Is there any difference between a panic attack vs anxiety attack? The answer is yes. There’s indeed a great deal of similarity between the two. However, they often have different causes and present their symptoms in distinct ways.
Anxiety disorders, a broad category of mental health problems, are at the root of both anxiety and panic attacks. These disorders are, in fact, the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting more than 40 million Americans over the age of 18. That’s about 18 percent of the population. Despite being a widespread problem, only about a third of those who suffer will get professional help.
If panic or anxiety is a part of your life, this post can help. By becoming more familiar with the debate between panic attack vs. anxiety attack, you can start to find the treatment you need for the issue affecting you.
Panic or Anxiety?
It’s easy to see how panic and anxiety attacks can be mistaken for one another. They share enough symptoms that even the sufferer can have a hard time drawing a distinction. In general, the differences are most recognizable in the speed, intensity, and duration of the attack.
A panic attack begins as an overwhelming sensation of dread, nervousness, or fear. It comes on quickly—sometimes without warning—and can be intense enough to incapacitate the person for its duration. Panic attacks are typically short, lasting only a few minutes before abating. It is possible, however, to have several attacks in succession.
Individuals suffering a panic attack may fear they’re going to die, to lose their mind, or otherwise experience an unrecoverable loss of control of some kind. This feeling is usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, increased heart rate, sweating, numbness, abdominal cramps, tingling, nausea, dizziness, shaking, or shortness of breath.
A phobia is often behind panic attacks. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder that causes a person to develop an intense, irrational fear of a thing, event, or location. For example, hydrophobics have a fear of water; agoraphobics fear open spaces; arachnophobics are afraid of spiders.
A person can develop a phobia around anything, quite literally. However, the American Psychiatric Association finds that most phobias fall into one of four groups: fear of animals, fear of one’s environment, fear of injury, or fear of specific situations (e.g., driving, flying). The “other” category covers phobias that don’t fall into the previous four groups. Regardless of its categorization, any phobia can trigger a panic attack.
As with a panic attack, an anxiety attack is caused by a fear, either real or perceived. Anxiety attacks, however, work differently than panic attacks. Rather than appearing suddenly, they build gradually—sometimes for days, weeks, or even months—before reaching a peak. Anxiety attacks aren’t nearly as intense as panic attacks, but can still be debilitating given their extended duration.
Potential symptoms of an anxiety attack include hypersomnia or insomnia, muscle fatigue or tension, irritability, trouble concentrating, shortness of breath, restlessness, and a variable heart rate.
South Tampa Psychiatry
Whether or not you’re suffering from a panic or anxiety attack, you should consider seeking treatment from a professional. While the attack is dangerous enough on its own, it may be a sign of other mental health issues that lie deeper within.
At South Tampa Psychiatry, we can help you pinpoint the cause of your anxiety or panic issues, and build a plan to address your individual needs. Don’t let fear take control. Talk to the experts at South Tampa Psychiatry and let us guide you back to a full, fulfilling life. For more information on our treatments and facilities, call 866.273.5017.