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The difference between anxiety and panic attacks
by TeenHelp December 2nd 2018, 02:35 PM

The difference between anxiety and panic attacks
By Cassie (cynefin)

While anxiety and panic are both unfortunate and uncomfortable, they are two different feelings. Many people use the terms "anxiety attack" and "panic attack" interchangeably but they both have a few differences. Continue reading to learn about what it is that makes them different.

What are panic attacks?

Feelings of panic or panic attacks are often brought on suddenly or out of the blue, with no warning. They can be triggered by an external stressor, but they typically come on suddenly. Many physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, or hyperventilating may occur.

What are anxiety attacks?

Anxiety attacks occur when someone is feeling anxious. Most of the time, there is something like an event or a person that is thought of as dangerous or uncomfortable. While anxiety attacks have many of the same symptoms as panic attacks, the physical symptoms don't feel as severe.

Key differences

Someone who has a panic attack may have a fear of dying or having another attack due to the physical symptoms they have experienced. People have ended up in the hospital for a perceived heart attack when it has actually been a panic attack. Anxiety attacks do have some of the same symptoms, but the fear of dying or having another attack is absent. This is often because panic attacks are more based on fight or flight than anxiety attacks are.

Physical symptoms are not as intense in anxiety attacks as they are in panic attacks. When someone has an anxiety attack, most of their anxiety lies in their mind. Physical symptoms tend to outweigh the anxiety for people who have panic attacks.

Anxiety can slowly build up over a period of time, but panic attacks are sudden. Anxiety attacks also tend to have a definite known cause or signs of occurring whereas panic attacks do not always have that.

Coping skills

Regardless of the differences, both benefit from similar self-help techniques.

  • Try mindfulness or meditation. Being mindful or more aware makes you slow down a bit more than you usually would, while meditation encourages slower breathing.
  • Write about your feelings. Writing is a great outlet. It is better to put your feelings on paper than it is to keep them inside your mind.
  • Work on the trigger (if there is one). Working on the cause of your anxiety attacks can help prevent, reduce, or eliminate them in the future.
  • See a professional. It might help to discuss what you are going through with a professional if that option is available to you.
Knowing the differences between anxiety and panic attacks can help you determine what you are struggling with. If you are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, or both, know that you can work through them.

What's the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?

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Last edited by cynefin; December 2nd 2018 at 03:10 PM.
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