Is it a panic attack?: Hello, so i have... - Anxiety and Depre...

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Is it a panic attack?

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Hello, so i have been wondering what a panic attack really is and if it is different from an anxiety attack?

What happens to me is that i suddenly feel like something going upwards through my whole body and its really uncomfortable, i get shaky and sweaty hands and im usually pretty sure im going to faint. My way of getting out is talking to someone (literally anyone, if im on the bus it could be a complete stranger) about anything like weather or smth like that to get myself out of my head. Afterwards when everything has passed i just get this really intense "need" to cry. Is that a panic attack?

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You might hear people use the terms anxiety attacks and panic attacks in conversation as if they mean the same thing.

From a clinical perspective, mental health professionals recognize panic and anxiety have different features and use the terms for specific symptoms and disorders.

Clinical Differences of Panic and Anxiety Disorders

Professionals who treat panic and anxiety problems base their diagnoses on definitions from the handbook, "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition," which is called the DSM-5 in short.

The DSM-5 uses the term panic attack to describe the hallmark features associated with the condition known as panic disorder. However, panic attacks may occur in other psychiatric disorders.

The term “anxiety attack” is not defined in the DSM-5. Rather, anxiety is used to describe a core feature of several illnesses identified under the headings of, “Anxiety Disorders," "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders," and "Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.” Some of the most common disorders under these three headings include:

Panic Disorder,

Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder,

Specific Phobia,

Social Anxiety Disorder

,Separation Anxiety Disorder,

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD),

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

The differences between panic and anxiety are best described in terms of the intensity of the symptoms and length of time the main symptoms occur. The in-depth definitions in the DSM-5 guide your health provider to make a diagnosis and classify your condition.

Here are some of the basics panic and anxiety from the DSM-5

Panic Attack

During a panic attack, the symptoms are sudden and extremely intense. These symptoms usually occur “out of the blue,” without an obvious immediate triggering stimulus. The symptoms peak within 10 minutes and then they subside. However, some attacks may last longer or may occur in succession, making it difficult to determine when one attack ends and another begins.

Following an attack, it is not unusual to feel stressed, worried, out-of-sorts, or "keyed up" the remainder of the day.

According to the DSM-5, a panic attack is characterized by four or more of the following symptoms:

Heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate,

Excessive sweating,

Trembling or shaking

Sensations of shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or smothering,

Feeling of choking,

Chest pain or discomfort,

Nausea or abdominal distress,

Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint,

Feelings of unreality (derealization) or being detached from oneself (depersonalization),

Fear of losing control or going crazy,

Fear of dying,

Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias),

Chills or hot flashes.


Anxiety, on the other hand, generally intensifies over a period of time and is highly correlated to excessive worry about some potential "danger."

The symptoms of anxiety are very similar to the symptoms of panic attacks and may include:

Muscle tension,

Disturbed sleep,

Difficulty concentrating,




Increased startle response,

Increased heart rate,

Shortness of breath,


While some of these symptoms are similar to many of the symptoms associated with panic attacks, they are generally less intense.

Another important distinction is that, unlike a panic attack, the symptoms of anxiety may be persistent and very long-lasting—days, weeks, or even months.

Treatment for Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Whether you’re dealing with panic, persistent anxiety, or both, effective treatment is available. Some of the most common treatment options include therapy, prescribed medications, and self-help strategies. You may decide to try one or any combination of these methods.

Therapy can help you develop ways to manage your symptoms, work through past hurts, determine your path for the future, and gain a clearer perspective that will allow for a more positive current outlook.

Medications can assist you in reducing the severe symptoms

Self-help techniques can be beneficial in allowing you to work through symptom management at your own pace.

This a bit long winded but I hope you get the differences and allowing for your individual symptoms you will have your own diagnosis :).


I continue to believe my panic attacks were *because of prolonged Anxiety.

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I feel the same way. Let it go long enough and it builds up until it explodes.

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I get panic attacks when an extreme trigger hits me hard and I don't control it on time.

It first starts as a deep sinking feeling and I can't breathe. I start to gasp for air in short inhalations and exhalations, and then it increases deeply and faster, multiple times for a good 5min all the while my mind going 100mph. My chest just HURTS and emotionally it hurts. Feelings of extreme despair, hopelessness and world crashing. I end up crying on the floor if it happens at home.

Eventually I stop and I'm left just feeling completely empty. Dead inside kind of feeling. I then slowly, very slowly clear through the fog after I either stare at nothing or sleep.

That's how it is for me that is.


Hi. That was a great tutorial in the previous replies as far as the DMS-5 clinically separates panic attack from anxiety. There is a bit a lea way in how professionals apply the diagnosis and elements. (I remember when DMS-2 hand book diagnosed homosexuality as a disorder) For example, panic attacks and anxiety can be applied to PTSD situations.

In my life, I try to make it simple. When I feel a panic attack, it's intense and is sheer mental, physical and emotion almost disabling room to make a decision. Need a spot to feel safe until it passes within 10 minutes or so. I always remember the store doors are unlocked and I can leave if needed. Thank goodness these are infrequent.

Now anxiety. I can have some basic uncomfortable anxiety, but I also have what I call "Anxiety Hours" which is rather intense and can last for an hour or more. Thank goodness they don't come as frequently as they used to. I sometimes am in constant motion when they hit, I have maybe a million hours on my shoes because I'll be walking very fast for awhile to use up the energy that intense anxiety needs.

Hope that helps someone who has a panic attack and then anxiety hour sets in. :)

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