Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Understanding the Differences and How to Cope

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Understanding the Differences and How to Cope

Difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks

Understanding the Difference between anxiety attack vs. panic attack is crucial for individuals striving to maintain good mental health. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct experiences with different implications for diagnosis and treatment.

Anxiety and panic attacks are manifestations of anxiety disorders, which are common mental health conditions affecting millions worldwide. A diverse array of psychological conditions fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, spanning generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. On the other hand, panic disorders specifically refer to a subtype of anxiety disorder characterized by recurring and unexpected panic attacks.

Panic attacks are sudden, overwhelming episodes of fear or discomfort that rapidly escalate to their maximum intensity within a matter of minutes. They are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, and a feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can occur spontaneously or be triggered by specific situations or stimuli. In contrast, anxiety attacks are generally less severe and can be triggered by specific stressors or perceived threats. They may manifest as unease, restlessness, or a sense of being on edge.

Understanding the differences

Differentiating between these two types of attacks is essential because it helps in accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. For example, panic disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences recurring panic attacks and develops an ongoing fear of experiencing more attacks. In contrast, anxiety disorders are diagnosed based on persistent and excessive anxiety or worry about various aspects of life.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a widely recognized guide for mental health professionals, provides criteria for diagnosing panic and anxiety disorders. Understanding these criteria and seeking professional help can lead to an accurate diagnosis, ensuring appropriate interventions and support.

Recognizing the Difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks is vital for understanding mental health conditions and seeking appropriate care. While panic attacks are intense episodes that reach a peak rapidly, anxiety attacks are often triggered by specific stressors and are generally less severe. By familiarizing ourselves with these distinctions and seeking professional guidance, we can navigate the complexities of anxiety disorders and panic disorders more effectively.

Anxiety Attack: Understanding the Symptoms

Anxiety attacks are intense episodes of fear or distress that can have physical and psychological manifestations. Therefore, recognizing the symptoms of anxiety attacks is crucial for understanding and managing this common mental health condition.

Description of the physical and physiological symptoms of anxiety attacks

Physical symptoms of anxiety attacks can vary from person to person but often include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, and a sensation of choking or difficulty breathing. These symptoms can be incredibly distressing and may mimic those of a heart attack or other medical emergencies. However, it’s important to remember that anxiety attacks are not life-threatening, even though they can be frightening.

In addition to the physical symptoms, anxiety attacks can produce various psychological symptoms. For example, individuals experiencing anxiety attacks may feel a sense of impending doom, like they are losing control or going crazy. They may also have an overwhelming sense of fear or terror, even when no immediate danger exists. Excessive worrying, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating are common psychological symptoms experienced during an anxiety attack.

Managing anxiety attack symptoms requires a comprehensive approach. For example, breathing exercises, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, can help regulate breathing and reduce feelings of panic and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also promote a sense of calm and help individuals regain control during an anxiety attack.

In some cases, exposure therapy may be recommended to treat anxiety attacks. This form of therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to situations or triggers that cause anxiety in a controlled and supportive environment. Over time, this can help reduce the fear response and desensitize individuals to their triggers.

If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety attacks or symptoms of anxiety, it is essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis and develop a tailored treatment plan to address anxiety attacks’ specific needs and challenges. Remember, you are not alone, and effective treatments are available to support your mental health and well-being.

Discussion of how anxiety attacks differ from panic attacks

Anxiety and panic attacks are often used interchangeably but have distinct differences. While both involve intense fear and distress, the main distinction lies in their triggers and duration. Anxiety attacks typically arise in response to a persistent source of anxiety, while panic attacks often occur suddenly and unexpectedly. In addition, anxiety attacks may develop gradually and last longer, while panic attacks reach peak intensity quickly and subside within a short period. Understanding these differences is crucial for effectively treating anxiety and panic disorders. In addition, identifying the specific type of attack can guide appropriate interventions and help manage the associated risk factors effectively.

Panic Attack: Understanding the Symptoms

Explanation of the physical symptoms of Panic attack

Panic attacks are intense episodes of fear and anxiety that can cause various physical and psychological symptoms. Therefore, understanding these panic attack symptoms is essential in recognizing and managing panic attacks.

Physically, panic attacks often manifest with symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, and feelings of choking. Individuals may also experience dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea or stomach discomfort, and tingling or numbness in the extremities. These physical symptoms can be distressing and mimic the signs of a heart attack or other medical conditions, leading to heightened anxiety and fear.

