Panic Attack or Anxiety Attack?

It is a beautiful day, and you are sitting outside with your family enjoying their company, when suddenly you start to feel your heartbeat racing. Your mind starts to race, and you feel a sense of impending doom begin to surround you. What is going on? Am I ok? You start to look around to see if anyone else is stressing out, but it is only you. Are you having a panic attack or an anxiety attack? The symptoms between a panic attack and an anxiety attack can look very similar, but there are several differences.

In this article, we will look at how each looks different in the way they present, how long they last, and how they differ in symptomology.

Main Differences Between Anxiety and Panic

Panic attacks come on very suddenly and seemingly without any warning. They often involve physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea. Sometimes there is a cause, such as encountering a phobia or outside stressor. At other times, a panic attack can happen out of the blue. They can occur in anyone, at any time, and in any circumstance.

On the other hand, an anxiety attack is often accompanied by what some describe as a “slow burn” or build-up. People who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) will often suffer from anxiety attacks. It usually presents as feeling worried or distressed, unrelenting fear, chest pain, shortness of breath, dry mouth, sweating, shaking, or other distressing symptoms.

During either a panic attack or an anxiety attack, one can feel like they have severe health problems. Sometimes it can feel so uncomfortable people go to the ER with the fear that they are having a heart attack. If you have these symptoms, it is always best to seek medical attention to rule out a serious medical condition.

If a medical condition is ruled out, speak to your doctor about treating anxiety and seek counseling for support. Several medical and mental health options are available to help you through this difficult time.

Remedies To Try At Home

Slow deep breaths. When your heart starts to race, focus your attention on your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose for the count of four and then exhale slowly through your nose for the count of four. Repeat this exercise 20 times. You should start to feel your heartbeat slow down and your body relax.

Notice what is happening, acknowledge it, and assure yourself of your safety. If you have experienced a panic or anxiety attack in the past, you will recognize it when it happens again. Try to talk to yourself and tell yourself you will be ok. You are not going to die. This feeling will not last forever.

Try other relaxation methods. Aromatherapy, progressive muscle relaxation, listen to a mindful meditation video on YouTube. These actions will help calm your flight or fight response and make living through the moment more bearable.

If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern


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