Panic Attacks vs Anxiety Attacks: What's the Difference? (2023)

You can use these terms interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings.

Palpitations, trembling hands, hot flashes throughout the body. If you've ever experienced a surge in anxiety, we don't need to tell you how disturbing — and scary — it can feel. But is it a panic attack or an anxiety attack?

People often talk about itpanic attacksAndAngstAttacks as if they are the same. Although they share several symptoms, they are actually separate conditions with some notable differences.

For the most part, it boils down to the intensity and duration of the attack. Here's how to tell them apart, along with treatment options and resources.

We all worry at times. But panic and anxiety attacks are different from normal anxiety. They are accompanied by emotional and physical symptoms that can make it difficult to get on with your day.

Panic attacks seem to come out of nowhere. They are considered more intense than anxiety attacks and usually peak within about 10 minutes.

Panic attacks are recognized in theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). You are linked topanic disorder, which affects 2.7% of adults in the United States, according to theAnxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

On the other hand, anxiety attacks are not officially recognized by the DSM-5, so the definition of what constitutes an attack can be a bit vague.

Anxiety attacks are linked to some medical conditions, including:

(Video) What's the Difference Between Panic Attacks, Anxiety Attacks, and Panic Disorder? 1/3 Panic Attacks

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Trauma
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Additionally, certain triggers tend to be associated with anxiety attacks, such as:

  • work stress
  • family problems
  • Drive
  • too much caffeine
  • alcohol or drug withdrawal
  • chronic pain
  • phobias
  • Memories of past trauma

Rough3,1 %of adults in the US are living with generalized anxiety disorder, and women tend to be diagnosed more often than men.

With so much overlap, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. Here is a table that may help:

Typsymptomspanic attackpanic attack
feelings of dyingX
feelings of loss of controlX
Detachment from the environment (derealization)X
detachment from oneself (depersonalization)X
feel like going "crazy".X
Difficulty focusingX
It risesX
Physicallychest painXX
hot flashesXX
increased pulseXX
dry mouthXX
shortness of breathXX
tightness in the throatXX

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks differ in intensity and duration. It's impossible to say which type of attack is "worse" as each person's experience is different.

Panic attacks can be scary because they occur without warning or an obvious trigger. Symptoms can be intense and disturbing, often accompanied by a feeling of disconnection from reality.

(Video) 5 Differences Between Anxiety and Panic

Although they're usually short-lived, it's possible to have multiple panic attacks in a row, which can make the panic experience feel longer.

Anxiety is a response to a known trigger that may be less frightening to some. Symptoms usually last longer than a panic attack and often build up over hours or days. Anxiety symptoms come on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe.

Depending on the type of symptoms you experience with anxiety or panic attacks, you may find different treatment approaches helpful.


psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can be an effective way to identify your anxiety triggers and learn how to manage them. For example,Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is a popular form of therapy that helps people manage and reduce symptoms related to anxiety and panic.

Some other forms of therapy that might help include:

  • Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)
  • Acceptance and Attachment Therapy (ACT)
  • somatic therapies, likesomatic experience
  • panic-focused psychodynamic therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensibilization and Preprocessing (EMDR)


A doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medication for recurring panic attacks or anxiety, either with therapy or alone. A recipe might include:

It is important to note that theFDAadvises against the long-term use of benzodiazepines because they are addictive and can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol, drugs, or other medications. Withdrawal symptoms can also be life-threatening, and long-term use could result in memory damage.

Lifestyle Changes

A stressful lifestyle, certain foods, and lack of sleep can all contribute to more frequent and intense anxiety or panic attacks. Consider making one or more of the following lifestyle changes to support your treatment:

  • Work on managing stressors as best you can
  • Drink plenty of water
  • build a support network
  • Exercise regularly and moderately
  • sleep at least 8 hours a night if possible
  • Limit substances like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
  • eat a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Practice meditation, mindfulness, or yoga
  • Join onesupport groupfor people with panic or anxiety attacks

If you're having a panic attack or anxiety attack right now, here are some popular ways to find relief.

Acknowledge the fear

Psychologist Carl Jung said, "What you reject stays." When fear rears its head, it can actually help you accept what is happening. Consider leaning a littleinthe discomfort — whether it's humming in your legs, pounding in your chest, or even lumps in your stomach — with curiosity.

It may also be helpful to limit this exploration to manageable time periods, e.g. B. 10 seconds so that you are not overwhelmed. As you do research, you can remind yourself that these feelings are temporary, and that they areWillehappen.

breathing techniques

When the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flee or freezemode) is activated, your breathing will naturally become shallower. Connecting with your breath is one of the quickest ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest" mode).