Explanation of the psychological symptoms of panic attacks

Psychologically, panic attacks can be characterized by a sense of impending doom or a fear of losing control. Many individuals describe a feeling of intense fear or terror that seems to come out of nowhere. They may also experience a fear of dying or a fear of going crazy or losing touch with reality. Other psychological symptoms include a sense of detachment or unreality, feeling disconnected from oneself or the surroundings, and an overwhelming sense of panic or dread.

It’s important to note that if you experience panic attacks does not necessarily mean a person has panic disorder. While panic attacks tend to be a characteristic feature of panic disorder, a diagnosis requires recurrent and unexpected panic attacks along with significant worry about future attacks, changes in behaviour related to the attacks, or persistent concern about the implications of the attacks.

If you experience frequent panic attacks or are concerned about your symptoms, it is advisable to seek professional help. A mental health professional can conduct a thorough evaluation to diagnose panic disorder or treat panic attacks. They can provide appropriate treatment options tailored to your needs, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, or a combination of both. CBT techniques can help you identify and challenge anxious thoughts and behaviors, while medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and manage expected panic attacks.

Panic attacks encompass a range of physical and psychological symptoms that can be distressing and overwhelming. However, by understanding these symptoms and seeking professional assistance, individuals can find effective strategies to manage panic attacks and improve their overall well-being. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available.

Discussion of how panic attacks differ from anxiety attacks

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks share similarities but also have distinct differences. While both can cause intense distress, understanding their unique characteristics can help differentiate between them.

Panic attacks emerge abruptly and swiftly escalate into intense episodes of fear or discomfort, reaching their climax within a matter of minutes. Physical symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, and trembling that accompany them. Panic attacks typically occur unexpectedly and are not necessarily triggered by a specific situation or object. The diagnosis of panic disorder occurs when an individual consistently encounters recurrent and unanticipated episodes of panic attacks.

Unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks are typically associated with apprehension or worry and can manifest as a response to specific stressors. While they may also involve physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing, anxiety attacks are often more gradual in onset and may be triggered by a particular situation, object, or thought.

It is important to note that panic or anxiety attacks can coexist, and their distinction may not always be clear-cut. Seeking professional help can provide a more accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment strategies for managing panic or anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack: Understanding the Differences

Comparison of the symptoms of anxiety attacks and panic attack

Anxiety and panic attacks share similarities in their symptoms, but they also have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help individuals and healthcare professionals accurately identify and address these episodes.

Both anxiety and panic attacks can cause various emotional and physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms may include intense fear, apprehension, or impending doom. Physical symptoms commonly associated with both attacks include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and detachment from reality. These symptoms can be overwhelming and distressing, often leading individuals to seek help.

One key distinction between panic and anxiety attacks is the triggers that initiate these episodes. Specific stressors, such as public speaking, social situations, or specific phobias, typically trigger anxiety attacks. They tend to develop gradually and can last for an extended period, sometimes hours or even days. On the other hand, panic attacks often occur unexpectedly and without an apparent trigger. These episodes peak rapidly within minutes, causing intense fear and discomfort.

Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack

How the triggers and duration of anxiety attacks and panic attacks differ

The duration of anxiety attacks and panic attacks can also differ. Anxiety attacks generally have a more prolonged duration, persisting for an extended period due to the underlying stressor. In contrast, panic attacks are relatively brief but intense episodes that can subside on their own or with intervention.

It’s important to note that individuals with anxiety disorders may experience anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), often involve persistent and excessive worry and anxiety that may contribute to developing anxiety attacks. Similarly, panic disorder is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks.

Recognizing the distinctions between anxiety and panic attacks can guide appropriate treatment approaches. Effective management may involve therapy, medication, breathing exercises, lifestyle modifications, and stress reduction techniques. Consulting with a mental health professional or reaching out to organizations like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) can provide valuable support and resources for individuals experiencing panic or anxiety attacks, promoting overall well-being and quality of life.

The different types of anxiety disorders and their relationship to anxiety and panic attacks

Anxiety disorders encompass a range of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of anxiety and fear. Two common types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which can be associated with anxiety and panic attacks.

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by chronic and excessive worry about various aspects of life, often without a specific trigger. Individuals with GAD may experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. While anxiety attacks can occur in individuals with GAD, they are not exclusive to this disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves recurrent and intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These obsessions and compulsions are often driven by anxiety and an overwhelming need to alleviate distress. While OCD primarily manifests as obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, anxiety and panic attacks can also be present.

Various risk factors can contribute to developing anxiety and panic attacks, including genetic predisposition, brain chemistry imbalances, and exposure to traumatic events. It’s important to note that experiencing an anxiety or panic attack does not necessarily indicate the presence of a specific mental health condition. However, recurrent and debilitating attacks may warrant professional evaluation and diagnosis.

