Posted by: Skye | 2009-07-10

Panic or anxiety

What is the difference between a Panic attack and an Anxiety attack?

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Our expert says:
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Psychologist: Hi Skye,
A Panic attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort that starts very suddenly in combination with at least four of the symptoms below:
Palpitations or pounding heart, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, feeling of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, dizziness or a feeling of being faint, feelings of unreality or feeling detached from oneself, a fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, chills, hot flushes or tingling sensations.

An anxiety attack is a more non specific term that is not formally used, but many people use the word to describe symptoms related to feeling intense anxiety at a particular time. Many people also describe some of the biological symptoms that also occur in a panic attack.

I think one of the main distinctions of the two could be the difference between feeling intense anxiety and the feeling of fear. Anxiety is a signal that warns us of impending danger and helps us deal with the danger or threat. Fear is a response to a known, external event. In a panic attack the person feels fear because they have thoughts that there is a real danger of them dying or losing control whereas the person feeling intense anxiety at a particular time may feel the discomfort, but don’t have a paralyzing fear.
I hope this helps distinguish between the two a little more clearly.

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