a man wonders about the difference between panic attack vs anxiety attack

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Among these disorders, there are generalized anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. While panic attacks fall under the anxiety disorder category, you may wonder what is the difference between a panic attack vs anxiety attack. These two terms may get used interchangeably but there are some subtle differences.

Whether you have anxiety attacks or panic attacks, a behavioral therapist in San Antonio TX can help you sort it out and begin to get it under control. For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment options, contact San Antonio Recovery Center today at 866.957.7885.

Panic Attack Vs. Anxiety Attack

Your heart races, your face flushes, you feel an overwhelming dread come over you. You may even feel nauseous and dizzy. The incident lasts for several minutes, then disappears. What happened? Was it an anxiety attack or a panic attack? In fact, medical professionals say there is a fine line between the two situations.

Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all feel from time to time. It’s the feeling you get when you’re worried or nervous about something. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life. For some people, however, anxiety can be a constant and overwhelming presence.

A panic attack, on the other hand, is a sudden and intense episode of fear or dread. Panic attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, but the symptoms may last for hours.

Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences of these two conditions:


Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks share many of the same physical symptoms. These include:

  • Heart racing or heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Chest tightness
  • Quivering or shakiness
  • Numbness and/or tingling sensations
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling lightheaded or like you may faint
  • Chills or hot flashes (may alternate)


So, what is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack? Anxiety attacks have a few more emotional symptoms attached to them only because they are usually linked to a situation or concern. Let’s take a look at the differences in emotional symptoms. The only emotional symptoms associated with panic attacks are general fear, fear of dying or losing control, and detachment from the world or yourself.

Anxiety attacks have the following emotional symptoms:

  • Worry
  • Stress
  • Restless or agitated
  • Fear (but not necessarily a fear of losing control)

In addition, the way in which panic attacks occur explains why the difference in the emotional symptoms. Panic attacks come on suddenly. They seem to come for no reason, and it is impossible to expect them. This makes the person feel like they are losing control or possibly dying (two of the fears). Whereas, anxiety attacks are always connected to some problem, worry, or issue. So, anxiety attacks may build up over time and can vary in severity. You can have a mild anxiety attack, and you may have a vague idea of what it’s about. Although it’s still uncomfortable and frightening, you feel some sense of control.

During a panic attack, you may not have been worrying about anything. Nothing was building up in your mind, but you suddenly had an attack of the symptoms. This is more startling and frightening.

The last difference worth noting is that the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks, whereas anxiety attacks are not recognized in the DSM-5.

Get Professional Help With Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

At San Antonio Recovery Center our compassionate staff is an expert in anxiety disorders. We believe healing is possible through proper therapy techniques. Using only evidence-based therapy modalities, our accredited facility offers top-quality therapeutic approaches.

Some of our therapy programs include:

  • Family therapy: This type of therapy is designed to help you and your family members understand and support one another through difficult times.
  • Animal-assisted therapy: This approach relies on the calming presence of a trained animal to provide support and reduce anxiety.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thinking patterns that contribute to anxiety.
  • Meditation therapy: This technique can help you focus on the present and let go of intrusive thoughts that contribute to anxiety.
  • Holistic therapy: This type of therapy focuses on the whole person. It looks at physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This is a popular form of therapy for those with anxiety disorders because it can help address all aspects of the disorder.

Don't let addiction and co-occurring mental health problems overwhelm your life. Now that you know the difference between a panic attack vs anxiety attack, you can have a bright future that is full of serene happiness. Contact us at 866.957.7885, and we'll get you on the path to healing.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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