It is important for you to understand the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. If you are unsure about which type you are experiencing, it will be harder to find the proper treatment or to develop effective coping skills. At the Fishtown Wellness Center, you can learn about the types of attacks that you are having and receive appropriate treatment for your particular condition.
What is an anxiety attack?
The phrase anxiety attack is not a recognized clinical disorder. It is not listed in the DSM-5, which is the diagnostic manual that is relied on by most mental health professionals.
Anxiety attack is simply a colloquial term that was created by people who have anxiety to describe periods of anxiety that are intense or extended. An anxiety attack may be more intense than a regular feeling of anxiety but is not as severe as a panic attack. Many people who have anxiety disorder use the phrase when they are in therapy. Professionals began to formulate detailed definitions of it because of its frequent colloquial use. An anxiety attack is an extended and/or intense period during which you experience anxiety. It is not as severe as a panic attack but is more severe than regular anxiety. An anxiety attack can last from a few minutes up to several weeks. An anxiety attack may cause some of the following symptoms:
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling on edge or restless
- Being easily fatigued
- Trouble controlling your worries
- Muscular tension
- Sleep problems
An anxiety attack can sometimes occur before a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are not always signs of an anxiety disorder. It can be a natural response to a specific situation. An anxiety attack may cause you to be excessively cautious or avoidant.
What is a panic attack?
Unlike an anxiety attack, panic attacks are listed in the DSM-5. According to the clinical definition, a panic attack is an attack of intense fear that occurs suddenly. It can cause severe physical symptoms even though there is not a real danger or cause.
Panic attacks may cause the following symptoms:
- Feeling of impending danger
- Fear of death or of losing control
- Rapid heart beat
- Profuse sweating
- Chills or hot flashes
- A feeling of tightness in the throat or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Feeling of detachment
- Numbness or tingling
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
The symptoms of a panic attack normally last between 10 to 15 minutes. In some cases, people who experience a panic attack believe that they are having a heart attack. They may go to the hospital or call 911. People who have panic attacks normally feel a sense that there is an imminent threat. They might respond by asking others for help. Some people only experience one or two episodes of panic attacks during their lives when they are under extreme stress.
If you have multiple panic attacks, it may be a symptom of having a panic disorder. Some people who have undergone trauma can develop panic disorder. For example, if you have witnessed a sudden death, you could develop panic disorder.
Why it is important that you understand the difference
Some mental health professionals erroneously believe that an anxiety attack is synonymous with a panic attack and interchange the terms. People who deal with anxiety or panic attacks may also use the phrases interchangeably.
It is important for you to understand how these two phrases differ so that you can get the proper treatment. If you wrongly believe that you have a panic disorder, you might end up being prescribed medication that you will not need. It is crucial for you to talk to a mental health professional who understands the differences between these two different conditions so that you can get the proper treatment. The professionals at the Fishtown Wellness Center understand anxiety attacks and panic attacks and can work with you to help you to develop good coping skills. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.