Many of us have experienced the feeling of intense, short-term panic or anxiety, and know how scary and difficult it can be to move through this. As a therapist who specializes in anxiety it isn’t uncommon to hear the terms “panic attack” and “anxiety attack” are used interchangeably. Yet they can refer to different experiences.
Here are some general differences and how to tell what you are experiencing, to better understand what you may need and how to get help during or after your experience either:
Panic attacks are typically characterized by a sudden and intense surge of fear or discomfort that peaks within minutes. The symptoms can behttps://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms severe and overwhelming, often leading individuals to believe they are experiencing a life-threatening situation. In contrast, anxiety attacks may involve a gradual increase in distressing symptoms that are generally less intense than panic attacks.
Panic attacks are usually short-lived, lasting from just a few minutes to less than an hour at maximum. Once the peak intensity subsides, individuals may experience residual symptoms but gradually return to their “normal” state. Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, may persist for a more extended period, with symptoms fluctuating throughout the day or over an extended period of time, especially if the thing that is making us anxious persists or feels unresolved.
Panic attacks often seem to come out of nowhere and can occur spontaneously, even in the absence of an immediate identifiable trigger. They can be unexpected and unprovoked. In contrast, anxiety attacks may be triggered by specific situations, stressors, or stimuli that elicit anxiety or distress. Oftentimes, we experience anxiety attacks about things that typically make us anxious, this is just on a more severe scale. For example, someone with social anxiety might experience an anxiety attack before giving a presentation or attending a social event.
Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks can involve physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, dizziness, or a sense of impending doom. However, panic attacks tend to produce a more intense physical response, often described as a “fight-or-flight” reaction. If you are experiencing a panic attack, it is common to feel like you are having a heart attack. Anxiety attacks may exhibit milder or more variable physical symptoms that are still distressing but generally less severe. If you are experiencing an anxiety attack, it is typically easier to access coping skills and grounding tools to help manage symptoms than with a panic attack.
It’s important to note that individuals may use Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack interchangeably, or experience these episodes differently than described. Regardless of the terminology, both panic attacks and anxiety attacks can be really scary and uncomfortable experiences. If you are experiencing recurring episodes of intense anxiety or panic, talk to a mental health professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Most people you know will experience anxiety at some point of their lives, if not a small amount of anxiety each day. Anxiety is a normal part of being human – we get nervous or curious about the outcome of something, we have fears or questions about ambiguous situations, we get that little pit in our stomach when something isn’t working out how we expected it to, etc. While occasional feelings of anxiety are a normal part of life, there are times when seeking professional help for anxiety is necessary. Here are some signs that indicate you may benefit from working with a mental health professional:
If you find yourself constantly worrying, experiencing excessive or unrealistic fears, and struggling to control your anxious thoughts for an extended period, it may indicate a need for professional anxiety therapy help. It may be hard for you to tell if what you are experiencing is “excessive” or “unrealistic” – it doesn’t hurt to talk to an anxiety therapist about this as well, just to get an idea of how you can improve your experience even in small ways.
When anxiety starts interfering with your daily activities, such as work or school performance, relationships, social interactions, or overall functioning, it is essential to seek professional support from an anxiety therapist. We want you to be able to enjoy your life, and while negative emotions are of course a part of that, we don’t want them to hold you back from doing things you need and love to do.
Anxiety can manifest in so many ways, and can vary from person to person. These can include, but are not limited to:
If these physical symptoms become frequent or significantly impact your well-being, talking to an anxiety therapist can help.
If you consistently avoid situations, places, or activities because they trigger intense anxiety or panic, it may be a sign that your anxiety is becoming unmanageable. It is normal to set boundaries and be strategic about situations you put yourself in. However, longer-term avoidance behavior can restrict your life and limit your opportunities for growth and fulfillment.
Anxiety can contribute to or worsen other mental health conditions, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have a pre-existing mental health condition that is being exacerbated by anxiety or if you notice new symptoms emerging, seeking professional anxiety therapy is important.
If anxiety is causing you significant emotional distress, leading to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or despair, it is crucial to reach out to a professional anxiety therapist. They can provide support, guidance, and appropriate interventions to help alleviate your distress.
If you find that your usual coping mechanisms, such as self-help techniques or relaxation strategies, are insufficient in managing your anxiety, or only help some of the time, talking to a trusted professional can help you learn new tools and strategies that are specific to your needs to help maximize your ability to self soothe.
Anxiety can strain relationships with family, friends, or romantic partners. Is your anxiety is causing conflicts, isolation, or an inability to maintain healthy connections? Then know that talking about this with an anxiety therapist can help you gain some perspective on how your anxiety plays a role in the health of your connections.
Seeking professional help does not mean you are weak or incapable. It signifies a willingness to prioritize your mental well-being and seek the support and guidance needed to manage anxiety effectively. A mental health professional can provide a proper diagnosis, develop a personalized treatment plan, and support you on your journey towards better mental health. Most importantly, addressing anxiety can help you get one step closer to living your best life.
If you find yourself resonating with any of the signs mentioned above, it’s time to take the important step towards a healthier and more fulfilling life. Seeking the support of an anxiety therapist can make a significant difference in your well-being. Don’t let persistent worry, physical symptoms, or the impact on your daily life hold you back from living your best life. Reach out to Manhattan Wellness so we can provide you with a personalized anxiety treatment plan and the support you need to navigate through anxiety effectively. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, resilience, and a commitment to your own mental well-being. Take the first step towards a brighter future:
Embarking on the journey of personal growth and self-awareness is a nuanced process that often benefits from personalized guidance. At Manhattan Wellness, our diverse range of Individual Counseling services covers stress management, depression symptoms, self-esteem issues, and college student counseling. We also provide specialized support for maternal mental health, body image concerns, and addressing the unique challenges faced by women, among other aspects. If the weight of panic attacks and anxiety has left you yearning for transformative change, we invite you to explore these avenues for personal growth and healing. Let’s talk about how to pave the way for a life that aligns with your desires and embraces positive transformation.