Is it anxiety or is it a panic attack? People often use the terms interchangeably, however, the two are different. Anxiety is characterized by excessive thoughts and feelings of irrational fear and worry, whereas a panic disorder is characterized by episodes of panic attacks, which are accompanied by physical symptoms. Although it is true that feeling anxious can also cause an increased heart rate, dizziness, and shortness of breath, there are some key differences between anxiety and panic disorder.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as an abnormal and overwhelming feeling of apprehension and fear, often marked by physical signs. Anxiety can make you anticipate the worst, whether due to the nature of the threat or due to self-doubt, and it can make you feel restless, tense, and jumpy.

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Symptoms of a Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks. Compared with an anxiety attack, a panic attack is much more intense and severe, but lasts for a shorter period of time. Panic attacks also usually happen out of the blue with no clear triggers, some people may even suffer panic attacks in the middle of the night. The physical symptoms can last anywhere between a few minutes to an hour. The symptoms include palpitations, sweating, trembling, light-headedness, a feeling of being choked or smothered, chest pain, and abdominal symptoms.

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Anxiety and panic disorders do have shared symptoms, which explains why you may confuse one with another. Both are marked by persistent or severe worry of real or imagined threats, and both produce physical symptoms. However, anxiety is marked by a persistent feeling of worry, whereas panic attacks come in short bursts that fade away. Anxiety frequently has identifiable triggers whereas panic attacks happen suddenly, without warning, and typically only last a short while. 

A psychiatrist is an expert in treating mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders and can diagnose what type of disorder you have. To learn more about the differences and resolve these issues, you can find one of our therapists to talk to today:

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