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Help for Anxiety – What’s the difference between anxiety and panic?

Did you know that panic attacks are one of most frequent reasons why people go to the emergency room?  There are key differences between anxiety and panic.  If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know why.  Common symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feeling of Choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded or faint
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chills or hot flushes

Not so easily distinguishable are symptoms of anxiety.  Many of us operate in a state of chronic anxiety, some of us from as long ago as childhood, and may not even recognize that we are anxious.  If you ever have any of the following symptoms, you may have anxiety:

  • Excessive worry that occurs on more days than not
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)

Generalized anxiety is anxiety that is present most of the time.  It can range from mild, like an underlying feeling of unease, to severe, such as intense worry about contracting coronavirus.  Anxiety is exhausting and can rob you of your life energy and joy in life.  Very often long-term anxiety can lead to depression and it can be difficult at times to distinguish which came first.

Panic attacks, on the other hand, are not a chronic state.  A panic attack is a sudden, intense, focused anxiety state that creates a feeling of fight or flight.  Many people experiencing a panic attack believe that there is something physically wrong with them, such as a heart attack or stroke, as the symptoms can appear to be similar.  Although they are very disturbing, they are not dangerous and actually last for a short period of time, usually less than 10 minutes.  Frequently, panic attacks do not have a trigger but appear out of nowhere.  Over time they become self-perpetuating, with the fear of having a panic attack and the subsequent avoidance of suspected triggers causing them to become more frequent and intense.

Thankfully, both generalized anxiety and panic attacks are very treatable conditions.  If you believe you are struggling with panic attacks, you can download my guide, Six Steps to End Panic Attacks to learn more.

I’m currently developing an exciting project to help with panic attacks and am in need of volunteers to help me streamline my content.  If you have experienced panic attacks or are currently struggling with them and can spend 15 minutes talking with me over the phone, please e-mail me directly at ibundchen@serenitypsychiatric.com.

As always, thank you for reading this.  Please feel free to post any questions or comments below.

 

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IT’S NICE TO MEET YOU,

I’m Inge

Inge Gisela Bundchen is the owner and sole practitioner of Serenity Psychiatric Health.

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