The Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Symptoms of Anxiety

In addition to the primary symptoms of irrational and excessive fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Watching for signs of danger

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

A panic attack is marked by a much more abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort. Panic attacks usually last a few minutes to an hour, reaching a peak within minutes. They include at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbing or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality)
  • Depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

Panic attacks are discrete but are very frightening and unsettling. They are also surprisingly common. Statistics tell us that as many as one third of individuals will have at least one panic attack in their lifetime. Despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent or severe fear or worry in situations where most people wouldn’t feel threatened.

Treatment for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

In the past it might have taken months or years and lots of frustration before getting a proper diagnosis. Some people are afraid or embarrassed to tell anyone, including their doctors or loved ones about what they are experiencing for fear of being seen as a hypochondriac. Instead they suffer in silence, distancing themselves from friends, family, and others who could be helpful. Many people suffering from panic attacks don't know they have a real and highly treatable disorder.

Since many of the symptoms of panic disorder mimic those of heart disease, thyroid problems, breathing disorders, and other illnesses, people with panic disorder often make many visits to emergency rooms or doctors' offices, convinced they have a life-threatening issue. If you do experience a panic attack, it’s important to first see your primary care doctor to make sure there is nothing non-psychiatric at play.

Living a healthy lifestyle helps every aspect of your physical and emotional help, and can help reduce stress and anxiety. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and having healthy relationships are all important parts of living well.

For more information about services for anxiety disorders, call LDS Hospital Behavioral Health Services at 801-408-1038.