Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Something that I personally have gotten mixed up but I know is quite common to mix up is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.

The difference should be known because most of the time the person having the attack needs to be treated differently.

Panic Attack

The way the symptoms are felt are intense and can be a major disruption in the day. They usually come on suddenly and you can feel out of control, sometimes affecting your sight and motor abilities.

A panic attack is characterized by four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Heart palpitations/pounding heart
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Feeling detached from reality and/or oneself
  • Numbness
  • Chills or hot flashes

Anxiety Attack

This is typically a feeling that intensifies over a period of time, usually when one is experiencing a stressful time. The stress can reach a level that it is so overwhelming that it feels like an attack.

Unlike a panic attack, the symptoms of an anxiety attack can be quite persistent and last a long time, they can feel like a rollercoaster becoming more or less intense but never fully disappearing. Most of the time only being a disruption to the day when they have reached the peak high.

An anxiety attack differs more from one person to another which makes them harder to characterize, symptoms may include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Increased startle response
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Short term memory loss


If you know someone that suffers from anxiety it is so important to know what they need when they are dealing with a panic or anxiety attack. Each person is different and it is crucial that they get the help they need even if they do not ask for it. Most of the time they are not able to unable to ask for help or feel like a burden if they do.

Check up on your friends, have open and honest conversations, make them feel seen and heard.

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