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Mental Health

Panic and Anxiety Attacks: What are the Differences?

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack 

It may not be known by everyone, but anxiety attacks and panic attacks are different. Sometimes people end up talking about them as if they are the same thing. However, it is important to be able to identify in order to be able to handle them accordingly. 

One of the main differences is the timing in when they occur. With panic attacks, they come on suddenly with not too much warning, Where in contrast anxiety attacks tend to follow a period of prior worrying. So while panic attacks come without a trigger, anxiety attacks usually have a previous period of worry/stress. 

Another key difference is difference between the two is the different symptoms. Panic attack symptoms are often more intense and can be more disruptive to the individual. Anxiety attack symptoms are less intense and can vary in intensity. Symptoms can be mild but can also be severe. Some of the key symptoms of anxiety attacks include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, restlessness, worry, and distress. Symptoms for panic attacks can include chest pain, dizziness, hot flashes/chills, tingling, stomach pain, these are just naming a few there are many others that could be listed as well. 

Many of the symptoms between the two do overlap. Some of the ones that do not is when experiencing a panic attack you may experience a loss of control, fear of dying, detachment from the world. 

What Can Trigger an Anxiety/Panic Attack? 

  • School/Work Stress 
  • Social situations 
  • Phobias of any sort (fear of crowds, fear of throwing up, fear of heights)
  • PTSD
  • Illness (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
  • Substance withdrawal

Diagnoses 

Doctors are not able to diagnose an anxiety attack however they can diagnose symptoms of anxiety, anxiety and panic disorders, and panic attacks. 

Helpful Tips to Better Manage Panic /Anxiety Attacks 

  • Mediation / Mindfulness 
    • Using apps such as calm and headspace can make a difference and calm your mind and your body down 
  • Journaling 
    • Can help get your emotions out and is a way to manage and control the way that you feel.
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Method: grounding technique and type of mindfulness practice 
    • Look at 5 separate objects 
    • Listen for 4 distinct sounds 
    • Touch 3 objects 
    • Identify 2 smells 
    • Name 1 thing you can taste  
  • Walking 
    • Going on walks or doing light exercise can remove you from a stressful environment as well as regulate your breathing. When experiencing an anxiety/panic attack your breathing can become irregular and going on a walk can regulate your breaths once again. 

All in all, experiencing a panic attack or an anxiety attack can be scary. It is important to be able to identify what you are experiencing to make your experience a little less daunting. 

Sources 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321510#how-to-help

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-a-panic-attack

https://www.healthline.com/health/panic-attack-vs-anxiety-attack

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Abby Kirsch

Bentley '24

Hi! My name is Abby Kirsch and I am a sophomore at Bentley University majoring in Information Design and Corporate Communication. Some of my hobbies are drawing, painting, exercising occasionally, and watching Dance Moms. I wanted to join HerCampus as a way to pursue my writing interest as well as develop new skillsets that will be beneficial in the workforce. One fun fact about me is that my favorite animal is a lemur!
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