Understanding the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack can be confusing. Both conditions share similar symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. However, they are not the same.

At Canyon Creek Behavioral Health, our aim is to make mental health issues more accessible and understandable to those in our communities. To that end, we aim to provide clear, accurate and actionable information to help you identify the differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks.

Whether you’re experiencing these symptoms, know someone who is, or simply want to learn more, this guide will offer valuable insights.

What Is a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks can be defined as sudden and intense bouts of fear. They can occur without warning, even during sleep. Panic attacks typically trigger severe physical reactions, even when there is no real danger or apparent cause. These attacks are often unprovoked and unpredictable, adding to the distress they cause. Due to their unpredictability, panic attacks can negatively impact one’s quality of life.

Here’s what you need to know about panic attacks:

  • They can peak within minutes of their start.
  • They often include a fear of losing control or dying.
  • They can occur as part of panic disorder or other mental health conditions.

Signs of a panic attack

Recognizing the signs of a panic attack is the first step towards managing them.

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but they often include:

  • Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating and trembling.
  • Shortness of breath or a feeling of choking.

These symptoms can peak within minutes and can make you feel like you’re losing control or even dying.

Panic attack treatment

Treatment for panic attacks often involves a combination of therapy, medication, effective coping strategies and support groups.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be particularly effective against panic attacks. This is due to the fact that CBT helps you recognize and change thought patterns that may lead to panic attacks.

Medication, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also be used to manage symptoms.

It’s also important for people dealing with panic attacks to develop healthy coping mechanisms and self-help strategies in case another attack arises. These include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and grounding techniques.

Regular exercise and a balanced diet can also play a role in managing symptoms. For example, beverages such as caffeine and alcohol can trigger or worsen attacks.

Support groups can also be an effective strategy for dealing with panic attacks. Support groups provide a safe space to share past experiences and learn new coping strategies from different members.

What Is an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks, unlike panic attacks, are often linked to a stressor. They can be defined as a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress or fear. They are characterized by a sense of dread or worry that gradually builds up. Anxiety attacks can last longer than panic attacks and vary in intensity.

Here’s what you need to know about anxiety attacks:

  • They are usually a response to a perceived threat or stressor.
  • They are not recognized as a distinct condition in the DSM-5 but are seen as a feature of anxiety disorders.
  • Their symptoms include worry, distress and muscle tension.

Signs of an anxiety attack

The signs of an anxiety attack can be both physical and psychological.

They often include:

  • Feelings of intense worry or fear.
  • Restlessness and irritability.
  • Muscle tension and headaches.

These symptoms can last longer and vary in intensity compared to panic attacks.

Anxiety attack treatment

Treatment for anxiety attacks often involves a combination of therapy, lifestyle changes and coping strategies.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can also be effective in treating anxiety attacks. CBT can help people better understand the thought patterns that lead to anxiety attacks and take steps to change them.

Furthermore, unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks may be brought on by specific triggers. As a result, implementing certain lifestyle changes to avoid these triggers (when possible) can help alleviate negative symptoms.

Coping strategies are another method of dealing with anxiety attacks. This may include the use of relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

In some cases, medication may be recommended by a healthcare professional.

Difference Between Panic and Anxiety Attacks

While panic and anxiety attacks may seem similar, they have distinct traits, characteristics and differences.

Understanding these differences can help in managing these conditions effectively.

Some key differences include:

  • Panic attacks often occur without warning, while anxiety attacks are usually a response to a stressor/trigger.
  • Panic attacks are more intense and peak within minutes, while anxiety attacks can last longer and vary in intensity.
  • Panic attacks can lead to fear of future attacks, while anxiety attacks are often linked to excessive worry about a specific issue.
  • Panic attacks often involve intense physical symptoms. These can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and a fear of dying. On the other hand, anxiety attacks are characterized by distress, worry and muscle tension.

Get The Help You Need, Now

Canyon Creek Behavioral Health, of Temple, Texas, is here to help. Our inpatient and outpatient programs for adults and adolescents provide psycho-educational services as part of our comprehensive treatment approach. Our program promotes healing, the development of healthy habits and the implementation of positive coping strategies in your daily routine.

Give us a call at 254-410-1819 or complete this form to get started on your mental health journey today.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988 or get to the nearest emergency room.

For medical emergencies, call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room.


Canyon Creek Behavioral Health

Canyon Creek Behavioral Health is a facility that services the behavioral health needs of adults, adolescents and older adults. We provide inpatient and outpatient treatment, where we serve people from all backgrounds. Our team of highly qualified and skilled therapists are prepared to meet your individual needs. This includes treating those facing mental health issues and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression.

Here at Canyon Creek we believe it’s possible to live a life of stability and purpose. Some of our services include our adult inpatient program, adolescent inpatient services and more. Located in Temple, Texas, we’re committed to being an active member of the Temple community and improving its understanding of mental health.

To schedule a no-cost, confidential assessment, please give us a call at 254-410-1819 or fill out the form on our contact page here.