Recognizing the onset and understanding the differences between an anxiety attack versus panic attack can be the first step in overcoming these devastating symptoms. In today’s fast-paced society, your mind is constantly filled with lots of “stuff,” which can cause anxiety and panic. Perhaps you have financial pressures, lost a loved one, moved, or lost your job, the list goes on.
While there are differences in an anxiety attack versus panic attack, you can be trained to recognize the triggers and trained in how to work through them.
How Do I Recognize an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It is one of the most common human emotions you can experience at some point in your life. You may feel fearful, apprehensive, and may feel your heart racing or feel short of breath, but it’s very short lived. When the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack.
Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the trigger and how the person reacts to it. Anxiety often results from stress or feeling overwhelmed, and includes the following symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worry and fear that something bad will happen
- Irritability or explosive anger
- Work pressure
- Financial pressure
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
- Family or relationships problems
- Divorce or separation
- Concerns about parenthood or being a caregiver
- Changing life situations, such as moving or changing jobs
- Reduced mobility or physical function
How Do I Recognize a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden overwhelming fear or feeling of doom developing over a very short period of time when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Extreme anxiety is known as a panic attack. You might think you’re having a heart attack or even dying. They are an overreaction to a series of heightened bodily sensations.
Panic attacks can be frightening and can significantly affect your quality of life. Panic attacks include the following symptoms:
- Sudden overwhelming fear
- Palpitations or pounding heart
- Accelerated heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Sense of choking
- Chest pain
- A feeling of being detached from the world
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling in the limbs or entire body
- Chills or hot flushes
Anxiety Attack Versus Panic Attack – What Are the Differences?
Here are some features that distinguish their differences.
An anxiety attack, or anxiety:
- can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
- is not a diagnosable condition
- is less severe than a panic attack
- usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
- involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or knot in the stomach
A panic attack:
- does not have a specific trigger
- can be a symptom of panic disorder, a diagnosable condition
- has severe symptoms
- can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious
- involves physical symptoms and feelings of terror so intense that the person fears a total loss of control or fears they are going to die
- often occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and lasts between a few minutes and an hour, although the negative impact may continue
Differences in Symptoms
Both panic and anxiety can involve fear, pounding or racing heart, lightheadedness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and irrational thoughts.
However, in a panic attack, these symptoms are far more severe. The person may genuinely believe they are going to die.
A person is more likely to require medical attention to determine whether they are having an anxiety attack versus panic attack.
Differences in How They Start
Anxiety can be a response to a specific worry or fear. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe. There may be a sense that if only this problem can be solved, everything will be all right.
A panic attack can happen without warning, and is more intense. It can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and can happen even during sleep. There is often no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger.
Differences in Duration
Anxiety is often related to a specific situation. It tends to build up and continue for some time.
A panic attack starts suddenly, symptoms usually peak after 10 minutes and usually abate after 30 minutes or so, although the effects may last longer.
Anxiety generally does not peak in this way, but some people with anxiety can progress to panic attacks.
Can Children Have Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks?
Yes. There are many typical childhood fears that can make children feel anxious. Some fear is natural and predictable, but sometimes fear can become more profound and problematic. Fear can make children cautious. It can also influence them to ask questions when they are uncertain or fearful of a situation.
Fears vary depending on the age of your child.
Common fears for infants
At the earliest of ages, infants recognize the sounds and faces of their parents and siblings. The bond becomes strong, and by about 6 to 8 months of age, infants can start to show signs of separation anxiety. Other common fears for infants include:
- Loud noises
Common fears for toddlers and primary school-age children
If your toddler or younger school-aged child is afraid of the dark, going potty, or of monsters under the bed, that’s common. Toddlers are starting to
understand that bad things can happen, but they have not developed the ability to challenge their fears with more rational thoughts.
As children continue to grow, their fears change, and it’s more common for them to become afraid of real-world concerns. The fear of being bitten by a dog is real, and a fear of snakes can keep them from playing outdoors. Most of the fears children in this age group face are fears related to themselves or a family member.
Other common fears for primary school-age children
- Bad weather, such as tornadoes and loud noises from thunderstorms
- Being home alone
- Being kidnapped
- Medical providers and going to the doctor or the dentist
- The dark and noises at night
Common fears for teens
At this age, a teenager likely isn’t afraid of the dark. Their fears will seem more real-world. This is because teens are aware of their surroundings and the world around them. If there’s a storm coming, they understand the realities that can come with a tornado or lightning for example. Your teen may question or fear death if they’ve had a pet die or they have an ill relative.
Other common fears for teenagers
- Being in a driving accident
- Failure in school or work
- Getting hurt or dying
- Going to the doctor or the dentist
- Fear of embarrassment at school, public speaking and performance
Is An Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack Treatable?
Yes. Although both attacks can be devastating, they are treatable without medication or drugs. While drugs mask the symptoms and don’t get to the root cause of the attack, professional self-help training will teach and guide you to recognize the onset of symptoms and teach you how to combat the symptoms.
You will learn how to take control rather than be controlled by the attacks.
You can also experience your journey through a support system of like-minded people.
You will gain self-confidence and a new awareness in your life.