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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.
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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
June 26th, 2015 4:52am
When you have a panic attack it feels like when you miss a step that feeling in your stomach. But the feeling lasts a lot longer.
June 26th, 2015 8:55am
First off, you should talk to you doctor about how you are feeling. If you are feeling short of breath, get any numbness or tingling in your hands, face, or feet, or are having a really tough time breathing, it is likely a panic attack. A good "at home" remedey is breathing into a paper bag, and talking to people you trust. Try to slow your breathing. Listen to a calming song. But if it not helping... tell someone that you may need additional help.
June 26th, 2015 6:22pm
what symptoms are you having? what happened before you started having a possible panic attack?
June 26th, 2015 8:20pm
Having a panic attack is way different from freaking out.. When having a panick attack you find difficulties breathing and are restless and of course crying a lot.
June 27th, 2015 9:10am
Is your physical state changing? Is your heart racing, your chest tightening, is it harder to breathe? Are you not seeing straight? Are your thoughts racing? If you are experiencing this, you are most likely having a panic attack
June 27th, 2015 9:13am
Panic attacks will usually trigger involuntary bodily responses like nail biting, sweating palms, the need to use the bathroom, and leg/hand shivering. It's all of the above for me. When I freak out or simply get nervous, my reactions are more psychological with little or no involuntary body responses.
June 27th, 2015 3:48pm
Anxiety and panic attacks happen "in your mind" and are usually triggered by a fear or thought (something that happened previously.
June 27th, 2015 5:18pm
Panic attack is when you freak out too much.Its just a more extreme version of being freaked out hence there is not much difference.
June 27th, 2015 9:36pm
Usually for me it involoved crying, and not being able to breate/ catch my breath. But also sometimes that could just be freaking out.
June 28th, 2015 2:01am
From personal experience, I can say that having a panic attacks feels like this - you feel like you're going to die, your heart is racing, you get a feeling of doom and like nothing is going right. I used to roll up into a ball while having one and staying like that for 10-20 minutes. That's what a panic attack's like.
June 28th, 2015 3:35am
If you're having a panic attack your symptoms will last longer than if you are just freaking out. You will experience manic shaking, sweating and nausea. Whereas if you're freaking out you will find yourself able to calm down yourself by deep breathing as panic attacks require more attention. Usually, freaking out can lead to panic attacks so be careful to calm yourself down as soon as possible before it exaggerates into something worse.
June 28th, 2015 12:17pm
just step yew legs on ground take a deep breath.. feel the energy flwoing from yewr body to the ground ! yew will come to reality
June 28th, 2015 5:13pm
In my experience, a panic attack involves being tight chested and you feel like you are suffocating as you can't catch your breath. Freaking out is more frantic, pacing, ranting, your mind goes a mile a minute.
June 28th, 2015 8:02pm
You know the symptoms, such as headaches, breathing, itching. Maybe you should see a specialist who speaks on topic.
July 1st, 2015 1:48am
When I experience a panic attack I feel my chest tighten and my breathing quickens. Sometimes I even break into a cold sweat. All of my thoughts race at once and I just need to get out of wherever I am. I just have to escape what's making me panicky. That's how I know I am having an attack. When i'm just freaking out, I cry and get over it within 5 minutes. Panic attacks usually last longer than 10 minutes for me and it takes a while to calm down. To diffuse the situation I just walk outside to get fresh air and take a few deep breathes (in through my nose, out through my mouth) and eventually I start to feel better.
July 1st, 2015 2:54am
in my experience, freaking out was just me being worried. I could still make conscious decisions and I was fully aware of what I'm doing. on the other hand, with panic attacks, I lose sight of everything, my throat closes up and I do stuff that I'm not fully aware of. people who have witnessed my panic attacks said I start to shake and cry and scratch at my arms. the most important thing to remember in both these situations is to breathe.
July 1st, 2015 7:19am
Personally speaking, panic attacks make you get this feeling like you are closed in. Like you cant breathe.
July 1st, 2015 1:18pm
A panic attack is short of the worst feeling in the world. When you're having a panic attack, you experience a lot of physical symptoms, and not just mental. On top of having racing thoughts, feeling like you're about to die, feeling helpless and terrified; your heart races, your mouth dries, you sweat, you have uncontrollable rocking or fidgeting, and I personally sometimes pass out. Everyone experiences panic attacks differently. Just know that even if you are just "freaking out", your panic is no less than anyone else's. If you feel scared, or panicked, or even just a little freaked out, it is still justified and you shouldn't belittle how you feel because you don't think it classifies at a panic attack!
July 1st, 2015 10:12pm
When you have a panic attack, generally there are more physical symptoms, like nausea, numbness, shaking, and a really strong heartbeat.
July 2nd, 2015 4:52am
Panic attacks can initiate physical responses from your body to what you are feeling, whereas "freaking out" is completely emotional. There are many common physical symptoms of panic attacks, such as shortness of breath, pounding heart/quicker pulse, stomach aches, nausea, trembling or shaking, and feeling detached from your surroundings.
July 2nd, 2015 1:13pm
Check the medical signs if it seems like you can't breathe or your chest is feeling tight its a panic attack.
July 2nd, 2015 4:36pm
When having a panic attack, it's different for everyone having it. Some of the most common symtoms, however, is a fast beating of your heart, hyperventilation, feeling like you can't breathe.
July 2nd, 2015 7:17pm
Panic attacks, at least for me, you're stuck in your head as your body freaks out. When you're freaking out your mind and body work in unison
July 2nd, 2015 10:52pm
Panic attacks are bouts of intense anxiety. Panic attacks are bouts of intense anxiety. They come on quickly, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, but at other times in response to a stressful event or the thought that something unavoidable and bad is going to happen in the future. They include,pounding heartbeat, shaking, bad nerves, fear, feeling that you are going to die, and feeling like you are having a heart attack. You may think that you are sick when it actually is a panic attack. Freaking out may just include such as fear about something you know is coming. Like a upcoming test.
July 3rd, 2015 2:00am
When having a panic attack your throat tightens and its harder to breathe you may have a lot of sweating as well
July 3rd, 2015 11:14am
Panic attacks are very much like freaking out, breathing heavily and other physical symptoms can let you know when you're having a panic attack and when you're not.
July 3rd, 2015 3:36pm
The difference is in how your body reacts to it. When having panic attack you'll expirience some or all of below: Pounding heart Sweating Stomach upset or dizziness Frequent urination or diarrhea Shortness of breath Tremors and twitches Muscle tension Headaches Fatigue Insomnia Freaking out is simular but I'd dare to say less dangerous and lasts shorter.
July 3rd, 2015 9:18pm
These are not mutually exclusive. A panic attack can bring respiratory problems and a sense of dizziness. Freaking out can cause the same.
July 4th, 2015 1:29am
Well for me I know that I am having a panic attack when I feel myself spiraling out of control and can't catch my breath. It's almost like a train without breaks, I just can't stop the anxiety no matter how hard I pull on the lever. When I am "freaking out" it's more self caused and can be stopped.
July 4th, 2015 10:49am
Panic Attack symptoms include shortness of breath, racing heart, shaking, a choking feeling and even feeling detached from your surroundings. You may feel lightheaded and even a little sick. Panic Attacks happen when a person has an overwhelming sense of fear or anxiety.