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Anxiety Attacks vs Panic Attacks

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Tatiana Gladskikh

Anxiety can be paralyzing at times, especially when it comes unexpectedly. The sudden rush of high emotions and nerves can cause you to sweat, be shaky, or feel sick to your stomach. What most people don’t realize is that anxiety attacks and panic attacks are two different things. 

Rick Warren, a psychiatry teacher at the University of Michigan states that anxiety attacks and panic attacks are very different emotional conditions.

Panic attacks are short bursts of intense fear and symptoms include: increased heart rate, brief chest pain and or shortness of breath lasting fewer than 30 minutes. Panic attacks can occur once or repeatedly.  They can occur without reason and can often be mistaken for heart attacks.

However, they are associated with an abrupt sense of fear and is the “fight-or-flight” response we have to deal with immediate danger. They are associated with the autonomic nervous system which detects threats and danger. An example of when you might experience a panic attack might be if you’re walking down a dark alley and something loud crashes out of nowhere. They can also be triggered by subtle cues such as feeling lightheaded or a chest pain.

Anxiety is a condition defined as excessive worrying. Symptoms can be chronic and often include: fatigue, restlessness, and or irritability. Anxiety is basically what is experienced when you anticipate a negative outcome of an event and is usually involved with muscle tension and increases gradually.

This is because anxiety is associated with the prefrontal cortex which deals with planning and anticipating. An example of having an anxiety attack would be if you’re meeting your boss at the end of the week and you’re nervous about what your boss will say or what the meeting is about. You get nervous and your palms might sweat and you might have a pit in your stomach.

It is possible for both conditions to occur at once because people are hardwired to experience both anxiety and panic attacks. Clinically there are more patients that deal with anxiety attacks because anxiety is so much a part of people’s normal emotional lives.

However there are ways to cope with both anxiety and panic attacks so if you talk to your doctor you can find the solution that works best for you.

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