Anxiety & Panic Attack: What You Need To Know
We all feel nervous or tense at some point in our lives for some reason. It could be a job interview or a change of environment. Anxiety is our body’s way of responding to stressful situations. Sometimes, feeling anxious is natural and keeps us alert during stressful situations. However, constant overwhelming anxiety panic attacks that interfere with normal everyday activities indicate something more serious.
Anxiety and panic attacks could be pretty overwhelming to bear since some of the symptoms affect your physical well-being. Sometimes, the physical symptoms could be so unbearable that some people confuse it for a heart attack. Despite the similarities in symptoms, anxiety attacks are different from panic attacks. But many people use the terms interchangeably. How are anxiety and panic attacks different from each other? Let’s find out.
What Is The Difference Between Anxiety And Panic Attacks?
Anxiety disorder is a common term that encompasses various disorders like generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, etc. Anxiety is a feeling of excessive, uncontrollable and unreasonable expectation of future threats that may or may not happen.
a. Anxiety attack:
Panic attacks are one of the most defining symptoms of panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. People often confuse panic attacks with anxiety attacks, but they are different from each other. An anxiety attack occurs when stress and worry become unbearable. It is a result of pent-up frustration or build-up of anxiety over time, like a breaking point. This overwhelming feeling feels like an attack.
Unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks start gradually, last longer and are usually triggered by stress. Panic attacks are listed under American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V) as a medical condition. In contrast, the term “anxiety attacks” is not a medical condition according to DSM – V criteria.
b. Panic attack:
A Panic attack is a medically recognised condition defined as an intense fear occurring without any real reason that triggers physical reactions. It appears all of a sudden out of nowhere. People who have suffered near-death experiences or traumatic incidents are more prone to panic attacks.
Certain situations like getting stuck in an elevator, the death of loved ones, the time before you have to give a speech, etc., obviously trigger feelings of panic. Still, panic attacks are so random and out of the blue most of the time. The attack could be so severe that you might get the fear of death and might constantly worry about the next episode.
Panic attacks are not the same for everyone. Some might get the attack only once, while others might get repeated attacks. You might realize that you are more likely to get panic attacks when you visit a particular place or situation that could trigger you.
What Does An Anxiety & Panic Attack Feels Like?
Have you ever seen a person behaving as if they are severely stressed where they almost faint or complain of breathlessness? It appears similar to a heart attack, but that person returns to normal after a while. Panic attacks feel like heart attacks, and they can change how you behave and think.
While most of the anxiety and panic attack symptoms are similar, the main difference is that anxiety attacks are less intense than panic attacks. They occur more gradually and are a lot more predictable. Some of the symptoms of anxiety attacks include:
Physical symptoms of an anxiety attack:
- Tremors and twitches
- Stomach upset
- Pounding heart
- Muscle tension
- Frequent urination
- Heart palpitations and chest pain
- Choking sensation
- Hot flashes
- Stomach cramps
Emotional symptoms of an anxiety attack:
- Overwhelming fear
- Feelings of going crazy
- Feelings that you are going to pass out
- Feeling unreal or detached from reality
Many people feel anxious about something, but a panic attack is much more intense. It is an extreme fear that escalates out of nowhere. Panic attack symptoms peak within a few seconds or a few minutes, and it takes some time for the symptoms to settle. It is essential to be aware that having an anxiety panic attack does not imply that you have developed a panic disorder.
Let’s see some of the symptoms of panic attacks:
Physical symptoms of a panic attack:
- Skipping or racing heartbeat
- Pounding sensation in the heart and head
- Sweating, trembling and shaking
- Trouble breathing
- Choking sensation
- Tightness in the throat
- Pressure and discomfort in the chest
- Nausea, stomach problems and sudden diarrhoea
- Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting sensation
- Tingling and numbness in the body
- Chills or goosebumps
- Muscle tension
Behavioural symptoms of a panic attack:
- Difficulty staying in the same place
- Feeling the need to escape
- Gulping air assuming that you are going to suffocate
- Sitting down thinking that you are going to faint
- Feeling the urge to call an ambulance
- Trying to distract to feel relaxed
- Avoiding areas that you think might trigger you
- Not doing things that you previously used to enjoy
Thoughts that occur during a panic attack:
- Feeling that you are detached, strange
- Feeling disconnected from reality
- A sensation that something dreadful is about to happen
- Thoughts of going crazy
- Feeling that someone is following you when you are alone at night
- Fear of dying
Sudden anxiety and panic attack symptoms can be alarming. Understand that you are never alone, and you can get any help and support you want if you are aware of your symptoms. If you need more than self-help methods to cope with anxiety and panic attacks, contact a qualified mental health practitioner skilled in treating anxiety panic attacks.