Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Are Anxiety and Panic Attacks the Same?

Anxiety and panic attacks are two very different things. Yet, many people suffer from both anxiety and panic attacks. 

In this article, we discuss the similarities between the two so that you don’t end up spending your entire day in an icy bathtub or on the verge of a heart attack because you keep wondering if you’re having another one of those dreaded panic attacks. We also discuss some of the red flags to look out for that may indicate you’re experiencing a panic attack rather than just anxiety.

 

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden, intense feeling of terror or anxiety that can occur without any obvious trigger. The attack may occur without warning, may be brief, and then pass quickly.

 A panic attack can be triggered by a number of things including a specific situation, a thought, a smell, etc. It is important to note that there is a difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. An anxiety attack is a full-blown, irrational fear of a situation where there is no medical explanation for a panic attack.

 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a strong feeling of apprehension or worry. Anxiety can range from a mild feeling of worry to very intense and debilitating anxiety. Common symptoms of anxiety include increased breathing, rapid heart rate, stomach knots, dry mouth, and lightheadedness or shortness of breath. Not all people who have anxiety experience panic attacks. 

People with anxiety tend to worry more about specific topics or topics related to X. People with major anxiety tend to worry about everything. People with high levels of anxiety often have a tendency to anticipate things negatively and have a limited ability to relax.

 

Are Anxiety and Panic Attacks the Same?

Although most people think of panic attacks when they hear the word “panic”, the reality is that anxiety attacks are very different from panic disorders. While a panic attack may feel like a panic attack, the signs and symptoms are very different from a panic disorder. 

A panic attack is a sudden, intense feeling of terror or anxiety that occurs without any obvious trigger. While anxiety attacks usually last longer than panic attacks and have a different set of symptoms, a panic attack can occur in anyone at any time.

 

What Causes a Panic Attack?

People with anxiety often have a tendency to go in circles thinking they need to “think about it more” or “analyze it more”. In reality, the thoughts and feelings just need to go. Reaching a point where you feel comfortable thinking “this is it” and “this is what’s happening” can help make a huge difference in preventing a future panic attack. 

It is important to note that the feeling of being in a panic attack is completely normal. The feeling of being in a panic attack is what we call “the response” to an anxiety attack. That is, during a panic attack, your body releases chemicals (like endorphins) that make you feel “good”.

 

How to Stop a Panic Attack

The best way to stop a panic attack is to recognize it and approach it differently than before. One way to do this is to check in with yourself as you were before the attack and see if your thoughts and feelings are still the same.

 If they are, then you’ve probably overreacted to the situation and it is time to calm down. If not, then you need to approach the situation differently to decrease the intensity of your thoughts and feelings.

 

The Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety and panic attacks are actually different stages of anxiety. While a panic attack is a sudden, extreme reaction to a specific situation, anxiety is more of a slow, creeping feeling that creeps into your life. 

As you get older, you are more likely to experience both panic attacks and anxiety. The symptoms of both can get worse with age and can be more difficult to treat.

 

The Best Way to Deal with Panic at Work or At Home

If you tend to worry a lot about work or home safety, a crisis line or support group might be able to help. If you worry a lot about money or relationship breakdown, therapy or couples counseling can help.

 

Bottom line

The best way to deal with a panic attack is to recognize it and approach it differently than before. If you have a tendency to worry, check in with yourself as you were before the attack and see if your thoughts and feelings are the same. 

If they are, you have probably overreacted to the situation and it is time to calm down. If not, then you need to approach the situation differently to decrease the intensity of your thoughts and feelings.

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