What's the Difference Between Anxiety Attacks vs Panic Attacks?

If you or someone you know has ever had a true panic attack…

then you already know they’re wildly different experiences from anxiety attacks. Because they have some similarities, some people use the terms interchangeably but this can be confusing because they really mean different things.

I’m going to tell you the difference in this video...

Anxiety and panic are both emotional states we all are capable of experiencing during times of stress. During times of stress, your adrenal glands start secreting hormones to let your body and mind know how to feel.

Anxiety tends to be driven by Cortisol and feelings of worry. This hormone tells us to wake up, pay attention and stay alert. The “threat” in these situations are usually something distant or abstract. For example, if you are someone who cares about getting good grades, or applying to college, you may experience some anxiety around exams or projects. Anxiety, when managed well, can actually be a great thing because it gives you focus and energy to get the tasks done you need to do a good job.

Panic, on the other hand, is driven by Adrenaline and feelings of fear. This hormone tells us we have to take action, and we need to do it RIGHT NOW! The “threat” in these situations is imminent, life-threatening danger. For example, if a fire broke out where you are right now, most of us would instinctively run away from it as fast as we can. That’s your panic response kicking in to save you from immediate harm. In an effort to get to safety, our bodies sometimes do wonky things like telling us we’re not getting enough air, which is why it may feel difficult to breathe, even though you were breathing just fine a moment ago.

Now that you know the difference- how do you control your anxiety attacks? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may be considering killing themselves, please connect them with help.

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Mallory Grimste, LCSW - Teen Therapist

Mental Health Counseling for Anxious Tweens, Teens, and Young Adults | Woodbridge, CT