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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
August 9th, 2015 1:09am
Panic attacks are more severe, and they generally happen more regularly. If you regularly find yourself freaking out about small things, you may have some issues with anxiety. Symptoms of panic attacks include sweating, heart racing, feeling disconnected from yourself and difficulty breathing. If you are experiencing these things regularly, it's worth checking out anxiety resources online and possibly talking to a professional.
August 12th, 2015 2:40am
Experiencing a panic-attack and freaking out are similar experiences, but one specific detail divides the two: Panic-attacks contain more physical symptoms, including but not limited to: an accelerated heart rate, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, nausea, and sweating.
August 12th, 2015 5:25am
If I can rattle your cage getting you emotional, it means you're still in one and that's the cage I'm trying to help you escape from....takes a ruthless unconditional love position to do that.
August 12th, 2015 4:26pm
If you're palms get sweaty you feel your hearts racing and you feel like something terrible might happen then its a panic attack.. If you feel excited after hearing a news or something then you happen to realize it and it all settles down by itself then its just a freaking out.. Panic attack won't go unless you need to do what you have to do or its gonna stay.. Something like in ocd but on the other hand freaking out is just normal and it will go away within few minutes.
August 12th, 2015 10:10pm
A panic attack makes you feel as if you're dying. Your breathing becomes fast, your heart rate accelerates and you could feel like the world is just caving in on you. When you're just freaking out, more often than not, it could just mean that you're psyching yourself out over something and that's a lot easier to take control of.
August 13th, 2015 2:24pm
Sometimes it can be hard to know if its a panic attack or if your just having a minor melt down. But your the only one thats in control of your body so you know how it works best
August 13th, 2015 4:44pm
Sometimes the difference between a panic attack and "just freaking out" can be a very fine line. Panic attacks manifest physically, with symptoms like shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and feelings of faintness. Panic attacks also only last for around ten minutes. If you feel like you're having an anxiety attack of any kind, it's best to remember to take deep breaths. And if you feel like you're having a heart attack or other serious medical emergency - panic attacks can feel like heart attacks - it's best to call for help. Better safe than sorry!
August 14th, 2015 7:38am
If your having a panic attack you can't breathe and the room is spinning and you can't say anything.if your freaking out you can't breathe but you can talk
August 14th, 2015 4:04pm
Both are very similar but there is one key difference; Panic attacks feel like there is a great threat that is directly in front of you. It's so overwhelming that the thought can be related to dying and that causes the panic attack.
August 15th, 2015 7:45am
I find that the difference is how you are breathing, if you feel like you are choking on air, it is probably a panic attack. Your thoughts are wild and unruly and you seem to be aware of it happening yet can not stop it.
August 16th, 2015 11:29am
Panic attacks are distinctive. They are all consuming. Tony Stark thought he had been poisoned when he had a panic attack. Not to be little what you are freaking out about, but panic attacks are more.
August 16th, 2015 1:25pm
Perhaps looking up the symptoms and knowing the difference, because these are very different things also they could be classed as the same thing.
August 16th, 2015 6:35pm
A panic attack is likely to have physical manifestations - sweating, shaking etc. This, in my experience, is what separates a panic attack from simply freaking out or worrying about something. A panic attack will give you real fear as it's a scary thing to happen. But they will subside.
September 29th, 2015 12:45pm
Everyone has different symptoms of having a panic attack, some people have racing hearts, pains, puking, and some others may just sweat and get sick. Like for me, I sweat, feel really hot and my stomach turns a lot and I start to feel really sick. But usually if you don't have much serious symptoms but feeling really emotional then I know I'm just freaking out.