Find a comfortable place to lie down or get into a comfortable seated position. Try some of these techniques and repeat them as many times as needed.

  • Box-Atmung.Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Alternating nostril breathing.Bring your right thumb over your right nostril. Breathe in and out through your left nostril. Repeat 8 times, then switch nostrils.
  • 4-7-8 breathing.Put the tip of your tongue behind your two front teeth. Breathe in for 4 with your mouth closed, hold for 7, breathe out for 8 with your mouth open.

Listen to soothing music

In someResearchMarconi Union's song "Weightless" has been shown to reduce anxiety. Here is theOriginal-Liedon YouTube, along with a10 hour versionfor the really hard days.

Music that you personally find calming could likely have the same anti-anxiety effects.

drink some tea

Researchshows that chamomile tea may have a mild sedative effect thanks to apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain. Other herbs known to reduce anxiety are:

  • black cohosh
  • chaste tree
  • Lavender
  • Passionsblume
  • Safran

Take CBD oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, meaning it won't get you high.Researchon CBD is growing and showing promising results for a range of physical and mental symptoms, including anxiety and insomnia.

If CBD oil is legal in your area, you can work with a "budtender" at a local pharmacy to find out what dose is right for you. You can consider THC-free or low-THC oilTHC to CBD, like 16:1 or 8:1.

(Video) What is an Anxiety Attack? | Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack Explained | Deep Dives

Of course, it's also important to consult your doctor before incorporating any alternative treatments into your routine of care — especially if you're on other medications.

Here's everything you need to know about CBD.

Try aromatherapy

There's a reason spas are so relaxing.Researchshows that inhaling lavender and chamomile essential oils can help reduce anxiety symptoms, especially when paired with relaxing music.

Other essential oils you can try are:

  • bergamot
  • clary sage
  • Grapefruit
  • Ylang-Ylang

Add a few drops of a fragrance to your diffuser, step into a warm bath, and rub your temples to relieve anxiety.

Essential oils are considered natural and safe, but they are powerful. It's important to buy them from a reputable brand and not apply them directly to the skin without mixing them with a carrier oil like coconut oil.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It's important to talk to your doctor before you start using essential oils and make sure you do some researchQualityof a brand's products. Always do onePatch-Testbefore trying a new essential oil.

(Video) Anxiety vs Panic Attacks - what's the difference? #shorts

Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are treatable conditions and can include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and home treatments.

Now that you know the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack, consult your GP to discuss the best treatment options for you.

(Video) What's the Difference Between Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks?

It can also be helpful to know that you are not alone. Here are some articles exploring what it's like to live with panic attacks and anxiety:

  • Living with Panic Disorder: What It's Like
  • Living with an anxiety disorder: home remedies for relief
  • 10 things people with anxiety need to do every day

No matter how you're feeling right now, know that those feelings of panic or fear will subside. With a few tools and tricks up your sleeve, you'll be well equipped to ride the waves.


How do you know if its anxiety or panic attacks? ›

What You Need to Know About Panic Disorders. Unlike anxiety, which often has clear triggers, panic attacks occur suddenly and unexpectedly and typically only last for a few minutes. Those who experience panic attacks have reported lightheadedness, chest pain, hot flashes, chills, and stomach discomfort.

Is a panic attack and anxiety attack the same thing? ›

The takeaway

Though these terms are often used interchangeably, only panic attacks are identified in the DSM-5. Anxiety and panic attacks have similar symptoms, causes, and risk factors. But panic attacks tend to be more intense and are often accompanied by more severe physical symptoms.

What are 3 types of panic attacks? ›

Multidimensional scaling (MDS) of panic symptoms identified three types of panic which were consistent over time and for which reliable scales were constructed to measure derealization, cardiac panic, and respiratory panic.

What do panic attacks feel like? ›

A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety. Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms, including: shaking. feeling disorientated.

What triggers panic attacks? ›

Major life stress, such as the death or serious illness of a loved one. A traumatic event, such as sexual assault or a serious accident. Major changes in your life, such as a divorce or the addition of a baby. Smoking or excessive caffeine intake.

What triggers anxiety attacks? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What happens to your body during a panic attack? ›

A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear. These can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension. Panic attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to any external threat.

Are panic attacks a mental illness? ›

Panic disorder is a common mental health problem. It often starts in the teens or early adulthood, but may also begin in childhood. Women are twice as likely as men to have it. There may be a genetic link.

Do you cry during a panic attack? ›

It's also not uncommon to feel like crying before, during, or after an anxiety attack. Many people feel impending doom, as though they are about to die. They respond by crying because that's a natural response to a feeling of intense dread along with the physiological reaction that occurs during a panic episode.

