The Difference Between Panic Attacks and Anxiety
Updated: Jun 25
What is the difference between Panic Attacks and Anxiety? You hear a lot about people having panic attacks and anxiety attacks but it is often difficult to understand the difference between the two, especially when people use the terms so interchangeably. In this blog, you will learn about the difference between panic and anxiety, and get some helpful tips on how to address the symptoms.
1. What is a Panic attack?
By definition a panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes. What this means is there is a sudden and extreme period of fear that triggers physical reactions when there does not seem to be any apparent danger present. The onset of a panic attack can happen very quickly and without much warning, and they may or may not have a trigger. Panic attacks usually last between 10-60 minutes.
2. What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a combination of physical and mental symptoms that can be intense and overwhelming. Anxiety is often associated with worries and fears that are ongoing, and known to the one experiencing them. Anxiety can last anywhere between a day to a month.
3. What is the difference?
Panic attacks are sudden and extreme whereas anxiety gradually builds up. Panic attacks seem to come out of the blue and can be terribly frightening. Anxiety tends to build over a period of time due to triggers and can also be very scary. Panic attacks can make you feel out of control due to not knowing when they might happen. Anxiety can also make you feel out of control but the triggers help as warning signs to use coping skills before it builds to a full blown attack.
4. What are common symptoms?
Some symptoms for panic attacks are:
Feeling disconnected from self or surrounding
Chills or hot flashes
Numbness or tingling
Fear of dying
Some symptoms for anxiety include:
Increased startle response
Increased heart rate
Shortness of breath
5. How can I find relief from the symptoms?
-Deep breathing can be very helpful for both panic attacks and anxiety. When you are experiencing either, your body goes into fight or flight mode causing shorter breaths which in turn decreases oxygen to your body and brain. When your body and brain are deprived of oxygen, your adrenaline spikes and your entire system starts to prepare for an emergency situation. By taking deep breaths, you are allowing more oxygen to your brain and body and by both intentionally getting their needs met, adrenaline decreases and the nervous system follows. - Reality checking is one way to help with anxiety and panic. By being curious about those anxious feelings and the panic, you can ask yourself what exactly you are anxious about and why. By doing so you are taking your mind off those feelings and reality checking the validity of those feelings. By going through this process you are also able to feel a sense of control, which can be helpful as anxiety tends to feel very chaotic. -Meditation is another skill you can use when suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. While meditation in the moment might be difficult, ongoing practice of meditation can help with grounding and prevention. Meditation helps connect the mind and body, which is helpful because your body tends to give warning signs before an attack happens. Being in tune with these warning signs can also help you get to a safe place before the attack is full blown.
-Individual and group therapy are both very beneficial when it comes to panic attacks and anxiety. Both types of therapy can help you dig deeper into the root cause of the issue and can help you gain insight on how to manage the symptoms as well as work through the main source. Both are widely effective and accessible. Please reach out if you are interested in any of these types of therapies.
Panic attacks and anxiety have differences but are similar in the sense that many people experience them and they are very treatable. Not only is it scary, but it can be isolating as well. Our goal at Catalyss Counseling is to help alleviate some of that discomfort by providing a safe and comforting space to work through these areas of growth. After reading this, my hope is that you now know the difference between panic attacks and anxiety, and find hope in that there are many ways they can be treated.
Looking for more helpful information?
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How We Can Help
If you are interested in therapy for panic attacks and/or anxiety, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how we can help you, follow these simple steps:
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Anxiety therapy can meet many of your counseling needs. But, we know that is not all you might need. So, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Christina Titcomb is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Christina specializes in treating adults for trauma, anxiety, depression, and grief and loss. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.