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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

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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 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.
July 23rd, 2015 1:26pm
A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy.
July 23rd, 2015 7:53pm
A panic attack usually comes with symptoms such as - palpitations, shakiness, shortness of breath, feeling like you may faint and dizziness. There are various different symptoms that can accompany a panic attack but if your having most of the common symptoms you are probably experiencing a panic attack.
July 25th, 2015 1:34am
Whatever the distinction, if you're freaking out to the point where it's having a negative impact on your life, it's an issue worth addressing. Most, if not all, of the strategies which work for dealing with panic attacks will also help to reduce freaking out. Even if it's not a panic attack yet, if it's gotten to the point where you're thinking it might be, you might be on the track towards developing full-blown panic attacks. Taking steps to care for your well-being now could spare you a lot of anxiety in the future.
July 25th, 2015 6:13pm
Because panic attack are where you begin to not see, everything becomes blurry, your not able to get air in and out of your throat and nose, and you cant speak really.
July 25th, 2015 11:11pm
Usually freaking out is less than panic attack. Panic attack has more terrible symptoms than freaking out. However they are both scary to deal with.
July 26th, 2015 6:02am
You will know if you physically feel the effects of the attack and everything may feel surreal or like you're not in control of yourself.
July 26th, 2015 7:28pm
A panic attack makes you almost shut down and be able to think about nothing else, and almost takes you over. In a freak out, you will be able to think about other things if you try. In a panic attack your entire body responds with quickened breathing for example whereas this doesnt happen if youre just freaking out.
July 29th, 2015 2:34pm
real anxiety attacks often occur with little or no warning or for no apparent reason although they can have warning or reason also panic attacks usually consist of a few of the following shortness of breath, chest pain, shaking and losing touch with your surroundings
July 29th, 2015 8:04pm
Well, it's not an exact science, because sometimes they can sort of flow in and out of being one and the same, but panic attacks usually will have noticeable physical symptoms, like shaking or shallow breathing or lightheadedness.
July 29th, 2015 10:01pm
Both feelings are kinda close to each other but having a panic attack makes you unable to function, liked literally nothing really works anymore and its nearly unbearable while freaking out is stress and all as well but it is something you overcome more easily and it is not like you are unable to do anything at all. It's not easy to tell the difference
July 30th, 2015 5:15am
They're pretty similar, yet striking different. A panic attack often involves hyperventilation, crying, or even nausea/vomiting. It also requires a diagnosis from a clinician. It may even come on for no apparent reason at all, and leave just as quickly as it came.
July 30th, 2015 3:56pm
Panic attacks can be different depending on each individual but when you have a panic attack you know because you struggle for breath some people describe this feeling to be like you are dying because you cant get enough air another experience is uncontrollable shaking , slowed down hearing and movement tunnel vision and when some panic attacks go to far you can pass out. with a panic attack you will know the difference to freaking out and them as you feel you have no control and do feel like you can get past it but you can a panic attack is not going to kill you hope this helped.
July 30th, 2015 7:08pm
if you are having chest pains, difficulty breathing or rapid heartbeat you do have a panic attack. I saw it in suits, Harvey is the stuff
July 31st, 2015 1:46am
For me personally, panic attacks are always accompanied by a rash on my legs and painful diarrhea. Freaking out is an accelerated heart rate and shortness of breath.
July 31st, 2015 4:40pm
Panic attacks are very similar to freaking out, however they usually have quite distinct symptoms. It's usually a form of EXTREME fear or anxiety. So in a way, a panic attack is freaking out, just more severe. It'd differ from each individual, but usual symptoms are dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, a feeling of choking or suffocating, hyperventilation, a tingling sensation in certain body parts and sweating. You wouldn't be able to think of anything else except the dread during a panic attack. It think that's how you know. If you're just freaking out, you may have some of these symptoms, but you'd still be able to think.
