14 Questions You Might Be Afraid to Ask About an Anxiety Attack Vs a Panic Attack

Many people do not know how to differentiate between anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Only those who have enough information about the two know how to tell the difference. From a clinical perspective, however, there is a huge difference in the features and behavior that each exhibit. The terms that are used by health professionals for each of them are so different. I will help you understand the difference between the two to help you to not confuse them anymore.

Clinical differences between Panic and Anxiety Disorders

There is a handbook that was published known as the Diagnosis and Statistical manual of mental disorder (DSM-5) which is now in the fifth edition acts as a basis for psychologists and other health professionals who deal with health-related problems to base their diagnosis.

The book uses the panic attack as having features of panic disorder. A panic attack can be defined in simple terms as an overwhelming feeling of intense of fear or nervousness that comes all of a sudden when a person is exposed to certain danger. It should ideally last for short periods of time but that does not mean it cannot last for a long time. Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include but not limited to:

  • Sweating.

  • Shaking.

  • Occasional shaking.

  • Terror.

  • Flight.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Short breath.

  • Nausea.

  • Dizziness.

  • Fear of death.

    panic attack vs anxiety attack

Different types of Panic Attacks

  1. Unexpected panic attacks- These occur out of nowhere without any trigger.

  2. Situation bound- This occurs when one is exposed to different situations. In most cases caused by a certain trigger.

  3. Situation predisposed panic attacks– These do not always occur when they occur it’s when exposed to triggers but they may only occur once in a while

Panic Attack vs. Panic Disorder

Having a panic attack does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from panic disorder. The way you know you have a panic disorder is if your panic attacks keep reoccurring over and over again. People who are suffering from anxiety are also more likely to be suffering from panic disorder.

Treatment of Panic Attacks

There are various methods of treatment that can be recommended by your doctor after carrying out a diagnosis to determine the best way to treat you. They include:

  • Taking medications which include benzodiazepines which is an anti-anxiety drug.

  • Psychotherapy, where you visit a psychiatrist who will help you, live out your features by going back to the origin and working backward to get a cure.

  • Breathing exercises to help normalize your breathing by bringing your heartbeat to normal.

  • Muscle relaxation to help ease built up tension

    anxiety attack vs panic

Panic Attack Disorder

The most common way to find out if someone has panic attacks is by diagnosing them with panic disorder. That is not always accurate because the panic attacks could be a result of other mental conditions such as social anxiety. Visiting a qualified person is the best way to find out what the cause of your panic attacks is. Not only will they help with knowing the origin of your panic attacks but also help to recommend the best method of treatment. Increased panic attacks is an indication that one is at a higher risk of suffering from panic disorder.


What sets anxiety attacks apart from panic attacks is that the former lasts for a longer period as opposed to the later. It is characterized by intense fear about something that might happen. The symptoms for both of them are similar:

  • The tension in the muscles.

  • Irregular sleep patterns.

  • Loss of concentration.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Feeling dizzy.

panic vs anxiety attack

Difference between Panic and Anxiety Attacks

We started by defining what each of the two is. We are now going to simplify the difference between the two.

In layman terms, anxiety is something that we experience when we anticipate something bad that may happen in the future to us or someone that we know about while a panic attack is feelings of uncontrollable amounts of fear as a result of what is happening to us at that time and the basic reaction to panic attacks are either fight or flight.

Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack Occurrence

Anxiety occurs when one is anticipating something bad is going to happen. They are not sure but when they get a trigger of what they were fearing or something associated with it, then they will experience an anxiety attack. On the other hand, when something frightening happens out of the blue, then you are likely to experience intense feelings of fear and wonder whether you will be able to escape that situation. Panic attacks may be triggered by similar situations you may have encountered from the past.

How our Bodies determine which Occurs

The body is the one that determines whether you are experiencing a panic attack or an anxiety attack. When it comes to panic attacks, they are associated with the autonomic nervous system that detects danger and helps the body to prepare either for fight or flight. As for anxiety attacks, it is associated with the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for planning and anticipation and that is why they occur when you have been thinking about a certain situation.

Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack Occurrence

Can they occur at the same time? There are times that a person experiences both of the attacks at the same time but this is actually so rare. When this happens it can be so overwhelming for that person.

Who is more likely to suffer from Panic Attacks and Anxiety Disorder?

It is normal for individuals to feel anxious and suffer from panic attacks because that is how our bodies are wired. However, there are individuals who had psychological problems in the past who are more susceptible to suffer from either of the two or both. Humans are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorder than panic attacks because it is part of our normal lives.

anxiety vs panic attack

Treatment for Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

Both have similar modes of treatment but it is recommended that you be diagnosed first by a qualified person who will then advise you on the best course of treatment. Some of the common treatment options include:

  • Therapy

  • Antidepressant medications.

  • Attending self-help sessions.


Both anxiety attacks and panic attacks can affect anyone but the good thing to know is that they are treatable and with diagnosis and follow up with treatment, a person is likely to make a full recovery.

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