Skye likes writing about mental health, nutrition, and wellness. She is passionate about sharing information that will educate, and positively affect people's lives.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
February 4, 2021
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks sometimes get confused, but they have many differences in their causes, symptoms, and treatments that you should know.
Everyone experiences stress at one point or another. Stress is your body’s natural response to a threatening stimulus. This stimulus could be anything, from an armed robbery to an overdue assignment. Feeling pressure in challenging situations is normal. However, when that fear and stress mounts to a critical level, a panic or anxiety attack can occur.
The differences and similarities between a panic attack and an anxiety attack can be summarized as follows:
|Causes & Symptoms||Anxiety Attack||Panic Attack|
|Caused by stressors||x||x|
|Occurs without any reason||x|
|Typically lasts 20-30 minutes, peaking at 10 minutes||x|
|Has intense physical symptoms||x|
|Is classified as moderate or severe (never mild)||x|
|Associated with a diagnosis of a panic disorder||x|
|Is brought on by a specific stimulus||x|
|Builds over time||x|
|Lasts for an extended period of time||x|
|Symptoms are typically more emotional and less physical||x|
|Can be mild, moderate, or severe||x|
|Associated with a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder||x|
Let’s take a more in-depth look below at the similarities and differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.
In simple terms, both conditions are triggered when you become stressed, so the body’s response to panic and anxiety attacks is similar. In both panic and anxiety attacks, the fight or flight hormone (adrenaline) skyrockets.
As a result, you may experience:
Both conditions’ risk factors are similar. They include:
More severe risk factors are:
In sum, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are both:
The following are the major differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack.
Anxiety attack occurs due to worrying about things that have not happened.
A person suffering from an anxiety attack may be deeply worried he will fail his next job interview or too afraid to open the door for a visitor because he feels the visitor may have come to harm him.
Generally, anxiety attacks occur gradually. The patient has time to understand the situation and analyze it but has an uncontrolled, adverse, and severe reaction.
A panic attack, according to Mayo Clinic, “typically begins suddenly, without warning.” Patients suffering from panic attacks show more physical reactions to the situation than an anxiety attack that might be solely emotional.
The level of fear involved in a panic attack is usually higher than in an anxiety attack. While an anxiety attack may include the fear of failure, a panic attack may involve the fear of death or injury.
A panic attack could be expected or unexpected.
Because an anxiety attack develops gradually while a panic attack occurs suddenly, anxiety can lead to a panic attack.
While both show similar symptoms, a panic attack’s physical symptoms tend to be more intense than those of an anxiety attack.
Emotional symptoms more often characterize anxiety attacks.
An anxiety attack usually builds up over several minutes and may last for a long time. Sometimes it may last for as long as the situation remains.
Panic attacks usually occur suddenly, last for a shorter period, and subside. The average panic attack lasts 20 to 30 minutes and peaks at 10 minutes. That said, panic attack duration varies greatly depending on the individual.
A panic attack is only characterized as moderate or severe, while an anxiety attack can be characterized as mild as well.
Panic attacks are typically considered to be more severe than anxiety attacks, or they have the potential to be more severe than anxiety attacks. That said, anxiety attacks can also be classified as severe.
A panic disorder is classified as ongoing, consistent panic attacks.
An anxiety attack is not technically listed in the DSM-5. Still, it can be grouped with anxiety disorders defined by generalized concern, discomfort, or unease about stimuli that are no longer present or never were.
In other words, an anxiety attack is considered the highest state of an anxiety disorder, while panic attacks characterize the entirety of a panic disorder.
If you think you may be suffering from anxiety or panic disorder, contact a doctor to discuss your treatment options.
Visiting a doctor online is a safe and comfortable way for those with anxiety and panic disorders to get professional help.
Visit our sister site PlushCare for immediate access to online doctors. Doctors can help you with treatment for panic or anxiety attacks by providing long term care plans to manage panic or anxiety disorders, including necessary prescription medication that is not classified as a controlled substance.
Click here to book an appointment with an online doctor.
Sometimes talking to a therapist can be just as helpful when treating anxiety and panic disorders, which is why PlushCare also offers online therapy. Online therapy has been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy for mild to moderate anxiety and panic disorders.
At PlushCare your doctor and therapist will work together to ensure you’re getting the highest level of care.
Click here to book an appointment with a therapist and start getting anxiety and panic disorder treatment today.
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