Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by panic attacks. Many people think of anxiety attacks and panic attacks as the same, but they are different conditions. Anxiety attacks have a slow onset, triggered by anticipation of a stressful event. Panic attacks come on suddenly and produce intense or overwhelming fear. Panic attacks are categorized as expected or unexpected. Expected panic attacks are triggered by external cues, such as phobias, while unexpected panic attacks do not have an apparent cause. If you have panic attacks that interfere with your daily functioning, an anxiety treatment program in Florida can help.
Harmony Hills provides adult mental health services for anxiety disorders. At our anxiety treatment center, you can learn coping skills to help manage your anxiety and reduce panic attacks to improve your quality of life. To learn more about anxiety treatment options, reach out to our team at 855.494.0357.
The Signs of Panic Attacks Versus Anxiety Attacks
Panic attacks can happen to anyone, and most people may experience one during their lifetime. Having more than one panic attack can indicate a panic disorder. The standard for diagnostic criteria of mental health disorders, the DSM-5, identifies anxiety disorders but not anxiety attacks, probably because the signs and symptoms of anxiety attacks are so open to interpretation. However, the DSM-5 does recognize panic attacks.
Anxiety attacks often lead to panic attacks, and you can experience both simultaneously. For example, you may have an anxiety attack while thinking about a job interview, which culminates into a panic attack when you arrive at the office. Both types of attacks share some common physical symptoms, including:
- Heart palpitations or rapid heart rate and chest pain
- Shortness of breath and tightness in the throat
- Sweating, hot flashes, and chills
- Nausea, stomach pains, or vomiting
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Numbness or tingling in extremities
The common psychological symptom is fear. With anxiety attacks, other psychological symptoms include restlessness, distress, apprehension, and worry, which are not present in panic attacks. The main psychological symptoms that differentiate the two are that panic attacks have the following additional psychological signs and symptoms:
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
- Sense of detachment from oneself or the world
The best way to distinguish between a panic attack or an anxiety attack is to know that anxiety attacks develop slowly and range from mild to severe, whereas panic attacks are sudden and intense. During a panic attack, many believe they have a heart attack or are dying.
Triggers of Panic Attacks
Even though a panic attack only lasts a few minutes, it seems longer and can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Because the symptoms of panic attacks are so intense, they often lead to continued fear of future attacks, contributing to a vicious cycle. There are countless potential triggers for panic attacks. However, three known factors that may trigger them are:
- Genetic predisposition – Research shows that panic attacks and panic disorders can run in families, but it is not yet known why.
- Significant stress – Stressful life events can put you at a much higher risk for panic attacks.
- Mental health disorders – Panic attacks are the body’s response to a perceived threat and are often symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, and substance use disorders.
Chronic illness, certain medications, and having a temperament that is highly sensitive or prone to negativity have also been identified as potential triggers.
Contact Harmony Hills for Anxiety Treatment
Panic attacks are frightening, especially the first time. Though most attacks only last about 10 minutes, the psychological effects can linger, and the fear of another attack can cause one, creating a complex cycle that is hard to break. Luckily, anxiety disorders are very receptive to treatment. If you suffer from panic attacks that interfere with your daily functioning or make life difficult to manage, help is available. Contact Harmony Hills at 855.494.0357 to learn more about anxiety treatment options.