One and the same or completely different? My Personal view of Anxiety Vs Panic
I experienced panic attacks many years ago and for me I always saw them as the same as anxiety; just different levels of distress. My reasoning was fairly simple, when my sensations (scale of 1-10, ten being worst) were between 1 and 7, I classed this as anxiety, when they tripped over to 8, 9 and 10 and went full blown, I felt them as a panic attack.
So for me and my experiences of anxiety vs panic were basically the same, albeit different levels of distress. But that was because my symptoms closely matched each other, heart racing, shaking. But for anyone who didn’t share the same symptoms Panic attacks would feel completely different.
I think the most accurate description is defined as this.
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.
Anxiety would always be seen as milder compared to a panic attack. But anxiety can last a lot longer than a panic attack. This is due to the fact it’s not actually possible to sustain a Panic attack for long periods of time whereas anxiety can stay bubbling under the surface almost indefinitely. A Panic attack typically lasts between 10 and 45 minutes and usually leaves the sufferer completely exhausted once it’s over, especially if it goes on for closer to 45 minutes. Whereas anxiety can stay switched on for hours, days, even weeks and months. This is due to the amount of energy required.
A panic attack is our body’s alarm believing something is wrong and it activates its highest threat level that something is amiss. If you were ever caught up in a real danger you wouldn’t likely notice the change in the physiology as your mind would be focussed on the actual threat, but when it goes off and it shouldn’t, your mind has sole focus on the body and it doesn’t like the way it is feeling. A panic attack is such an intense and sudden feeling of fear it is almost impossible to ignore it; which is one of the reasons it does it.
Panic attacks symptoms
- Heart palpation’s
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dizzy, light headed
- Fear of losing control, going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Chills or hot flushes
If you find that your experiences of anxiety symptoms are in that list you can see why people think they are one and the same. But if your anxiety experience was, for example, irritability, disturbed sleep, constant worrying etc. a panic attack doesn’t appear to be similar at all.
You can probably see why this debate will be argued by different people depending simply on their symptoms. I always believed they were the same but different intensity levels but someone else could experience a completely different set of sensations when experiencing either anxiety or panic.
It is whatever it feels to you, if they are the same to you that’s fine, if two different experiences then that is also fine. Your experience of them will give you your answer and that answer is the truth for you. The reality is, it just isn’t worth trying to argue this with another person as there truth may be different to yours.
Learn more about panic attacks here
Understand how BWRT can promote Rapid Positive Change here