woman on left curled up in anxiety, woman on right having a panic attack

The terms “panic attack” and “anxiety attack” are often used interchangeably, which can lead to confusion about their true meanings and distinctions. While the two share some similarities, they are distinct experiences with different triggers, symptoms, and durations. The Crane Center is here to help you understand these differences for effective management and support. 

Is An Anxiety Attack A Panic Attack?

No. Anxiety and panic attacks share certain characteristics, and many individuals with anxiety also get panic attacks. The main difference between the two is the onset and duration. Anxiety attacks tend to present more gradually and last for longer periods of time; they are also often in response to specific triggers. Panic attacks, by contrast, usually come on suddenly and without provocation (though certain triggers can certainly cause panic attacks).  

Physical Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack

Both anxiety and panic disorder can cause physical symptoms, but they differ depending on which condition you are experiencing. 

Anxiety Attack

Anxiety tends to come on more gradually and persist for far longer than a panic attack, so the physical symptoms are also more chronic. These include:

Panic Attack

Panic attacks usually arise suddenly and with alarming physical symptoms that can be so severe that some individuals feel they are having a heart attack. These include: 

Psychological Symptoms of a Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

While both a panic attack and anxiety attack can involve significant psychological distress, they may manifest differently in terms of intensity and focus. 

Panic Attack Psychological Symptoms

Anxiety Attack Psychological Symptoms

Treatment Options for Anxiety vs Panic Disorder

Managing both of these conditions involves a combination of therapeutic interventions, lifestyle modifications, and in some cases, medication. While treatment approaches can overlap, they often target specific symptoms and underlying causes. Here are some of the treatment options available for each attack:

Anxiety Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is one method for treating anxiety disorders. It helps individuals identify and challenge anxious thoughts and behaviors, develop coping strategies, and gradually confront feared situations.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction: MBSR incorporated mindfulness meditation, yoga, and body awareness techniques to cultivate present-moment awareness and reduce anxiety symptoms. It teaches individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment, fostering a sense of acceptance and resilience.

Medication: Healthcare providers may prescribe medication, such as SSRIs, based on the specific type and severity of anxiety symptoms. 

Relaxation techniques: Similar to panic attacks, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help individuals manage acute symptoms of anxiety attacks and promote relaxation.

Lifestyle modifications: engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing good sleep hygiene, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake can help reduce overall anxiety levels to improve overall well-being.

Support groups: Participating in support groups or therapy groups for individuals with anxiety disorders can provide a sense of validation, connection, and support from others who understand their experiences.

Panic Disorder

Cognitive behavioral therapy: CBT is also an effective means of treating panic disorder. It can help individuals challenge irrational thoughts and beliefs associated with their panic attacks. Through cognitive restructuring and exposure techniques, CBT teaches coping skills to manage panic symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.

Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to feared situations or sensations associated with panic attacks in a controlled and supportive environment. This exposure can help desensitize individuals to their triggers and reduce the fear response over time.

Relaxation techniques: As with anxiety disorder, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation can help individuals manage acute symptoms of panic attacks and promote relaxation and calmness.

Medication: In some cases, your healthcare provider could prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms of panic attacks. As-needed medications, like benzodiazepines or beta blockers, may be recommended for severe attacks. 

Stress management: Learning stress management techniques can help individuals better cope with stressors that contribute to panic attacks. With the right support and resources, individuals can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

What If My Anxiety Isn’t Getting Better? 

Alternative therapies can be very effective for individuals who do not respond to traditional approaches. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, for example, is one option that has demonstrated efficacy in treatment-resistant mental health conditions. 

At The Crane Center, we are proud to offer a variety of resources to our patients in Destin and Inlet Beach to help them reclaim their quality of life. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. We will work with you every step of the way to develop a treatment plan that achieves lasting results. Send us a text at 844-909-4156 and start feeling better today. 

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