Panic and anxiety have become the best friends of millennials, we casually throw these terms around. No doubt, today’s fast-paced life has rendered us prone to attacks, yet only a few know what they truly mean. Due to similar symptoms, one may find it difficult to distinguish between the two.
Well, this article looks forward to solving this issue solely and focuses on differentiating between a panic attack and anxiety attack in an understandable way.
As the article unfolds, we will also discuss their signs, causes, and ways to tackle these attacks.
What is a panic attack?
Simply put, panic attacks are a time frame when a person feels tremendous fear generated from their perception or overthinking.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks as a psychological problem and segregates them into two, expected and unexpected.Usually, a person who’s suffering from the attack might be under immense stress. But, on the other hand, there may be no presence of danger at all.
If someone goes through panic attacks repeatedly, it can be a sign of panic disorder. If left untreated, these attacks can severely harm a person’s mental health and degrade the quality of life.
Symptoms of a panic attack
Symptoms of a panic attack can be physically visible as well as behavioural. Some of them are as follows :
1. Increased heart rate :
A panic attack increases the concentration of the adrenaline hormone, which in turn increases the heart rate. As a result, it causes the heart to pump more blood, and the body automatically creates an oxygen demand.
2. Difficulty in breathing :
Feeling shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of a panic attack. Due to the increased heart rate, there can be some shortage of oxygen in the lungs, which causes this problem.
3. Feeling extreme terror :
A panic attack can make you feel like you’re in the last moments of your life. An attack can do unimaginable harm to one’s mind and body. In addition, this feeling can give one a chill and turn their limbs go numb.
There are other symptoms, too, like nausea, sweating, churning stomach and choking sensation e.t.c
Causes of a panic attack
There can be various causes of panic attacks. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to name everyone. Still, we have figured out the common ones for you.
1. Pre-existing mental health problems :
It’s not rocket science that poor mental health increases nervousness and shrinks self-esteem. This means an unhealthy mind suffering from depression, mental illnesses, e.t.c, will be more prone to panic attacks.
2. Drug and substance abuse :
Constant drugs and substances affect the brain’s functioning. These substances create a dependence for themselves in the body. Therefore, if one suddenly stops taking these substances, the human body may react abnormally. Panic attacks are one such repercussion.
3. Traumatic events :
If one faces a terrible situation that hurts the very soul of a person, one can fall prey to panic attacks. Incidents like the passing of a friend or parent, the end of a relationship, and failing in an examination can be some common incidents that can cause panic.
How long does a panic attack last?
A panic attack can last anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes. In some cases, it may extend up to an hour too. The number of spells a person’s faces, as well as the time duration, depends upon the reason and the person’s health condition.
What is an anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack is also characterised by intense fear and nervousness due to an upcoming event or an occurred incident. There’s a significant rise in the adrenaline and cortisol levels in the bloodstream during an attack.
Anxiety attacks are not mentioned as a psychological problem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Anxiety attacks usually build up and take time to reach their zenith, whereas panic attacks are spontaneous. Therefore, there are no real stressors in a panic attack, but natural stressors are present in an anxiety attack.
Symptoms of an anxiety attack
Just like a panic attack, anxiety attacks have diverse signs. Some are mentioned below :
1. Sleep problems :
Generally, a person who has suffered from or suffers from anxiety attacks will surely understand this. Anxiety disrupts one’s sleep schedule. When one thinks about a problem that is making them anxious, it becomes challenging to sleep as their mind gets occupied and restless.
2. Increased or irregular heartbeat :
Anxiety attacks usually accompany irregular or uplifted heartbeat like a panic attack, the affinity for oxygen in such strenuous conditions increases. In addition, this irregularity in heartbeats can cause chest pain and even a feeling of nausea.
3. Headaches :
It can be a very subtle yet essential symptom in an anxiety attack. It usually arises from the anxiety build-up or tension related to a specific cause. For example, various studies show that people who suffer from migraine headaches can have anxiety and depression without knowing.
Causes of an anxiety attack
1. Poor sleeping habits :
Rest is essential for the proper functioning of our body. However, increased screen time and work pressure forced us to compensate for sleep. This is causing actual harm to our minds and increasing stress, which further induces anxiety. If the situation continues, an attack can build up over time.
2. Effect of withdrawal syndrome :
If someone has a habit of using drugs or alcohol regularly, then cutting it off suddenly can induce anxiety attacks and affect the individual’s confidence.
3. Situational stress :
Whether it’s the submission of a project or you’re underprepared for an interview, whatever it may be, conditions like this can cause severe anxiety problems. One may get nervous and completely collapse in such situations.
How long does an anxiety attack last?
An anxiety attack can last anywhere from a few minutes (20-30) to even a few days. So even the time of build-up varies a lot.
The attack and the overall build-up time solely depend upon the stressors and their intensity.
If the attack lasts for a few days and shows no sign of going away, it may be generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) instead of an attack.
How is anxiety attack different from a panic attack ?
The symptoms of both the attacks are quite similar, but what separates them is their intensity. Panic attack symptoms are much more severe whereas the symptoms of anxiety attack are mild.
Other things is that in panic attacks most of the problem is present in the mind of the sufferer. When a person exaggerates the problem or discomfort it tends to form an attack in the near future. Incase of an anxiety attack, the problem is usually synchronous and valid with reality. It can be said that this form of attack usually occurs due to stress from work, projected targets, e.t.c.
How to deal with Panic & Anxiety attacks?
Panic and anxiety attacks can only prey on one when their mental health isn’t in good shape. However, sometimes the lack of self-confidence and happiness can also be a factor.
Practicing meditation or mindfulness daily can be an exhilarating source of tranquillity. In addition, it may help in controlling and eliminating stress.
One may also start self-care activities and personal development.
If the situation doesn’t resolve after that, consult an expert.
Considering all the external factors, they will stay the way they are. If not, they may even increase your stress over time. Despite that, what we can do on our side is to take action for good.
Well, we cannot eliminate the stressors. Maybe they can be minimised, but what’s best for us is if we increase our inner strength and mentality.
Only then will we be able to face all the obstacles, the natural world ones, and the worries in our heads with courage and willpower.