10. National Library of Medicine – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html

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