While panic attacks, anxiety attacks, anxiety disorders, and panic disorders all share many common symptoms, they are considered different diagnoses in the medical world. This post will examine the differences between anxiety and panic attacks and discuss how understanding those differences can help individuals suffering from panic and anxiety manage their treatment.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is the body’s natural reaction to dangerous or threatening situations. It prepares your body for an attack and to either fight or run away to avoid the danger. This is very useful if you are in a dangerous situation and need to react quickly. It can help you focus and motivate you to prepare. When individuals feel like their anxiety is constant or overwhelming or preventing them from living their lives, they may have an anxiety disorder.
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased irritability
- Poor sleep
- Muscle tension and increased heart rate.
What Is An Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health issues and refer to a group of conditions instead of a single disorder. Anxiety disorders can take many forms, but essentially they are an intense fear or worry that is out of proportion to the event or situation they are in.
Examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder - includes constant worries and fears that can prevent you from doing day to day activities.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) - unwanted and uncontrollable thoughts and behaviors or compulsions.
- Hoarding Disorder
- Phobias and Irrational Fears
- Social Anxiety Disorder - fear of being seen negatively by others or humiliated in public.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
What Is An Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety attacks are generally a build up of anxiety over a period of time connected to an event or potential danger. They share many of the same symptoms of panic attacks, but anxiety attacks are generally less intense than panic attacks. They can last for more extended periods, even over weeks or months. Anxiety attacks are also often focused on a specific worry or fear.
What Is A Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden and severe feeling of fear or terror that is often so severe that they cause significant disruption to a person’s life. People often report feeling like they are dying, and panic attacks are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, chills, and sweats, shaking, difficulty breathing, chest pain, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and numbness or tingling sensations.
What Is A Panic Disorder?
A panic disorder happens when an individual experiences repeated and unexpected panic attacks, along with fear of having another episode.
Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks share many symptoms. Still, the key differences are that anxiety attacks tend to build over the longer term and are less intense than panic attacks (though they can still feel overwhelming). Anxiety attacks also tend to be triggered by specific events or situations, while panic attacks are more likely to occur out of the blue.
Treatments for Panic Attacks and Anxiety
The good news is that both anxiety and panic disorders are highly treatable conditions. They often use a combination therapy, prescription medication, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and improved diet and exercise.
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