The terms “panic attack” and “anxiety attack” are often used interchangeably. It’s understandable given that panic attacks and anxiety share a number of symptoms. This includes shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, and dizziness.

However, they are different conditions with their own characteristics. Learning how to distinguish one from the other will help you navigate the symptoms better.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks: Symptoms

It may be difficult to identify what you’re experiencing. Primarly because these conditions tend to be overwhelming in the moment. They may also accompany signs of depression. This makes it harder to recognize what’s happening.

Here’s a quick view of their respective symptoms:

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks don’t have an obvious trigger, and they come on without warning. Symptoms include:

  • Pounding or racing heartbeat
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Light-headedness
  • Chills or hot flushes
  • Intense nausea
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling like you’re going crazy
  • Depersonalization, or feeling detached from your surroundings and yourself
  • Being suddenly convinced that you will die

Anxiety Attacks

Unlike panic attacks, anxiety symptoms generally come after an extended period of worry. These symptoms are usually less intense than panic attacks. However, it may intensify over a few minutes or hours. Symptoms include:

  • Being startled easily
  • Pain in the chest and muscle pain
  • Dizziness
  • Intense fatigue
  • Unexplainable fear
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry mouth
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sleep issues
  • Restlessness
  • Worry
  • Distress
  • Feeling smothered or choked

The symptoms of anxiety tend to last longer than panic attack symptoms. They can last for days, weeks, or months.

How to Differentiate Between Panic Attacks and Anxiety

Because they share some symptoms, you may have a hard time distinguishing the two. These tips can help:

  • Anxiety is a response to a perceived threat or stressor. On the other hand, panic attacks typically happen even without a trigger.
  • Panic attack symptoms are incredibly disruptive and intense. Sufferers often feel a sense of detachment and unreality. Anxiety symptoms can range from mild to severe.
  • The intensity of anxiety symptoms can build over minutes, hours, or days. Meanwhile, panic attacks always come on full force.
  • Panic attacks generally subside after several minutes. Anxiety symptoms may linger for a while.

What to Do During an Anxiety or Panic Attack

Anxiety attacks and panic attacks can be extremely frightening. Try to remember the following strategies:

  • Seek listening support. Being able to express what you’re feeling can relieve symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. This will bring you back to the present moment.
  • You can reduce fear and anxiety by acknowledging the situation. Remember that it will soon pass.
  • Slow down your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply until the symptoms start subsiding.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation. There are many resources online, or you can talk to a qualified therapist.

24/7 Talk Therapy for Anxiety in the UK and Worldwide

You don’t have to deal with anxiety and panic attacks alone. Our advisors at Talking for Therapy are ready to navigate this struggle with you. We are ready to welcome you with a safe, compassionate, and non-judgemental space. Book your appointment today and let’s talk about YOU.