If you have anxiety, you know how disruptive your symptoms can be. Irritability, sleep problems, muscle tension, trouble concentrating and an ongoing feeling of being on edge can interfere with your daily responsibilities. Depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have, you may also struggle with intrusive thoughts, upsetting flashbacks, overwhelming self-consciousness and panic and anxiety attacks. Though you may use these terms interchangeably, they aren’t synonymous. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the Difference Between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack?
Duration and severity are two factors that separate panic and anxiety attacks. For example, an anxiety attack may cause elevated stress levels for several days, whereas a panic attack tends to come on abruptly and subside after a few intense minutes of terror.
Another way anxiety attacks tend to differ from panic attacks is that they usually have identifiable triggers, such as worries about an upcoming work presentation or social event. In contrast, panic attacks are unpredictable, and can happen for no apparent reason. You can even have one while you’re sleeping.
People living with anxiety disorders can experience panic and anxiety attacks simultaneously. Shared symptoms include:
- An elevated heart rate
- Chest or stomach pains
- Disorientation or detachment from reality
- Extreme fear, despite no immediate threats
How to Manage Panic and Anxiety Attacks
Because panic attacks can come on out of the blue and with no obvious triggers, you may change your routine to avoid the possibility of having one in a public place. Many people who have agoraphobia, or a fear of being in crowded places, develop this potentially debilitating condition after having one or more panic attacks.
However, if your anxiety feels overwhelming, remember you are not powerless against it. For example, controlled breathing exercises can help combat the shortness of breath that often accompanies panic and anxiety attacks. You might also want to try grounding techniques to help distract you from your symptoms and bring your attention back into the moment.
Do You Have Panic Disorder?
People who experience frequent, recurring panic attacks may have a condition called panic disorder. If your anxiety detracts from your overall quality of life or has forced you to alter your everyday behavior, talk to your primary care physician.
Since panic attack symptoms can mimic warning signs of other severe health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, a health professional can conduct a screening to rule out these symptoms and help you arrive at an accurate diagnosis. A doctor may also refer you to a qualified therapist, who can teach you healthy coping techniques for managing your symptoms.
A Better Life Is Possible
People who self-medicate their anxiety with drugs and alcohol may find temporary relief. However, abusing these substances will eventually make your panic and anxiety attacks worse, while causing a worsening physical and psychological dependence.
At Canyon Crossing, we know mental health disorders and addiction go hand in hand, and that recovery requires treating both conditions simultaneously. Contact us today to learn more about finding healing at our accredited women’s-only treatment center.