Difference between Anxiety Attack and Panic Attack

Updated on February 14, 2018

Panic disorders can be one of the most difficult things to live with, and when reading about them, one will often come across the terms anxiety attack and panic attack. What are the differences between them? The differences are few, and this article will help explain the difference.


Panic attack

A panic attack is a sudden and extremely intense period of acute fear, anxiety, and discomfort. Physical symptoms include tightness in the chest, heart palpitations, dizziness, and nausea. Emotional/mental symptoms include anxiety, a feeling like you’re about to die, and a feeling of intense dread. What makes panic attacks so difficult to deal with is there is very rarely warning that they are about to occur, and once they happen, there is no way to stop them outside of waiting for the attack to end.

An anxiety attack isn’t a medical term, and can refer to a number of different situations. Some people use anxiety attack interchangeably with panic attack, and some people use anxiety attack to refer to any period of heightened anxiety – which is just anxiety.

Comparison chart

Panic attackAnxiety attack
A period of intense dread, fear, and anxiety.No standardized usage, can be a panic attack or just heightened anxiety
Tightness in chest, feeling of impending death.Regular anxiety symptoms or panic attack symptoms if used to refer to a panic attack.

Panic attack vs Anxiety attack

What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack? There aren’t too many differences if the usage of “anxiety attack” is interchangeable with “panic attack.” In such a case, the two are the exact same.

If “anxiety attack” is used to refer to a period of generally heightened anxiety that’s not bad enough to be a panic attack (for example, if you’re waiting on an important call, your anxiety will be heightened), then the main difference is that the symptoms will be less severe.

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