Over 30% of American adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association, experience anxiety in their lives, up to 35% will experience a panic attack. Though anxiety attacks and panic attacks share some similarities, there are key differences between them.
For example, anxiety attacks often have a gradual buildup of symptoms over time. They can be triggered by specific stressors or situations that provoke excessive worry, fear, and nervousness, such as a looming deadline, financial stressors or a divorce or breakup. These symptoms include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and a sense of impending danger or doom. Physical symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, and gastrointestinal discomfort can also be present. Depending on the triggering circumstances, these attacks can last longer than panic attacks, potentially hours or even days.
Panic attacks can occur seemingly out of the blue and may not always be linked to specific stressors or situations. They reach their peak intensity within a short period, usually within minutes. These kind of attacks typically involve severe physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, sweating, dizziness, and a strong sense of impending death or loss of control. People experiencing panic attacks may also feel detached from reality. They are relatively short-lived, usually lasting around 10-15 minutes, although the residual feelings of anxiety and unease can persist afterward. Anxiety that is left untreated will often turn into panic attacks.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be distressing experiences, but they are 100% treatable. It’s crucial to consult with a mental health professional for a proper assessment and guidance on managing these symptoms effectively. Treatment options may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and relaxation techniques to help individuals recover from their anxiety or panic.