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How do I know whether I'm having a panic attack or just anxious?

19 Answers
Last Updated: 06/07/2021 at 10:15pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
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Serene Sarah George, MA in Psychology (Counselling), Diploma in Counselling Skills


Counsellor following person centered therapeutic approach, drawing from techniques of CBT/REBT.

Top Rated Answers
February 23rd, 2015 12:06am
Well, sometimes the lines blurred, but an actual panic attack is pretty obvious. Your senses go on overload and you have physical symptoms such as rapid breathing, sweating, clammy hands, racing heart, etc. Panic attacks are hard to miss because they are quite overwhelming. They are also intense and by definition temporary, whereas anxiety can stay with you for a much longer time.
June 23rd, 2015 9:00pm
When you are having a panic attack, it is suddenly incredibly hard to breathe. You get really sweaty and feel like you may die. Your panic consumes you and you feel like you can't do anything to distract yourself.
August 10th, 2015 8:44am
I cannot say for sure; but panic attacks are usually sudden and last up to 20 minutes. You could also say you are anxious as well, since a panic attack is a form of anxiety. I hope you feel better.
September 8th, 2015 6:19am
Panic attacks have severe physical symptoms, including heart racing, hard to breathe, think you're dying.
September 12th, 2016 3:10pm
An anxiety attack, people may feel fearful, apprehensive, may feel their heart racing or feel short of breath, but it's very short lived, and when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack. Panic attack on the other hand doesn't come in reaction to a stressor. It's unprovoked and unpredictable
July 31st, 2018 11:09am
When you experience anxiety, you feel nervous and uneasy. You may have some physical symptoms, such as trembling, shivering and uneven breathing. It's very uncomfortable, but still fairly manageable. When you're having a panic attack, you experience all those symptoms tenfold and it's awfully hard to control it. You hyperventilate, your vision might get blurry and it feels like the whole world is sped up. Anxiety is uncomfortable. Panic attacks are destructive.
May 12th, 2015 7:51pm
Anxiety is normally the prolonged feeling of a tight chest or shaking, a panic attack is more sudden and can sometimes happen through a build up or time or to a reaction to an experience. It is important to recognise signs of your anxiety and try and tackle them one by one and over time panic attacks will become less frequent
May 26th, 2015 10:04pm
Panic attacks are similar to anxiety....However with panic attacks people usually struggle to keep there breathing steady and struggle to calm down, so they need help to do so if they can't control it themselves.
November 17th, 2015 3:35pm
If you feel like you cannot breathe and your airway is constricted in some way shape or form it is most likely a panic attack.
December 7th, 2015 9:41pm
When you're having a panic attack, you feel like you can't breath. It feels like all oxygen is being taken from you, but everyone else seems to be doing just fine. When you're being anxious, you, probably, don't feel that way.
February 22nd, 2016 7:45am
When having a panic attack it may feel like you're about to die, or you may hyperventilate, sweat, cry, choke, feeling you're going crazy, and/or feel like you're going to throw up
August 2nd, 2016 4:30am
Everyone has different symptoms when they are having a panic attack. You just have to learn how you are when you're anxious and how you are when you're beginning to panic and go from there.
August 16th, 2016 12:52pm
Panic attack and anxiety are different states. In anxiety, a person would be worrying about possible adverse outcomes and their effects. While in panic attack, the situation would seem to have gone out of control and it would manifest in physical symptoms that match with major health disorders or life threatening conditions. For example, a person suffering panic attack may experience difficulty in breathing, rapid heart beating, bodily weakness, dizziness or numbness in parts of body.
November 7th, 2017 7:20am
My breathing will become erratic and pressured. My vision will become hazy and unreliable. My palms get sweaty and I begin to worry about more than I should worry about.
March 13th, 2018 11:29pm
A panic attack is situation dependent, something that made a person feel that they need to react while anxiety has nothing to do with a specific coinsurance.
August 6th, 2018 5:24pm
I think the main thing is the feeling of lack of control during a panic attack. Also, a lot of the time you will experience physical symptoms when you have a panic attack as well.
November 27th, 2018 5:02am
I find that when I am having a panic attack I start to break out into a sweat, my body starts to shake and I can't focus on anything. When I am struggling with anxiety I can sense that my heart may be racing a bit and my breathing may be heavier but that it is just anxiety and I know my coping skills to help me get through. The difference between the two is that during a panic attack you don't have as much control over your actions that you make, your thought process isn't as strong so you can't use the coping strategies that you have learned. Whereas with anxiety you may have a hard time focussing but you are able to control your emotions and use your strategies so that you don't get yourself to having a panic attack
February 18th, 2019 3:09pm
"Panic attacks, on the other hand, mostly involve severe, disruptive symptoms. During a panic attack, the body's autonomous fight-or-flight response takes over. Physical symptoms are often more intense than symptoms of anxiety. While anxiety can build gradually, panic attacks usually come on abruptly." Many people can't really tell the difference between a panic attack or a an anxiety attack. With panic attacks some people may feel racing heart, weakness, faint, or dizziness, chest pains, or breathing difficulties. With anxiety attacks, the symptoms may seem alike, but you can kind of tell the symptoms apart like anxiety attacks include heart palpitations, trembling, sweating, chest pressure/pain, burning skin, hot/cold flushes, numbness and tingling sensations, or of course a high feeling of overwhelming fear. See, the symptoms are similarly alike, so it's kind of hard to tell them apart, but some symptoms are different.
June 7th, 2021 10:15pm
This is a really great question. The DSM-5 definition of a panic attack is a short episode of intense physical or mental sympathetic system activation -- this can make you feel like you're able to faint, your heart is beating, etc. A lot of people report feeling like the world is ending and that they might die. However, this episode doesn't last long and eventually you will relax. On the other hand, anxiety can have similar symptoms (although not as sudden) and last a lot longer. It's important to connect with a mental health professional or your family physician to seek out the correct diagnosis.