These are two mental health issues that are very, very similar. Remember hearing about panic disorder a lot when I was younger but nothing about anxiety. When I got first diagnosed with anxiety, most of the educational material I could find was about dealing with panic attacks.
The thing is, the symptoms are basically the same, it’s just what goes in your head that’s different. This is the way I view it:
Panic Attack - An extreme and overwhelming feeling of panic with the fear that you may die. This fear creates a number of physical symptoms that will encourage that fearful thought.
Anxiety Attack - An extreme and overwhelming fear of panic or worry that is triggered by a certain with the situation, often with the fear of failing or embarrassing yourself. This fear leads to a number of physical symptoms.
As you can see, they are both pretty similar. It’s just that with panic, you feel like you may die but with anxiety, it’s more of a need to escape a situation. Both of these things are incredibly difficult to deal with, but there is a positive side of knowing that it’ll be over.
I don’t have much experience with panic attacks, but I can imagine that during one, you cannot override your brain easily to convince it that you are ok, especially with the unpleasant physical feelings. With anxiety, although the attack is unbearable, there is an element of comfort knowing that removing the trigger will make it go away.
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks look the same in my opinion. A good example is on a plane. I had a horrendous anxiety attack once and I have no idea what caused it but I just wanted to get off the plane. Obviously that wasn’t an option so I had to ride it out but I could countdown how long was left of the flight and I knew, as soon as I was off it, I would be fine.
To most of the staff, they thought I was having a panic attack about flying. One kept trying to reassure me that there was nothing to be scared of with flying. What they couldn’t understand is that I wasn’t scared of flying, but I couldn’t stand feeling trapped and unwell. I can understand though, if I was having a panic attack, somebody reassuring me about my safety would help, it’s just for my anxiety, it didn’t.
Everybody experiences anxiety and panic on different levels so it’s hard to differentiate what’s what apart from the thoughts behind it. It also means that solutions are never the same. Something may work for anxiety and panic nd some may work for only one thing or for one person.
The thing I want to mention is that in recent years, it feels as though the word ‘anxiety’ is thrown around carelessly. Because of that, many people take it less seriously than panic. The fact is though, it is just as bad and can be just as debilitating. The more we understand each other, the more we can help.