Understanding the relationship between anxiety disorders and anxiety and panic attacks can help individuals recognize their symptoms, seek appropriate support, and access effective treatment options. Mental health professionals can provide a comprehensive assessment and develop personalized treatment plans to manage anxiety symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Coping Strategies for Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

Anxiety and panic attacks can be overwhelming, but individuals can effectively manage and alleviate their symptoms with the right coping strategies. We will explore coping strategies for managing both anxiety attacks and panic attacks. From deep breathing and meditation to cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques, we will provide an overview of empowering techniques to help you find relief.

Coping Strategies for Managing Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks are characterized by excessive fear and worry that can significantly impact daily life. Effective coping strategies include:

Deep Breathing:

Engage in deep breathing exercises to calm the nervous system. For example, inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a moment, and exhale deeply through your mouth. This technique helps regulate breathing patterns and reduces anxiety.


Practice mindfulness meditation to cultivate a calm and focused state of mind. Observing your thoughts without judgment, you can develop greater self-awareness and reduce anxiety.

Self-Care Practices:

Prioritize self-care activities that nurture your overall well-being. Engage in activities you enjoy, such as hobbies, spending time in nature, and practicing relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation.

Coping Strategies for Managing Panic Attacks

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

CBT helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns associated with panic attacks. It provides techniques to reframe thoughts and develop effective coping mechanisms.

Exposure Therapy:

This therapeutic approach gradually exposes individuals to situations or stimuli that trigger panic attacks in a safe and controlled manner. By confronting fears, individuals can learn to manage and reduce panic symptoms.

Relaxation Techniques:

Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. These techniques promote relaxation, alleviate physical tension, and help counteract overwhelming fear during panic attacks.

How to develop coping strategies that work for your individual needs

Developing effective coping strategies is crucial for managing anxiety and panic attacks. Since everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, it’s important to find strategies that work specifically for your individual needs.

One approach is to seek professional help to treat anxiety. Mental health professionals can provide guidance and support in developing personalized coping strategies. In addition, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to alleviate persistent anxiety or panic attacks.

Additionally, learning to recognize and differentiate between anxiety and panic attack symptoms is essential. You can tailor coping strategies by understanding how anxiety and panic attacks feel in your body and mind.

Experimenting with deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, physical activity, or hobbies can also help manage symptoms. It’s essential to find what works best for you, as what may alleviate anxiety for one person might not be as effective for another.

Lastly, building a support system of trusted individuals who understand and are knowledgeable about anxiety or panic attacks can provide valuable assistance during challenging times. Sharing experiences, seeking advice, and receiving understanding can make a significant difference in your coping journey.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between anxiety and panic attacks is vital for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. While specific stressors generally trigger anxiety attacks and may be less severe, panic attacks are intense episodes that reach their peak rapidly. Recognizing these distinctions enables individuals to seek professional help, receive an accurate diagnosis, and develop tailored coping strategies.

Effective coping strategies for anxiety attacks include deep breathing, meditation, and self-care practices. In addition, cognitive-behavioral and exposure therapy are beneficial for managing panic attacks. Developing coping strategies that align with your individual needs and seeking professional guidance for personalized treatment is essential.

Remember, you are not alone in managing panic or anxiety attacks. Utilizing these coping strategies and accessing the appropriate support, you can navigate the challenges and improve your overall well-being.


1. What does an anxiety attack feel like?

An anxiety attack can feel like an intense wave of fear or apprehension, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and a sense of impending doom.

2. What does a panic attack feel like?

A panic attack feels like a sudden and overwhelming surge of fear or discomfort, often reaching its peak within minutes. Physical symptoms may include:

  • A racing heart.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Trembling.
  • A fear of losing control or going crazy.

3. Can anxiety symptoms last for days?

Yes, anxiety symptoms can last for days. However, persistent anxiety, characterized by ongoing worry and unease, can continue for an extended period and significantly impact daily life.

4. How long can panic attack symptoms last

Panic attack symptoms typically peak within minutes and subside within an hour. However, some individuals may experience lingering effects such as fatigue or unease for a few hours after the attack.

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

The main difference between anxiety and panic attacks is their triggers and duration. Specific stressors often trigger anxiety attacks, have a more gradual onset, and can last longer. On the other hand, panic attacks occur unexpectedly without a specific trigger, reach peak intensity rapidly, and subside within a short period.


What’s the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack? (2017, November 15). Healthline.

Anxiety attack: Symptoms, causes, and complications. (2018, November 5).

‌Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 4). Panic attacks and panic disorder – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic.

‌Hofmann, S. G. (2013, April 4). Panic Attacks And Anxiety Attacks: Panic Disorder Treatment.

‌Beyond Blue. (2022). 10 strategies for managing anxiety.

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