Panic attacks are characterized by brief, sudden, and intense feelings of fear in response to a non-threatening situation. They’re also typically accompanied by strong physical reactions (hands shaking, difficulty catching one’s breath, etc.).
When someone worries excessively about having panic attacks, they may develop panic disorder. Panic disorder might cause them to change their behaviors or go to great lengths to avoid potentially having another panic attack.
Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack
Most people don’t know the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. This has to do, in part, with the fact that they share a lot of similarities.
Panic attacks also are not listed in the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), so they’re more open to interpretation.
Here are some key differences to keep in mind that can help people discern between a panic attack and an anxiety attack:
- Anxiety attacks are often brought on by a stressful or threatening situation; panic attacks typically occur out of nowhere.
- Panic attacks are more likely to be accompanied by physical symptoms (sweating, shaking, hyperventilating, etc.).
- Anxiety and anxiety attacks can build gradually; panic attacks come on suddenly.