Difference between panic and anxiety attack and definitions

Panic Attack and Anxiety Attack

t is frequent that in everyday language certain terms are similar. In these cases, people may think that two words have the same meaning even though there are considerable differences between them. In the field of psychology, information with erroneous data that circulates through networks, media and social contexts in some cases can lead to confusion and lead to think that the two terms are the same. Is it the same thing to talk about a fear and a phobiaAre repetitive thoughts and obsessions the same thing? The main point of these examples is that we should not take it for granted that certain theoretical terms have the same meaning. In this article we will provide you the difference between panic and anxiety attack

What is a panic attack

The physical and mental sensation linked to the certainty that some unexpected and negative event will occur is called a panic attack . Generally speaking, panic attacks appear after experiencing certain unfavorable events in a person’s life, as there are usually traumatic factors as the basis of this condition.

From a clinical point of view, it is possible to place the scenario that implies a panic attack within the group of panic disorders delimited by the DSM-V [1] as the basis of its main characteristics.

Diagnostic criteria for a panic attack

Below you will find the diagnostic criteria that must be present to arrive at a correct diagnosis of a panic attack:

  • Fear and/or certainty of death.
  • Tremors .
  • Palpitations.
  • Excessive sweat.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting .
  • Dizziness.
  • Sensation that the person sees himself from the outside.
  • Excessive distress .
  • Loss of balance.
  • Lack of body control.
  • Evident behavior changes .
  • Duration of a month or more.
  • The alterations cannot be explained by the presence of other mental disorders or by the ingestion of toxic substances or medication.

What is an anxiety attack

In concrete terms, an anxiety attack consists of the appearance of thoughts linked to the fact that something harmful will happen at a certain time . When this happens, physical sensations can arise that bother the person, since they are not pleasant episodes.

Taking the DSM-V [1] as the main reference , it is possible to identify anxiety attacks within generalized anxiety disorder. Although each frame has characteristics that differentiate it from others, they share some specific criteria that are necessary to know in order to recognize the problem.

Diagnostic criteria for an anxiety attack

Below we show you some points to take into account to establish a correct diagnosis of anxiety attacks:

  • Excessive worries about the present and the future.
  • Restlessness.
  • Difficulties in attention and concentration .
  • Deterioration of social, professional and family relationships.
  • Duration of six months or more .
  • The alterations cannot be explained by the presence of other mental disorders or by the ingestion of toxic substances or medication.

What is the difference between panic and anxiety attack

Even though these clinical conditions have certain similarities that can lead to confusion, it is possible to differentiate between them. Below we will explain the main differences between panic and anxiety attacks:

according to the intensity

The intensity of panic attack and anxiety differ notably. First, the intensity of panic attacks is sudden and unexpected because the symptoms present themselves without warning.

On the other hand, in anxiety attacks there is a gradual increase in the symptoms that a person can present and signs that allow to anticipate the moment can appear.

According to the origin

On the other hand, the origin of anxiety and panic attacks are also different. First of all, anxiety attacks originate from stressful factors that occur in a person’s life, which generate the symptoms that manifest themselves.

However, panic attacks can have a confusing and illogical origin from a conscious point of view.

According to the symptoms

In turn, the symptoms that appear in an anxiety attack can have different intensities , so some are milder and others can be moderate to severe. On the other hand, panic attacks are characterized by the predominance of extremely intense symptoms.

According to the perception

The perception of events usually varies in both frames. During an anxiety attack, the person can understand that there are threatening situations, but that are part of his interpretation.

In return, panic attacks are conditional on the certainty of an experience that will happen .

According to the duration

Lastly, another of the main differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks is their duration. While panic attacks can last for a limited time , anxiety attacks last indefinitely if not treated by mental health professionals.

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