Difference Between an Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack

What Are the 5 Differences Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

Difference Between an Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack

Panic attack and anxiety attack are medical terms that are commonly used interchangeably, even though they don’t mean the same thing. While they may share some common symptoms, several key markers differentiate one condition from the other.

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Generally, panic attacks and anxiety attacks differ in intensity and duration. Unlike anxiety attacks, panic attacks are more intense and appear suddenly. Whereas, anxiety attacks have triggering factors.

What Is the Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks? 

Since the symptoms of these two conditions are quite similar, telling the difference between them might be difficult.

However, below are general differentiating characteristics of these conditions:

  • Panic attacks occur without a cause or trigger, while anxiety occurs in response to a threat or stressor.
  • Panic attacks have intense and disruptive symptoms that include a sense of detachment and unreality, while the intensity of anxiety attacks varies from mild to severe.
  • Since they don’t have a trigger, panic attacks occur suddenly while the symptoms of anxiety attacks intensify with every minute, hour, and day.
  • Symptoms of panic attacks subside after some minutes, while those of anxiety attacks last longer.

Signs and Symptoms of Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Signs and symptoms come in handy in differentiating between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.

Symptoms of Anxiety attack and panic attack

Common Anxiety and Panic Attack Symptoms

Panic Attack Symptoms

The symptoms of a panic attack include;

Those experiencing panic attacks also feel the following things:

  • Losing control
  • Depersonalization
  • Sudden fear of death

These signs peak after 10 minutes before subsiding gradually.

However, in some situations, panic attacks occur simultaneously, making the attack seem like it lasts longer.

The affected persons often feel the following thing after the attack:

  • Worried
  • Stressed
  • Unusual 

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Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety attack become pronounced after a few minutes but typically less intense compared to those of panic attacks.

They include;

Anxiety attack symptoms last longer and may persist for several days, weeks, and months.

Causes of Panic and Anxiety Attacks

As mentioned, panic attacks have no triggers and can occur expectedly or unexpectedly. On the other hand, there are several anxiety attack causes.

That said, below are the expected panic and anxiety attack causes:

Risk Factors of Panic and Anxiety Attacks 

While they may manifest differently, panic and anxiety attack risk factors are the same.

They include;

  • Stressful life experiences, such as divorce or the death of a close person
  • Living with a chronic or life-threatening condition, such as heart disease, diabetes, or thyroid disorder
  • Ongoing stress such as family conflict, work responsibilities, and financial problems
  • General anxious personality
  • A traumatic event as a child or grown adult
  • Associated mental health condition, especially depression
  • Drug and alcohol addiction

Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack Diagnosis

Mental health professionals can diagnose panic attacks and anxiety symptoms using the DSM 5 classification.

However, anxiety attacks cannot be diagnosed since the condition is not clinically defined under the DSM-5. To get started, the physician discusses the symptoms and previous life events of the affected person.

They may also conduct a thorough psychological evaluation to identify the category that the symptoms can be classified into.

Important tests for a conclusive diagnosis include;

Treatment of anxiety attack and panic attack

Changes to Prevent an Anxiety and a Panic Attack

Treatment of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Before highlighting the treatment options for panic and anxiety attacks, it is worth mentioning what you should do if you feel oncoming anxiety or panic attack.

Try the following management measures;

  • Take Slow and Deep Breaths

If you start feeling rapid breaths, focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Take deep breaths to fill your stomach with air, count to four, then exhale. Repeat this until your breathing rate slows.

  • Practice Mindfulness

Mindful interventions are effective in remedying ongoing panic and anxiety attacks. This technique involves grounding your present thoughts.

  • Use Relaxation Techniques

The relaxation techniques given below help in relieving the panic and anxiety attacks:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Guided imagery
  • Muscle relaxation

Relaxation techniques could be as simple as:

  • Closing your eyes
  • Taking a bath
  • Using lavender
  • Accept Your Condition

A big part of healing from panic and anxiety attacks is recognizing and accepting that you have these conditions. If you’ve had panic or anxiety attacks before, the experience is certainly frightening. However, reassure yourself that the symptoms will pass.

Both panic and anxiety attacks can be treated. However, there are slight differences in panic and anxiety attack treatment depending on the symptoms.

Some treatment options include;

  • Psychotherapy 

Extensive psychotherapy helps affected patients understand their symptoms and contribute to management. It helps work through previous pain and events and chant a future path.

  • Medications 

Drugs, such as antianxiety, antidepressants, and benzodiazepine, can help alleviate the symptoms. They might be used for a short period to control the symptoms while patients work on other treatment strategies.

  • Self-Help Therapies

Personal therapies, such as progressive relaxation and breathing exercises, are beneficial in enabling one to work through the symptoms.

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Bottom Line

Evidently, panic and anxiety attacks have some differences. Even though the terms are used interchangeably, anxiety attacks are not recognized in the DSM-5 classification.

Both conditions can disrupt your everyday life and require immediate intervention.

If you or your loved one is affected by this condition, schedule an appointment with EZCare Clinic for immediate help.


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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.