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How do I know if I'm really having a panic attack or if I'm just freaking out?

245 Answers
Last Updated: 11/13/2017 at 12:56pm
How do I know if I'm really having a panic attack or if I'm just freaking out?
★ This question about Panic Attacks was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
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Sarah Archer, LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

As a Licensed MFT I work with clients to more effectively address, process and learn skills to manage the problems that prevent them from living the life they want.

Top Rated Answers
July 16th, 2015 1:23pm
For me, when I'm having a panic attack my breathing is hard to control and I find it hard to keep my breath in. When I'm just freaking out, which is still horrible, I can keep control of my breathing.
July 18th, 2015 8:15am
Panic attacks are usually harder to control and involve much more irrational thoughts than "just freaking out." Usually, if you're just "freaking out," you can control your breathing easier and stop yourself from worrying much further. If you have any more troubles, feel free to contact me!
July 22nd, 2015 10:53pm
If you have any of these symptoms you are most likely having a panic attack. Shortness of breath or hyperventilation. Heart palpitations or a racing heart. Chest pain or discomfort. Trembling or shaking. Choking feeling. Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings.Sweating Nausea or upset stomach Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint Numbness or tingling sensations Hot or cold flashes Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy.
January 6th, 2016 4:05am
Panic attacks usually give you physical symptoms and freaking out seems a bit normal, panic attack are less normal.
January 13th, 2016 7:51pm
Panic attacks usually leave you short of breath gasping. you struggle to think and can even pass out.
January 16th, 2016 4:06pm
To me, they are the same thing. Freaking out and panic are very similar. When you feel like you aren't in control of your feelings or emotions, you are most likely having a panic attack. Try to breathe and regain focus.
January 17th, 2016 12:25am
Depense symptoms if get like heart race ,, sheking hand ,,, anxious,,, namness etc,,, its panic....
January 20th, 2016 7:51am
usually that is a panic attack and I just suggesting distracting yourself. it's a pain I know.......
January 29th, 2016 5:45am
they're usually the same. panic attacks are much more intense though. it doesn't matter how you call/ describe them, you should address the cause of your problems. remember that fear doesn't exist, it's just a product of your imagination
January 29th, 2016 6:49am
I see freaking out as a level of panic attack, and for that I don't see a difference. Usually a "freak out" comes before a full blown panic attack, and I can usually curb that by focusing on breathing and thinking through what is causing the "freak out." If I can't and it escalates, then I strictly focus on bringing myself back to center, then I tackle the trigger.
February 7th, 2016 1:04am
Panic attacks come with a lot of physical symptoms which are very specific, such as racing heart, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, feeling faint. I think when you have a panic attack you know it.
February 10th, 2016 10:18am
When you have a panic attack, the world starts closing in on you. The most important thing in both circumstances, is to take a breath, close your eyes and regulate your oxygen intake. Then try to destress, through activities during the day.
February 10th, 2016 10:53pm
When you have a panic attack you feel you can't breathe. It seems like your having a heart attack, but your not. Well just freaking out is super anxiety, and feeling like things are out your control.
February 11th, 2016 2:03am
Either way you should try to breath and work on mindfulness. Find a way to a distract your self from the problem.
March 11th, 2016 9:14am
Your heart starts racing, you get hot flashes, dizzy/feeling faint, sometimes body aches. I usually get pains in my rib area. Sometimes you feel like or start crying without any warning. You'll feel like so many thoughts hit you at once.
March 12th, 2016 6:44am
in the moment its hard to tell however you should calm yourself down like you would a panic attack
March 12th, 2016 11:17pm
Having a panic attack comes with specific sensations of struggling to breathe, clammy hands, dry mouth, and the very genuine feeling that something very bad is about to happen at any moment. Sometimes, when you think you're just freaking out for no reason, you might be having a panic attack! Occasionally, people having panic attacks are unable to function and/or bring themselves to do anything and will break out into sobs.
March 12th, 2016 11:52pm
A panic attack has much more physical symptoms than just freaking out. Shakiness, shortness of breath, racing heart, chest pain, choking feeling.. etc.
March 13th, 2016 8:37am
Symptoms of panic attacks include but are not limited to elevated heart rate, out of the ordinary behavior, poor decision making, mental cloudiness, unexplained anger, changes in eyesight, and stomach aches.
March 18th, 2016 1:52am
It could be both but I am not a doctor or a professional but if you have any problems with pain see a doctor or need someone to talk to talk to one of us.
March 20th, 2016 6:06pm
Panic attacks can come in different forms. For example: OCD like behaiviors, random spouts of rage, fast talking, sputtering words, not talking at all, zoning out, or (the most common) hyperventilating. Freaking out could be caused by one thing that makes you nervous.
March 23rd, 2016 5:26am
I think if your having physical symptoms like hypervenilating,racing heart,sweating,nausea or g.i. symptoms,on top of worry,panic,fear,it is probably a panic attack and not just freaking out.
March 25th, 2016 2:27pm
A panic attack is when you feel your heart pounding and the room feels like it is spinning. When you are freaking out you may be jumpy, worried and nervous. A panic attack may cause your breathing to be small and choppy. I had many panic attacks growing up, this is what I remember feeling
April 2nd, 2016 2:35am
Panic attacks come with almost no triggers and are identified by increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and increased breathing rate. Freaking out happens when there is a reason to panic, and will go away along with the problem.
June 5th, 2016 2:30am
they're are specific symptoms to recognize if your having a panic attack such as sweaty palms, fast heart rate, uncontrollable heavy breathing, and shaking, You can also research the difference on different medical websites who can give you more of an insight.
June 5th, 2016 7:29am
If you're freaking out then you might be having a panic attack, either way it is not a good thing. When it comes to this you should sit down and try to breathe calmly and control yourself, it helps. I know this from personal experience!
June 9th, 2016 8:27am
When you're having a panic attack, it feels like you can't breathe. Your heart rate gets high and you might start shaking or getting sweaty. It usually lasts longer than just freaking out and you can't even stand, you need to lay down and it impairs your normal life.
June 10th, 2016 11:56am
Panic attack is a response of your organism to some situation that might not look dangerous but still your brain thinks it is. You have an intense feeling of fear that you cannot control unless you refrain from this exact situation.
June 10th, 2016 1:11pm
From my personal experience there are obvious physical signs that happen. Everyone is different but here are some common ones, very fast heart palpitations, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, tremors, can't think straight. Basically you feel like your going to have a heart attack and die.
February 7th, 2017 4:20pm
Most people with panic attacks experience several of the following symptoms: "Racing" heart. Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy. Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers. Sense of terror, or impending doom or death. Feeling sweaty or having chills. Chest pains. Breathing difficulties. Feeling a loss of control.