Whats The Difference Between Anxiety And A Panic Attack
Anxiety is usually related to something that is perceived to be stressful or threatening. The symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Learn more about anxiety here.
A panic attack is a sudden, intense episode of fear or anxiety, accompanied by at least four of the following symptoms:
- racing heart or palpitations
- sweating shortness of breath or feelings of choking
- dizziness, trembling or shaking
- numbness or a tingling sensation
- hot and cold flashes
- fear of dying or of losing control
- queasy stomach or nausea
- feeling detached from oneself and one’s surroundings.
Panic attacks can be triggered by an event or a stressor, or there may be no apparent cause at all. They have severe symptoms that disrupt what youre doing at that moment. Get more info on panic attacks here.
Another term you might have heard is anxiety attack. Theres no one definition of anxiety attacks that everyone agrees on. Sometimes the term is used to describe panic attacks, and other times its used to describe a feeling of intense anxiety .
What Are Panic Attacks
A panic attack is characterized by the rush of emotional and physical symptoms due to severe fear and anxiety, causing a state of intense arousal, which may exhibit itself as physical pain and constricting feeling in the heart.
Panic attacks can make them feel like they are dying, and the feeling of impending doom is a big symptom of a panic attack. The diagnostic criteria for panic attacks as described in DSM 5 are as follows:
A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during this time, four of the following symptoms are exhibited:
Note: The sudden surge can happen from a state of calm or anxiousness.
- Shaking or trembling
- Fear of losing control or feeling like they are going crazy.
- Feel like dying
- derealization or depersonalization .
Note: At least one of the panic attacks has been followed by a month of one or both the following:
- Persistent worry or concern regarding additional attacks and their impacts .
- A significant maladaptive behavioral change related to the attacks .
Any other mental disorder does not explain the disturbance in response to traumatic events, like post-traumatic stress disorder , or in response to separation from an attachment figure, like separation anxiety disorder).
What To Do If Your Friend Is Having A Panic Attack
Anyone whos had a panic attack will tell you theyre nasty. Anyone whos had many would use even stronger language. But if youre not one of the 5 in every 100 Australians who have experienced a panic attack, you might not know what your friend is experiencing or how to help them when they are panicking. Heres a few handy hints, and a glimpse into what a panic attack is, so you can be there for your friends when they need you.
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How Can You Avoid A Panic Attack
To avoid a panic attack, figure out what causes it. When its causes are unknown how can we prevent it? You can figure out what triggers panic attacks. When your triggers are known to you one can easily try to prevent them. Here you cant ask how to help someone having a panic attack but rather how can I help myself in preventing panic attacks. Some of them include:
- Learn breathing exercises: Breathing exercises help you during panic attacks and short breathiness. Breathing exercises are great for panic attacks.
- Exercise daily and try some stress management exercises: Including exercise in your daily routine can benefit you. Exercises help in keeping composure apart from good health.
- Try yoga it has some great breathing exercises that will help to calm yourself. Try to master the breathing exercises and paced breathing.
- Take good sleep to avoid mental and physical stress: Make sure you take ample sleep. At least 8 hours of sleep is necessary for everyone to avoid any mental fatigue.
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
This online resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , helps you locate mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find a facility in your state by searching SAMHSAs online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
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Be Patient And Accepting
Remember that being patient, open, and accepting is the best support you can provide for a friend or family member that is suffering from panic attacks. The Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX is equipped to offer and cater services to specific needs to help our clients overcome their anxieties and panic attacks.
Panic Attack Or Anxiety Attack
If youre wondering whether or not your friend is having an anxiety attack or a panic attack, there are a few distinctions between the two. Anxiety attacks are not officially recognized by the American Psychological Association, so theres no official definition. Generally speaking, an anxiety attack is a sudden increase in the symptoms of anxiety because of a certain situation.
That could be a job change, relationship problem, school stress, or really anything thats causing them to worry. Their anxiety over the situation may push them to have panic attack-like symptoms. A panic attack is different because it can happen at any time, may or may not have a specific trigger, and the symptoms feel way more intense.
Panic attacks come with a sudden and strong feeling of fear, to the point where the person might feel like theyre dying, whereas an anxiety attack has more of a gradual build-up of worry, apprehension, and stress that boils over.
Panic attacks are separated into two categories: expected or unexpected. An unexpected panic attack comes out of nowhere with no clear trigger. An expected panic attack may come from a specific trigger, like a phobia or a situation thats associated with a previously traumatizing event.
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Things You Shouldn’t Do
Donât try to minimize it. Understand that the panic you see is real to your friend, even if the cause may not appear rational to you.
Donât be judgmental or critical. Blaming someone for a panic attack doesnât help. Donât try to talk them out of it, either.
If you know what causes your friend’s attacks, donât help them avoid the situation. Escape now could be harmful later. It could make the anxiety worse and raise the odds for more attacks. They may also become reliant on you to shield them from their fears.
Tell Me About How You Feel
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I’m Here For You Tell Me What You Need
This statement lets the person know you care and will be there for them.
