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By Dhanashree Padhye

MA (Psychology)

27 September 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Anxiety Attack vs Panic Attack
Table of Contents

What are Anxiety Attacks?

It is a sudden and intense episode of fear and Anxiety. In some cases, anxiety attacks are linked with specific triggers, but they may also appear without any particular reason. The main symptom of Anxiety disorders is excessive fear or worry. A person with Anxiety disorders can find it hard to breathe, sleep, stay still, and concentrate. 

Causes of Anxiety Attacks 

In most cases, anxiety attacks have more than one cause, but several factors play a crucial role simultaneously.
For example, an anxiety attack might come when you haven't had rest for a week, you've had an excessive amount of tea or coffee than usual, and you have a tremendous workload at the same time. (Mendel, J.G. and Klein, D.F., 1969)
Often, specific life stressors are a cause of anxiety attacks. These may include:

•    Financial stress
•    Job or relationship stress
•    An upsetting health diagnosis
•    Life transitions and identity crises
•    Social Anxiety
•    Excessive caffeine consumption
•    Stress about world events
•    Sleep deprivation

Also, certain people seem to have an increased ability toward anxiety and anxiety attacks. Some of the factors which may make you more prone to having anxiety attacks include:

•    Genetics
•    Chemical imbalances
•    A history of trauma, or PTSD

Some of the factors are more likely to cause anxiety attacks:

•    Having a history of mental illnesses
•    Adversity or traumatic experiences
•    Having certain health conditions
•    Consuming substances that increase Anxiety, such as caffeine or medications that have anxiety symptoms 
•    Having a reserved or shy personality

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are a feeling of sudden and intense Anxiety. The person may experience physical symptoms, including shaking, dry mouth, disoriented, rapid and irregular heartbeats, nausea, breathlessness, sweating, and dizziness. Most panic attacks last from five minutes to half an hour. (Schenberg, L.C., Bittencourt, A.S., Sudré, E.C.M. and Vargas, L.C., 2001)

Causes of Panic Attack 

The brain and nervous system play a significant role in perceiving and handling fear and Anxiety. There is an increased risk of having panic attacks if you have:
•    Family history:  Panic disorders often run in families. 
•    Mental health issues: People with Anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental illnesses are more susceptible to panic attacks.
•    Substance Abuse problems: Alcoholism and drug addiction 

Symptoms

Many people with panic disorder have markedly constrained lifestyles because they fear traveling any distance from home, which often leaves them unable to fulfil family responsibilities, career functions, and social obligations. Since it occurs suddenly, there's no way to stop a panic attack after it starts. 

According to doctors, people who are sensitive in responding to fear are more likely to experience panic attacks than others. There is a link between panic attacks and phobias—for example, school phobia or claustrophobia. One more theory explains that panic disorder may come from an over-sensitivity to carbon dioxide, which makes your brain think you're suffocating.

 When we are experiencing high-stress levels due to certain problematic situations, it may trigger a panic attack. Recurring negative feelings or trouble dealing with negative emotions will also become a source of panic attacks.
Some believe there are ties between panic attacks and:
•    Depression
•    Alcohol Abuse
•    Cigarette smoking
•    Suicide risk

Treatment for Panic Attacks

How are panic attacks managed or treated?

Psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both conclusively stop panic attacks. How long a person needs to take a treatment depends on the severity of the problem as well as the response given to the treatment. Options include:
Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), also called talk therapy, will be effective for Anxiety patients. In CBT, the disturbing thoughts and emotions of the client are discussed with mental health professionals. They will help the client identify his panic attack triggers, which will help change his thinking and behavioural patterns. 

Antidepressants: Certain antidepressant medications make panic attacks less frequent or less severe. Serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), (SNRIs) or (TCAs) are prescribed by doctors. 

Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors and act as anti-anxiety medication to treat panic attacks. They will help to deal with Anxiety but also have risks of addiction or dependence.

Treatment for Anxiety Attacks

 Different treatments are used to treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. They will also help reduce general feelings of Anxiety as well.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Exposure therapy will often be used while treating Anxiety attacks.
•    Cognitive behavioural therapy involves identifying the automatic negative thought patterns associated with feelings of Anxiety. Once the client learns to identify them, it becomes easier to challenge and replace these thoughts.
•    Exposure therapy can be very effective when treating certain types of Anxiety, particularly phobias. Exposure therapy gradually exposes people to a feared object or situation and uses relaxation techniques. As they continue to do that, the source of their fear becomes less frightening.
Medications

Some medications can help treat symptoms of Anxiety. These include:
•    Benzodiazepines such as Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam)
•    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Lexapro (escitalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline)
•    Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Effexor XR (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine)

Are there any links between Anxiety attacks and Panic attacks?

Unlike Anxiety, which often has clear triggers, panic attacks generally occur suddenly and unexpectedly and only last for a few minutes. Panic is considered to be the most severe form of Anxiety. People may start to avoid specific events or occasions since they fear they'll trigger another attack. (Lau, J.J., Calamari, J.E. and Waraczynski, M., 1996)

It can add to his sense of panic and may cause him to have more seizures. People with Anxiety are at a higher risk of experiencing a panic attack, but having Anxiety does not necessarily mean that you will experience a panic attack.

Panic disorder may start after:
•    A severe illness or accident
•    The death of a close friend
•    Separation from family
•    The birth of a baby

People with Panic disorder will experience recurrent panic attacks for at least one month. 

Natural remedies for Anxiety Attack:

•    Stay active
•    Steer clear of alcohol
•    Consider quitting smoking cigarettes
•    Limit caffeine intake
•    Prioritize getting a good night's rest
•    Meditate and practice Mindfulness
•    Eat a balanced diet
•    Practice deep breathing

Natural remedies for the Panic attack:

•    Exercise
•    Meditation
•    Relaxation exercises
•    Writing
•    Time management strategies
•    Aromatherapy
•    Cannabidiol oil
•    Herbal teas

Anxiety Attacks

Panic Attacks

Are often related to a stressful or threatening event

Often happen out of the blue and is’t always triggered by stress factors.

 

Build Gradually

Come Suddenly

Physical symptoms: Less intense        

Physical symptoms: More intense

It Can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Often severe symptoms and manifest disruptive symptoms.

Conclusion

It is accepted to be scared of certain situations or life events. People often get anxious during stressful situations, which is a natural response. But there are techniques like relaxation, meditation, and daily exercises like walking, and stretching, which can be helpful. It's necessary to follow some routine activities to stay healthy and fit and minimize the risk of anxiety and panic attacks.

Psychotherapy, CBT, and Exposure therapy treat anxiety and panic attacks. In severe cases, the client must take medications along with the treatment plan.

If your loved ones are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, please reach out to a counselor or a psychiatrist if someone is experiencing panic or anxiety attacks more frequently.

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