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The Difference Between Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

Professionals agree that it’s perfectly normal to experience a few panic attacks throughout your lifetime. However, if you experience panic attacks on a regular basis and it becomes more than a nuisance, it’s time to take action.

A panic disorder may make you feel as if you’re going to die or your health is in jeopardy. But before we get into the details of what a panic attack is, let’s discuss what it is not.

A panic attack is not a physical reaction to emotional stress or trauma. Rather, a volatile physical reaction due to emotional stress is actually an anxiety attack.

Anxiety attacks are caused by emotional stress and excessive worry and generally intensify over time. On the other hand, panic attacks usually occur without notice and peak within 10 minutes, then subside.

For instance, if you’re experiencing a panic attack, you may think: “I’m having difficulty breathing, my body is becoming tense, and my chest is tightening. I think I’m having a stroke or I may be dying!” You will then experience shortness of breath, an increased heart rate, a sense of impending doom, pain and other physical reactions, such as shaking, sweating, and dizziness. Essentially, your fear of looming death will cause your body to go into panic mode; hence the name, panic attack.

In reality, all of these symptoms and bodily responses can be medically explained. Because your fear has caused your mind to go into panic mode, it will generate symptoms and sensations (such as the tightening of your chest) that aren’t actually present. This, in turn, causes your body to produce adjacent reactions, such as sweating or trembling.

Put simply, the difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks are as follows:

Panic attacks: Your attention is centered on your mind and body.
Anxiety attacks: Your attention is centered on emotional stress and worry. 

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