Panic attack vs. Anxiety attack: What’s the difference?



Every day, we face so many situations that can trigger a lot of stress. And while some people manage to get through it all without feeling overwhelmed, it’s not always easy.

There are different aspects to mental health and a common thing that comes up in many conversations is panic and anxiety.

Although we’re used to using the two interchangeably, they are actually two different experiences.

The main complication when it comes to telling the difference between a panic attack and anxiety is the fact that they often come with similar symptoms.

And in many cases, someone can have both anxiety and panic disorders which makes it even harder to tell them apart.

However, there are a few ways you can know the difference between the two. Here is how:

Both anxiety and panic attacks are experiences that no one would ever wish to deal with. If you’ve ever experienced any or both, you can understand how terrifying they can be.

With anxiety, the experience can often be described as gradual and when it builds up, it can develop into a panic attack. A panic attack is more sudden and it can catch you off guard.

  • Anxiety can be felt on different levels while panic is always intense

Anxiety is something that can be felt in different intensities. If you have mild anxiety you might be able to function normally without feeling the need to calm yourself down urgently. Anxiety can also be a bit more intense where you feel symptoms like shortness of breath, muscle tension and even excessive worry.

When you’re having a panic attack though, the feeling hits you directly. It doesn’t usually come with different intensities because it is more sudden and overwhelming.

Most of the time with a panic attack, you won’t experience it for more than an hour. It can be very terrifying because you might need to take a break from what you’re doing. But it usually doesn’t go on for a long time.

Anxiety attacks on the other hand can last for hours and even days. This is because it is gradual meaning it can build up for some time.

Panic attack symptoms can be easier to spot as compared to anxiety. The intensity of panicking can cause noticeable symptoms such as hot flashes, dizziness and other disruptive symptoms.

With anxiety, the symptoms are milder and they might not necessarily be spotted easily.

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