July 31st, 2015 7:53pm
You will know if you are having a panic attack. You wont be able to breathe and you feel as if you are having a heart attack. Your whole world will feel as if it's closing in on you and it can last quite a few minutes.
August 1st, 2015 5:44pm
A panic attack is a very acute experience. Being stressed is one thing, and being overwhelmed is another. A panic attack, as it is colloquially called, is an experience where a person is so overcome with anxiety that they are often debilitated, and often they feel that they may die. If you are having a panic attack, you may notice shortness of breath, numbness, stabbing chest pains, tingling in your limbs, and you may feel you are not able to stand. Some people cry while having a panic attack, as well. It is when you are so overcome with dread that you feel that you may die, but take comfort in knowing that most panic attacks do not last long. If you suffer from panic attacks, know that there is help. They often accompany a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, or conditions such as PTSD. Speak to your doctor about your experiences, and you may wish to seek therapy in order to work on early-detection (so you can "nip it in the bud" when it occurs) and coping skills for when the next one arises. Panic attacks are a serious medical issue, but there is help out there for you. If you feel you are in imminent danger of hurting yourself, someone else, or that you may die during an attack, please seek help from a professional on a hotline, or get yourself to a hospital, if accessible.
August 2nd, 2015 10:10am
your heart raises high then normal and u have pain in chest sometimes and somtimes feel nausea and vomiting
August 2nd, 2015 10:31pm
Panic attacks usually give a very physical response, unlike just freaking out over things. Usually people suffer with irregular breathing or hyperventilate during an attack, as well as shiver/shake, get hot/cold flushes, have a rapid heart rate and even get pins and needles in their hands and feet.
August 5th, 2015 2:28am
You feel hopeless, your heart is running really fast, you're struggling breathing, you're mind is running extremely fast and you feel that the room is moving. That's panic!
August 5th, 2015 3:45am
Panic attacks come in all shapes and sizes, the same as anxiety in general. The only way to determine the difference is how you feel in the situation. I hope this helps and i wish you the best of luck :)
August 5th, 2015 10:09am
I have had my first panic attack just over a month ago. It was a horrible experience. I was just watching television with my roommates when suddenly my heart raced and I had difficulty breathing. I felt like I was going to die or the world was going to end. It was an irrational fear because it came out of nowhere. I just really felt like something really bad is going to happen and I can't do anything about it. I guess the distinction between a panic attack and merely freaking out is that panic attacks last longer, maybe about 5 to 10 minutes or more and panic attacks give you an uncontrollable feeling of doom while freaking out usually comes out during a specific experience or out of stress.
August 5th, 2015 6:03pm
Usually in a panic attack, you may experience heat flashes or pins and needles. You'll also did it more difficult to calm yourself down (stabilise your breathing) than you would if you were just freaking out. Typically, when just freaking out you won't have a particularly significant struggle with breathing.
August 6th, 2015 10:41am
A panic attach IS freaking out, it's really, really extreme freaking out when you feel like you're having a heart attack and can't breathe. It can be both.
August 7th, 2015 12:25pm
The symptoms are different from just freaking out or having a panic attack. The symptoms for a panic attack are: "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.
August 7th, 2015 5:10pm
For me, whenever I have a panic attack it feels like my chest is tightening and I can't breathe. And then my skin feels like when your legs "fall asleep." Sometimes I can come out of them, sometimes I pass out.
August 8th, 2015 2:32am
Panic attacks are generally very sudden and last for about no longer then ten minutes. Depending on the severity of the attack it can cause dizziness, trouble breathing, shaking, or pain.
August 8th, 2015 10:13am
If you are having a panic attack, the tightness in your chest, inability to breathe normally and the shooting pains in your arm will mimick a heart attack. Generally when you "freak out" it's mostly hyperventilation.
August 8th, 2015 9:08pm
There are a few ways to tell the difference. Freaking out may not feel as severe as a panic attack. A panic attack may feel like a heart attack or a complete loss of breath. They are both very sudden, but you should react slightly different to each.