What are 2 signs of a panic disorder? ›

What are the signs and symptoms of panic disorder?
  • Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear.
  • A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack.
  • An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen.

What is the 333 rule for panic attacks? ›

It involves looking around your environment to identify three objects and three sounds, then moving three body parts. Many people find this strategy helps focus and ground them when anxiety overwhelms them.

How do people with panic attacks Act? ›

During a panic attack, a person may experience overwhelming emotions, including helplessness and fear. Physical symptoms can include a fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating, and shaking. Panic attacks often happen in specific situations that trigger heightened stress.

How do doctors test for panic attacks? ›

What happens during a panic disorder test? Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, behavior patterns, and other symptoms. Your provider may also order blood tests and/or tests on your heart to rule out a heart attack or other physical conditions.

How do you stop panic attacks fast? ›

How to stop a panic attack
  1. Seek counseling. ...
  2. Take medications. ...
  3. Use deep breathing. ...
  4. Recognize that you're having a panic attack. ...
  5. Close your eyes. ...
  6. Practice mindfulness. ...
  7. Find a focus object. ...
  8. Use muscle relaxation techniques.

What is the best medicine for panic attacks? ›

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Generally safe with a low risk of serious side effects, SSRI antidepressants are typically recommended as the first choice of medications to treat panic attacks.

How long do panic attacks usually last? ›

A panic attack begins suddenly and most often peaks within 10 to 20 minutes. Some symptoms continue for an hour or more. A panic attack may be mistaken for a heart attack. A person with panic disorder often lives in fear of another attack, and may be afraid to be alone or far from medical help.

Can you be cured of panic attacks? ›

Even though there is not a cure for panic disorder, you can still experience long-term improvements by finding the combination of treatments that is effective for you.

What are the signs of a mental breakdown? ›

The term mental breakdown is often used when a person has a mental health crisis that overcomes their emotions.
The most common signs someone is having a mental breakdown are:
  • Hopelessness.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Sense of worthlessness.
  • Unable to sleep.
  • Lacking appetite.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Severe disappointment with their life.
Feb 11, 2022

What foods to avoid if you have anxiety? ›

If you're feeling stressed, try to avoid these foods:
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Sugary drinks and foods.
  • Processed foods, such as chips, cookies, frozen foods and ready-made meals.
  • Foods high in trans fats and excessive saturated fats, such as fried foods, red meat, full-fat dairy, butter and baked goods.
Sep 21, 2021

What are 5 symptoms of anxiety? ›

Signs and Symptoms
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Being irritable.
  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

What foods reduce anxiety fast? ›

You can take a vitamin B supplement or eat foods that are rich in B vitamins to ward off anxiety. These foods that help with anxiety include beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs.

What do silent anxiety attacks look like? ›

Your heart rate increases or feels like its skipping a beat: If your heart rate is faster than normal, or you begin to have heart palpitations, it could be a sign of a silent panic attack. It also may be one of the first physiological symptoms you experience with any sort of anxiety. (Pexels)

Do I have anxiety or do I just get anxious? ›

Those who have an anxiety disorder often feel anxious for no reason at all; their anxiety cannot be traced to a specific event, task, or situation. With an anxiety disorder, an individual may continue to feel anxious even after the presentation is finished, even if they clearly did well.

How long do silent panic attacks last? ›

Duration. The duration of a panic attack is usually between five and 20 minutes, with most panic attacks reaching their peak at around 10 minutes. Nearly all panic attacks subside in under an hour, at which point the physical and psychological symptoms will be alleviating or no longer be present.

How long do anxiety attacks last? ›

Most anxiety attacks last between a few minutes and half an hour. ⁴ They will usually reach their peak in about ten minutes. ⁴ Of course, during an attack, time feels slower, and ten minutes may feel like an hour. There is also the possibility that a person might have several panic or anxiety attacks back-to-back.

What are sneaky red flags of high-functioning anxiety? ›

Some of the sneaky signs of high-functioning anxiety include: Being a “people pleaser,” never wanting to let others down, even at your own expense. Overthinking everything. Procrastination followed by periods of “crunch-time” work.

Does anxiety go away with medication? ›

While drugs do not cure anxiety, they can help you manage your symptoms, so you can function well and feel better in your day-to-day life. Many types of medications are available. Because every person is different, you and your doctor may have to try several medications to find the right one for you.

When should I seek medication for anxiety? ›

If you have severe anxiety that's interfering with your ability to function, medication may be helpful—especially as a short-term treatment. However, many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or other self-help strategies would work just as well or better, minus the drawbacks.

When should I go to the doctor for anxiety? ›

You should see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress. They can diagnose your condition based on your symptoms, which may include: feeling restless or on edge. being irritable.


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