Anxiety attack vs. panic attack: How to recognize them
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Have you ever experienced a point in time where you randomly found yourself short of breath, scared and overwhelmed? Perhaps you started feeling this way without warning and without any apparent reason? Chances are, you may be experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. In fact, distinguishing whether you’re going through an anxiety attack vs. a panic attack is an important part of treating your symptoms. “Anxiety attack” is a nonmedical term used to refer to a period of time when an individual is experiencing higher than usual anxiety — this is better defined as increased anxiety. People who experience panic attacks need treatment to avoid developing phobias related to their panic disorder.

What are the general symptoms of panic attacks and increased anxiety?

There are several symptoms of panic attacks and increased anxiety. These include:

  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Distress
  • Nervousness
  • Apprehension
  • Fear of the loss of control
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

How can you tell the difference between a panic attack and increased anxiety?

The symptoms of increased anxiety and panic attacks might seem hard to tell apart to the average person. However, there are a few notable differences between the two. You can distinguish between increased anxiety and a panic attack by observing the following symptoms:

  • Does the feeling happen suddenly or does it build up? — One way to tell the difference between increased anxiety and a panic attack is the amount of time for onset of symptoms. Panic attacks typically happen suddenly and without warning. You can experience panic attacks anywhere, whether it be during an exam, in the car or hanging out with friends. A person might rapidly experience fear, impending doom, increased heart rate, shortness of breath and depersonalization. Someone experiencing increased anxiety will slowly feel as if their anxiety is creeping up on them or building in intensity.

  • How long does it last? — Another way to tell if you’re having a panic attack vs. increased anxiety is by the duration of the event. Panic attacks are often short, usually only lasting for a few minutes. They arrive suddenly and leave just as quickly. Increased anxiety can last much longer. Some events can extend for a few months at a time or build over a period of time.

Why should you receive treatment for panic attacks?

Panic attacks are a symptom of a panic disorder. It’s important to seek treatment for panic attacks. If they’re left untreated, they can lead to phobias and interfere with your ability to perform everyday activities. Panic attacks can affect young children, teens and adults. Treatment for panic disorders from a licensed clinical therapist can provide the following benefits:

  • Reducing the intensity — One of the primary benefits of treatment for panic attacks is that it can help reduce the intensity when they occur. Panic attacks can be overwhelming and leave you feeling helpless. With treatment, these strong feelings may become less significant or impactful to you during future attacks. Therapy can help you learn to work through the attacks so that they’re a little less intense than they would be without treatment.

  • Reducing the number of occurrences — If you’ve started developing fear around experiencing a panic attack in public or at school, treatment can improve this. Treatment can help you manage your panic disorder, making you less likely to experience as many panic attacks.

  • Improving your ability to perform daily activities — When a certain place or activity triggers a panic attack, a person may begin to go out of their way to avoid those triggers. Treatment can help you learn to overcome those triggers so that you can comfortably resume everyday activities.

Lightfully can provide mental health treatment for your panic disorder

Our mission at Lightfully is to provide high-quality mental health care to various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. We have extensive experience working with teens who have panic disorders, and we’d like to help you.

Lightfully offers various levels of care to both adults and teens: Residential Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We also offer a Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) for adults. If you’ve been at school, home or work and experienced a panic attack that left you temporarily incapacitated, we can help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our licensed clinical therapists today.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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