December 8th, 2015 11:34pm
Panic attacks have very visceral symptoms. this means they have a significant set of body based symptoms. sweaty palms, racing heart, light headedness, seeing stars,
December 11th, 2015 1:08pm
the main symptoms for a panic attack is usually an increased heartbeat, sweaty, nausea, fast breathing/hyperventilating
December 12th, 2015 2:57pm
A panic attack is a very physical experience. Often, your fingers and hands will feel very tingly and numb, you may feel shaky, breathless and faint and dizzy. Sometimes people can feel like they're falling. If you feel like this, I recommend removing yourself from wherever you are by going for a gentle walk, preferably in the fresh air. Drinking water and eating something sugary like a chocolate bar can help with the physical symptoms.
December 13th, 2015 8:22pm
If you're having a true panic attack most the time you will have heavy breathing, to where you feel as if an elephant is on your chest. It feels like you can fill your lungs up enough. It's scary. Your hands get cold. Most the time whenever I have one I cry really hard too, and can't stop moving my hands and ball up.
December 13th, 2015 10:44pm
Panic attacks usually (not always) come with physical symptoms such as racing heart, shallow breathing or difficulty breathing. However, I've had both - I started with physical symptoms and they stopped and moved to purely emotional symptoms - worrying I was going to go crazy, not wanting to go out in public and stay at home for example (agoraphobia), scared that you're going to embarrass yourself in public places, you worry/panic about everything even if it isn't logical. Panic attacks can last minutes or even hours, but know that NOTHING is going to happen to you & whilst horribly uncomfortable, they will NOT kill you or make you "go crazy".
December 15th, 2015 11:12pm
Panic attacks are easily identified by their physical symptoms like hyperventilation and shaking hands.
December 16th, 2015 11:48pm
Panic attacks often feature more serious physical symptoms than just freaking out (i.e., high anxiety). For example, panic attacks frequently involve racing heart beats, hyperventilation, and tingling or numbness either localized or throughout the body, Additionally, panic attacks are accompanied by thoughts of impending doom (e.g., "I'm dying" or "Something terrible is about to happen).
December 17th, 2015 4:06am
From my experience, it depends on the situation. If you're able to quickly get out of the panic by taking deep breaths, you are probably just freaking out. But if you're really anxious and it takes you a while to calm down, that is most likely a panic attack. Remember that we are all different. During panic attacks, I love to drink tea, write, blog or sleep (if I can). This is very different for each and every one of us. Try and figure out what helps you find your breath and focus on calming down. You're so great and you can do it, xx.
December 17th, 2015 1:43pm
Freaking out its just wen you cant control yourself about something, panic attack its worst, you really feel that you are dying, you feel terrifying about something that you dont even know and you cant explain to no one.
December 17th, 2015 3:45pm
For me the difference is so noticeable , I start to become light sensitive, sweat, struggle to breathe ...There can be palpitations nausea and sometimes even vomiting. I don't know about other people that's just from my experiences x 💛
December 20th, 2015 2:13am
Well what you describe can simply be the same thing as "freaking out" is often a panic attack. Each panic attack is different and they can be stronger or weaker depending on situations so its likely you're experiencing minor panic attacks.
December 20th, 2015 5:13am
Heart palpitations that you can feel through your chest, tightness within your chest, sweating, breathing problems, difficulty concentrating and dizziness are usually associated with a panic attack as well as in some cases a lack of motor control.
December 20th, 2015 1:00pm
Freak out moments, that I know, unleash freedom to live. Generalized panic attacks is medically induced; seeking help in which best suits you gives you the answers you need.
December 24th, 2015 9:24pm
A panic attack is a lot more serious than just "freaking out". Freaking out may make you feel really irritated but a panic attack comes with a lot of physical symptoms like sweating, nausea, light headness, racing heart etc. When I had one, I couldn't stand and was pretty scared. It's very different.
December 26th, 2015 5:34pm
Notice how your body is behaving. Hyperventilation, sever shaking, and rapid heartbeat are just a few ways of identifying a panic attack.
December 27th, 2015 12:11am
Panic Attacks are usually short (a few seconds to a few minutes) of feeling restless, paralyzed, or disabled. These are caused by crippling anxiety. "Freaking out" is less severe and probably longer lived and/or easier to stop.