When Anxiety Turns Into an Unprovoked Full-Blown Panic Attack

February 7, 2018
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For years, we often made the mistake of saying what we were experience was an ‘anxiety attack’. However, over the years we learned that there are some major differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack, and it started with a diagnosis of anxiety disorder and panic disorder. How can I be diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder? Isn’t it the same thing? While the two certain go hand-in-hand, there have unique characteristics that separate the two. And since we strongly believe that educating yourself on your mental illness is a key part to managing and overcoming those tough times, let’s break down differences between an anxiety attack and panic attack.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

An Anxiety Disorder is a term used to encompass various types of anxiety and/or panic disorders. However, anxiety disorder is often used to describe worrying and/or fearing future events. Anxiety can be continuous feelings of anxiousness or experiencing spikes of anxiety in response to certain events.

What is an anxiety attack?

An anxiety attack is feeling an intense amount of fear and experiencing anxiety symptoms such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath in response to a trigger or stressor. When the stressor goes away, the anxiety attack foes as well.

An anxiety attack, people may feel fearful, apprehensive, may feel their heart racing or feel short of breath, but it’s very short-lived, and when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack. A panic attack on the other hand doesn’t come in reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder, on the other hand, is a type of anxiety disorder that falls under the general term of ‘anxiety’. The main difference between a panic disorder and anxiety is that it often involves repeated, often unprovoked and unexpected panic attacks. Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected panic attacks.

What is a panic attack?

Unlike an anxiety attack, panic attacks can often be unprovoked and unexpected. It’s a feeling of intense and sudden fear which often causes physical symptoms such as nausea, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can be brought on by a stressor or trigger but they can also happen for no rhyme or reason, resulting in a fear of the panic attack which creates a vicious cycle.


The Major Differences Between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack

Now that we have straightened out the definition of each, let’s go over the major differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. This is an important step to your recovery, as being familiar with what you’re actually experiencing will lead you in the right direction towards proper techniques, tools and tips to managing and overcoming those difficult times.

An Anxiety Attack Gets Triggered; A Panic Attack Does Not

As mentioned, the biggest difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is what brought it on. Anxiety attacks are almost always brought on by a stressor, whereas a panic attack can happen for no reason.

An Anxiety Attack Goes Away When The Stressor Does

With an anxiety attack, because it’s triggered by a stressor, it often goes away when the stressor is gone. For example, if going out to the grocery store triggers your anxiety, the second you’re out of the grocery store, your anxiety attack subsides.

A Panic Attack is Often Unprovoked

Another one of the more significant differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack, and one that often makes panic attacks so unbearable, is that they’re often unprovoked. They can come on at any time for any reason – often times, for no reason at all. While the panic attack does end in a short-period of time, it doesn’t always end as soon as the situation or circumstances surrounding you change.

Fearing The (Anxiety)Stressor Vs. Fearing the (Panic) Attack

With an anxiety attack, you fear whatever brought on the attack. However, since panic attacks can happen for no reason, sufferers often start to fear the attack itself.

A Panic Attack Causes Avoidance

Since panic attacks can come on at any time, sufferers often start to avoid situations and people for fear of having a panic attack. For example, if you have a panic attack at the grocery store, you start to avoid the grocery store. This can quickly create a vicious cycle that drastically affects your quality of life.

A Panic Attack is Sudden and Extreme

Within seconds, you can go from zero to 100 when a panic attack comes. They’re often sudden and extremely intense, peaking within the first 10 minutes and can result in you feeling stressed or worried for the rest of the day.

Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks: The Different Symptoms

There are many similarities between an anxiety attack and panic attack. However, it’s the differences that can help you determine exactly which type of anxiety disorder you’re suffering from

Anxiety Attack Symptoms

  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Restlessness
  • Increased startle response
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Panic Attack Symptoms

  • Pounding heart, heart palpitations or increased heart rate
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling of choking
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or feeling light headed or faint
  • ‘Out of body’ feeling or feelings of unreality
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes


Fortunately, regardless of the differences between an anxiety attack and a panic attack, the treatment options are quite similar. Natural anxiety relief, techniques and tools will work for both anxiety attacks and panic attacks as they calm your nervous system which is at the root of such unpleasant feelings.

If you’re ready to try a natural approach to overcoming your anxiety or panic attacks, sign up for our Anxiety Gone Box. We send all types of effective (and totally awesome) anxiety relief products and self-help books right to your door.




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