Rather than assuming what they might want or need, ask them so you can best meet their needs,Joyce Marter, licensed psychotherapist and author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life, explains. You might ask if they would like to lay down, need some air or water, or if they would like you to sit close to them or give them space.
Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety
There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
- Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.
During therapy, continue to show your support by:
- Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
- Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
- Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
- Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.
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How Do I Help Someone Experiencing A Panic Attack
Note: NAMI volunteers are not medical or mental health professionals, and we cannot offer medical or mental health advice. The material outlined below is informational and we hope that it helps provide guidance toward getting support.
When a person experiences a panic attack, there are things you can do and ways to help that will guide them through the attack and renormalize their physical state. Below you’ll find strategies to help during a panic attack and long-term tips for managing a panic disorder.
Panic Disorderis an anxiety disorder characterized by panic attacks and sudden feelings of terror sometimes striking repeatedly and without warning. Often mistaken for a heart attack, a panic attack causes powerful physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset. Many people will go to great lengths to avoid an attack, including social isolation.
For further information, you may wish to consult theAnxiety Disorderspage of NAMIs website where you will find more on the condition, current treatments, and ways to support recovery. Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not life-threatening. People typically experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
Try Talking To Them Gently
Let them know that youre there for them, and that they are safe. They might not answer you, but if they do then you can ask them what you can do to help.
Try not to take it personally if their response isnt necessarily friendly or helpful remember that theyre unlikely to be aware of what theyre saying or how theyre coming across to you.
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Help Them By Focusing On The Present
Grounding techniques are useful for managing symptoms of a panic attack. These involve engaging your surroundings with your senses, rather than focusing on mental feelings of fear.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Hand your friend something to hold and encourage them to focus on the texture. A piece of ice, a ring of keys, an article of clothing almost anything can work for this.
- If there is food or drink nearby, encourage your friend to focus on the smell and describe it. Other fragrances, such as the smell of a candle, can also help ground a person.
- Suggest doing a few stretches or going for a short walk outside. However, be aware that intense exercise can be hard if theyre experiencing shortness of breath.
Do Me A Favor Count Backward From 100 Slowly
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Ask Them To Focus On Their Breathing
One of the most common and easy to spot signs of a panic attack is rapid and heavy breathing. If you think the person is able to understand you, try encouraging them to take slow, controlled breaths for at least two minutes.
A common misconception with handling a panic attack is to ask the person to breathe into a paper bag but this can be dangerous, and its important that you dont ask anyone to do this.
What Are The Early Signs And Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
Panic attacks are defined differently by each one. Every episode of a panic attack is different from others. But some common and evident symptoms appear at the time of the panic attack. How to help someone having a panic attack in the most appropriate way? The answer could be recognizing their symptoms earliest.
Such symptoms arise and will keep growing for minutes that might stay for more than a couple of minutes, and afterward, everything gets normal. These attacks are very draining. They just steal your energy, and you are left feeling lethargic.
Some of the most common symptoms are sweating, feeling your body is trembling, or shaking. Some say shortness of breath or choking feeling as if something is strangling around the neck.
Running of chills through your body, hot flashes, or nausea are also some symptoms of a panic attack. Headaches, dizziness, or suddenly feeling numbness and tingling sensation.
Some other symptoms are:
- lightheadedness, or feeling as if you are going to faint.
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Dont Give Them Timelines Or Have Expectations
Being critical or judgemental to a person with panic attacks can only make things harder. They may feel like no one understands them which can cause them to isolate themselves more. Giving your friend or family member a timeline to abide by to overcome their worries and anxieties can also be detrimental to their overall recovery journey.
Be Encouraging And Ask Questions
Asking questions short and simple questions can also calm a panic attack that is in full swing. According to our experts at the Grief Recovery Center, it is very helpful to ask the individual having the panic attack the following questions to help them think more rationally:
- How many times have you had panic attacks like this?
- What do you think will happen?
The questions you ask should be brief, and they should only validate and encourage positive statements that the individual makes. Be reassuring and help the person realize that the feeling will come to pass. The way they feel is a part of the panic. It will not kill them or hurt them physically.
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This Will Be Over Soon
How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
If you suspect someone is having a panic attack, Mental Health First Aid teaches you to follow the ALGEE action steps:
IMPORTANT NOTE: You might have seen on TV that people having panic attacks should breathe into a paper bag. This is no longer considered a best practice because the person ends up breathing in carbon dioxide, which could cause them to pass out. If someone is breathing rapidly, dont call attention to their breathing. Simply stay calm and model a steadier breathing rate.
Here are some useful resources you can share:
And dont forget: After youve helped someone, remember to practice self-care. Its not easy to help a person experiencing a mental health issue, so its important to take time for yourself.
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Causes Of Panic Attacks
The real cause of panic attacks has not readily been identified. However, several contributing factors such as stress, genetics and a persons individual temperament may play a role in making someone more susceptible to a panic attack.
Some evidence suggests that panic attacks could be triggered by certain situations. It is best for the individual to monitor their own symptoms and behaviour to better understand which circumstances could potentially be a precursor to a panic attack.
There is some evidence to indicate that panic attacks may be caused by abnormal activations in the amygdala which is responsible for the control of emotions like fear.