What’s the Difference Between Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks?

anxiety vs panic

This blog is a long time coming! I’ve used the terms “anxiety attack” and “panic attack” interchangeably for way too long and I imagine I’m not the only one!  They’re actually very different from one another and I thought it was time to shed some light on both of these very unique experiences so we can all be aware of what we’re actually saying.

I’ve definitely experienced anxiety attacks before but I was surprised to learn that I’ve likely never experience a panic attack. After doing a little research, I’ve learned about the differences and how to know what I’m actually experiencing. You can check my sources here and here.

Anxiety Attack Vs. Panic Attack

anxiety vs panic attack

I found the emotional differences absolutely fascinating! A lot of the physical symptoms like shortness of breath and dizziness made total sense. But the differences were significant when it came to the emotional experiences of both kinds of attacks. People that have panic attacks sometimes feel a detachment from their body, which kind of reminds me of what some people have reported when they have “died” and then came back to life.

This by no means is an extensive list of every single symptom you can experience, but this is a good comprehensive list of more common symptoms. Personally, when I have anxiety attacks, I get the desire to get up and run away. And keep running. I often cry and my mind races with thoughts I can’t control. I’ve had anxiety attacks while running on the treadmill, which has been incredibly interesting because for about 30 seconds I’ll be able to run at a much higher speed than I normally can. It’s insane what our minds and bodies can do!

What Causes a Panic Attack or Anxiety Attack?

Panic attacks that are expected often have identifiable causes, whereas unexpected attacks have no apparent causes. They just sort of happen.

Anxiety attacks often have identifiable causes as well. Causes for each of these attacks are usually:

  • Work or social stress
  • Driving (I experience this stress in Dallas every day!)
  • Caffeine
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs
  • Experiencing trauma or witnessing trauma
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Anxious personality
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Various phobias
  • Medication

How Can We Cope?

I’m not sure if there’s any one way to cope with an attack. I think therapy can be a big help (it has been for me!) I’ve also found that accepting what is happening makes a huge difference. Fighting off an attack is exhausting! Deep breathing is also a big help as well as meditation. Journaling how you feel on a day-to-day basis may also help you stay in touch with how you feel and allow you to recognize thoughts that might be triggering to your attacks.

Bottom line: everyone is different with what they experience and how they cope. It may take some time to find the right combination of coping mechanisms. But know this: you are not alone in what you experience and your feelings are VALID.