Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks: What’s the Difference?

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety symptoms are prevalent and can co-exist with depression, panic, and PTSD. These symptoms often begin in childhood, manifesting as separation anxiety, where children worry that their caregiver won't return. This fear can lead to symptoms like shaking, rapid heartbeat, crying, and refusal to stay with others.

Traumatic events can also trigger anxiety in children, causing them to feel unsafe. Adolescents, on the other hand, often face anxiety related to academic performance and social interactions, resulting in symptoms like irritability, nervousness, concentration difficulties, sweating, and avoidance of anxiety-triggering situations.

Parents should be vigilant in recognizing these signs early. Early intervention can prevent children from resorting to substance use to manage anxiety. Open communication is crucial, allowing children to express their difficulties.

Anxiety in Adults

In adulthood, anxiety can be triggered by various life demands, such as balancing work and family, caring for elderly parents, coping with loss, unemployment, or dealing with divorce. General anxiety symptoms include worry, stress, irritability, feeling tense, overwhelmed, lack of concentration, increased heart rate, and racing thoughts. These symptoms often involve concerns about future events.

To manage these symptoms, it's essential to maintain perspective. When anxious thoughts arise, asking yourself questions like "What can I do about this now?" can help. It's important to focus on what is within your control and avoid dwelling on what you cannot change. Developing a plan to tackle issues can also be beneficial.

Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks often stem from faulty thinking, making individuals feel powerless over their circumstances. For instance, unwarranted fears about job loss can lead to anxiety attacks, where thoughts of losing a job despite positive feedback from a boss can trigger real physical symptoms like increased heart rate and worry. This cycle of thoughts and emotions can escalate into an anxiety attack.

Interrupting negative thoughts by seeking evidence to the contrary is crucial. Reflect on the facts, such as recent job performance feedback, to ground yourself and reduce unhelpful thinking.

Understanding Panic Attacks

Panic attacks share some symptoms with anxiety but are more intense, often involving an overwhelming sense of fear, shortness of breath, nausea, and chest pain, which can make individuals feel like they are dying. Panic attacks can be unexpected and may lead to a fear of subsequent attacks, potentially developing into a panic disorder.

The exact causes of panic disorders are unclear, though genetics may play a role. Misinterpreting bodily sensations as threats can perpetuate anxiety and panic. This physiological response, the fight-or-flight reaction, can be reprogrammed through mindful strategies.

Managing Panic Attacks

Being mindful of your thoughts can help decrease panic symptoms. It is crucial to identify and interrupt anxious thoughts. Deep breathing exercises and focusing on calming images can aid in relaxation. Shifting focus from negative to positive aspects of life and maintaining a gratitude journal can also be beneficial.

Seeking Help

If you're struggling with anxiety or panic symptoms, you're not alone. Christian Counseling at Covenant Counseling Center in Naples, FL, can help you gain control over your life. Call today to make an appointment and develop the tools you need to manage these symptoms and live a more fulfilled life. You'll be glad you did.