The Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack

The Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack

6 July 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 2 mins

When it comes to anxiety disorders, many different terms are thrown around, and it can be confusing to try to understand all of them. In this article, we want to focus on the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.

First, it is important to define these terms. A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or anxiety, including physical symptoms like a racing heart, shortness of breath, and dizziness. On the other hand, an anxiety attack is a more generalized feeling of anxiety that may not be as intense as the previous but can still be very debilitating.

According to Cackovic et al. (2022), these kinds of attacks are two of the most common problems seen in the world of psychiatry. Although it is common and distressing, it is not dangerous or life-threatening.  

What are some differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack? 

One of the most significant differences between these two is the intensity of the symptoms. Panic attacks can be extremely intense and debilitating, while anxiety attacks may not be as intense but can still be very disruptive to your life.

Another difference is the duration of the symptoms. Panic attacks tend to be very short, lasting only a few minutes and come on suddenly, without any warning. Anxiety attacks can last for hours or even days and usually build up over time.

An additional key difference is that panic attacks typically involve a sense of impending doom or danger, whereas anxiety attacks are more often characterized by feelings of worry, stress, and unease. Feelings of panic may also include physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness, whereas anxiety attacks tend to be more psychological.

Lastly, panic attacks tend to come on suddenly and without warning, while anxiety attacks may build up slowly over time.

So, what does all of this mean? 

Simply put, the main difference between these attacks is the intensity and duration of the symptoms. Panic attacks are usually more intense and shorter in duration, while anxiety attacks are more generalized and can last for a more extended time.

When you or your child experiences a panic or anxiety attack, it can be a very frightening and overwhelming experience. It is important to remember that these attacks are not dangerous and that they will eventually end.

There are a few things that you can do to help ease symptoms: 

If your child has attacks, some of the strategies above could help, but also try Moshi’s quick moment, Panic Be Gone with Pops. It can help quickly relax little ones who are experiencing feelings of panic. Featuring deep-breathing, distraction and visualization techniques, self-affirmations and mood-calming music.

Cackovic C, Nazir S, Marwaha R. Panic Disorder. 2022 Feb 7. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 28613692.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental