Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack & Its Medication
People might think that panic attacks and anxiety attacks are the same; however, they are totally different conditions.
Panic attacks are the ones that come suddenly and involve overwhelming, intense fear, often accompanied by some physical symptoms such as breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, nausea, and racing heartbeats.
The updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 states panic attacks as unexpected or expected. Panic attacks occurring unexpectedly often occur without a cause. Expected panic attacks are usually triggered by external stressors, such as a phobia. They can happen to anyone, but having frequent panic attacks may sign a panic disorder.
The DSM-5 does not recognize anxiety attacks. However, it defines anxiety as a feature of many psychiatric disorders. The most frequent symptoms of anxiety include distress, worry, and fear. Generally, the anticipation of a stressful situation causes anxiety, and it may come gradually.
There is a lack of diagnostic recognition of anxiety attacks, which means that anxiety signs and symptoms are still open to interpretation.
Symptoms: Panic attack vs Anxiety attack
Panic and anxiety attacks may feel similar to some people as they share many physical and emotional symptoms.
A person can experience both panic and anxiety attacks at the same time. For example, someone might experience anxiety while worrying or fearing a potentially stressful situation or event, and when the situation or event arrives, anxiety may culminate into a panic attack.
Fear is the common emotional symptom of both anxiety attacks and panic attacks. While most of the physical symptoms are similar in both situations, including:
- Chest pain
- Dry mouth
- Chills or hot flashes
- Numbness or tingling
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or stomach upset
- Tightness in the throat
- Feeling dizzy or faint
Emotional symptoms include:
- Worry and apprehension
- A sense of detachment from oneself or the world
- Fear of losing control or dying
It is difficult to differentiate between anxiety and a panic attack. People need to keep in mind:
- Panic attacks are not cued by stressors or triggers, while anxiety is usually related to something perceived as threatening or stressful.
- Panic attacks mostly involve disruptive severe symptoms, while anxiety attacks can be mild, moderate, or severe.
- Anxiety can build gradually, while panic attacks typically come on abruptly.
- During a panic attack, the body’s fight-or-flight response comes into play as its physical symptoms are more intense than symptoms of anxiety.
- Panic attacks trigger fear or worries related to having another panic attack, affecting the behavior. This may lead to avoiding situations or places where there may be a risk of having a panic attack.
Causes: Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack
As mentioned, unexpected panic attacks usually do not have any clear triggers. Expected panic attacks and anxiety attacks can get triggered by similar situations and things. Some of these triggers include:
- A stressful job
- Social situations
- Chronic pain
- Thyroid problem
- Supplements or medications
- Withdrawal from alcohol or substances
- Memories or reminders of traumatic experiences
- Phobias such as claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia
- Chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease
Medications: Panic attacks vs Anxiety attacks
When treating panic attacks or anxiety attacks, a doctor may decide which medications are the best for a particular patient according to their current medical status and response to the treatment. The doctor may prescribe medications along with psychotherapy or some other measures to alleviate anxiety or panic.
Medications for Anxiety Attacks
While treating anxiety attacks, benzodiazepines and antidepressants are the best and most effective medications.
- Antidepressants include SSRIs (namely, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (namely, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).
- Benzodiazepines include Alprazolam (brand name Xanax), Lorazepam (brand name Ativan), and Diazepam (brand name Valium). These are the most widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications to treat anxiety attacks.
- Anxiety attacks may also be responsive to some atypical antipsychotics such as Seroquel, Aripiprazole, Quetiapine, and some anticonvulsant medications Pregabalin (brand name Lyrica) and Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin).
Medications for Panic Attacks
A certified doctor will decide the medication as a part of your therapy to reduce panic attacks and their physical symptoms. The primary medications for treating panic attacks include:
- Antidepressants as the first choice medicine to prevent panic attacks.
- Anti-anxiety prescription medications such as benzodiazepine (Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Klonopin).
- Medications to even out irregular heart rates.
Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack: FAQs
What does an anxiety attack feel like?
An anxiety attack’s primary symptoms include restlessness, overwhelming fear or panic, chest pain or heart palpitations, fear of losing control, dying, going crazy, and feeling like passing out.
How do you calm a panic attack?
In case you have been a patient of panic attacks, take the medications prescribed by your doctor. For other measures to calm panic attacks, try the following:
- Breathe in gradually, deeply, and gently, only through your nose
- Breathe out gently and deeply through your mouth
- Count slowly from one to ten while breathing in and out
- Close your eyes, try to breathe slowly, and concentrate on your breathing
Should I go to ER for a panic attack?
People experiencing a panic attack should visit the emergency rooms. While ER doctors give you some medications to help calm down your panic attack, most panic attacks do not require visiting the ER.
Can a panic attack last all day?
Panic attacks usually peak within a few (30-60) seconds and last for about a few minutes, while some panic attacks may last longer. Research describes that a panic attack lasts for up to 30 minutes; however, some people report having panic attacks lasting more than 4-5 hours and even days.
What should I do after an anxiety attack?
After having an anxiety attack, try the following:
- Think about self-care first and pay attention to your mental and physical needs. For instance, you might need to take some sleep or eat something.
- Tell about your anxiety attacks to someone trustworthy as it could help to let someone handle you while having an anxiety attack.
What triggers anxiety attacks?
A buildup of smaller stressful situations or a big event may trigger anxiety attacks, for example, ongoing work stress, death of a loved one, worry about finances, and others.