Is it an anxiety attack or is it a panic attack?

On the face of it, they may seem to be the same thing. However, they are actually quite different experiences.


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What Is A Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a very frightening and distressing experience of anxiety resulting in particularly intense mental and physical symptoms. You may remember our earlier post that detailed these intense symptoms, where we explained attacks can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason.

A panic attack usually lasts between 5 and 20 minutes but some people also report they last up to an hour. It's common to experience a handful of panic attacks during your life, but if they are more frequent, this may be a sign of panic disorder.

What Is An Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks aren't recognised quite in the same way as panic attacks are. Wheres panic attacks are included within the DSM-5, anxiety attacks are not.

Anxiety attacks can vary quite a lot, as common symptoms such as worry, fear or any of the physical symptoms of anxiety can be present. This results in varied experiences of anxiety attacks, compared to panic, which is defined with clear criteria.

Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack Symptoms

It's not unsurprising that panic attacks and anxiety attacks can feel familiar, as they share a lot of emotional and physical symptoms. However, there are some key differences.

Here we compare anxiety and panic attack symptoms:

Hopefully this table shows the similarities and differences between the two experiences.

A couple of points to consider when trying to differentiate between the two:

  • Whereas anxiety is usually anticipatory, something related to the future and about something that will be stressful or threatening, panic is more often in the moment and can occur at random.
  • Whereas anxiety attacks vary from mild, moderate to severe, panic attacks are always intense and severe.
  • Whereas anxiety attacks build up gradually over time, panic attacks will only ever last a maximum of one hour (usually 5-20 minutes).

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If you are struggling with anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, you might want to head over to Pocketcoach and complete our courses and exercises that can help you to live a happier, anxiety-free life.