A lot of people may use the terms panic attack and anxiety attack interchangeably. While these two conditions may have similarities, one is entirely different from the other. In this anxiety attack vs panic attack comparison, we’ll explore each separately, identify the differences in symptoms, causes, and risk factors, and know how you can go about treating these disorders. We’ll also share a couple of useful home remedies to make sure you know what to do in cases where the symptoms begin to creep up.

Overview of Anxiety Attacks

Let’s first consider what an anxiety attack is. This is the type of attack that involves recurring episodes of uncontrollable fear which can gradually intensify. You usually experience anxiety when you’re exposed to stressors that trigger you.

A lot of people who have anxiety disorder can feel an imminent attack due to their exposure to stressors or triggers. This gives them a window to implement preventive measures which, in turn, reduces risks such as serious emotional distress.

What is a Panic Attack?

While a panic attack might have some similarities to anxiety attacks, one that makes it very different is the fact that it comes on without a warning. Also, panic attacks can completely disrupt your life[1], because they occur unexpectedly.

Identifying the triggers may be very challenging. In some instances, you may experience a panic attack due to an overwhelming and stressful situation. This is described as an expected panic attack. However, some people suffer from these attacks without knowing what causes them.

Another thing that makes panic attacks very difficult to deal with is the manifestations of various physical symptoms. These may include symptoms like breathing difficulties and a pounding heartbeat. Other possible symptoms that come with panic attacks are trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, and anxiety.

How Do Symptoms Differ Between Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack?

Drawing the line between anxiety attacks and panic attacks might be hard if you only focus on the symptoms. That’s because many of their symptoms are similar. For example, you can have both panic and anxiety chest pain.

These are some of the symptoms you may experience with panic and anxiety attacks:

  • Emotional distress and worry
  • Fear that you will lose control over yourself
  • Chest pain, heart palpitations, and a rapid heartrate
  • A tightness that develops in your throat
  • Derealization and depersonalization (feeling like you’re not attached to yourself or the world around you)
  • Nausea - a lot of people ask, “Can anxiety cause nausea?, the short (and somewhat surprising) answer is yes
  • Headache, dizziness, or feeling of lightheadedness

When you experience these symptoms, your consciousness plays an important role in determining whether you are having an anxiety attack or a panic attack. For example, an anxiety headache may take some time to develop throughout the day.

On the other hand, panic attack symptoms manifest in a much faster onset. Hence, it is essential to be conscious and aware of the signs especially if you want to learn how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety or panic attack.


What Can Cause Panic and Anxiety Attacks?

When it comes to comparing the cause of anxiety attack vs panic attack, there are a few things to keep in mind. Remember that the potential triggers and causes are similar for both anxiety attacks and expected panic attacks. However, you may have a tough time understanding[2] why unexpected panic attacks happen.

These are the possible situations that can cause you to experience an expected panic attack or an anxiety attack:

  • You have a job that causes consistent stress on you.

  • You have difficulty coping in social environments. This is a potential trigger.

  • Some chronic diseases can cause you to experience these attacks. Examples include asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

  • People who have chronic pain also have a greater risk of experiencing anxiety and panic.

  • Too much caffeine is another known trigger that can raise your heart rate and cause you to experience a panic or anxiety attack.

  • Reliving previous traumatic events, especially if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can also trigger an attack.

Apart from these, it’s also important to understand the link between these attacks and withdrawal from an addiction. Disengaging from an addiction may trigger attacks during the withdrawal process. In such a case, you might even get a panic attack while sleeping, and wake up with a fast heart rate and other physical symptoms.

Are the Risk Factors the Same for Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

Understanding the causes behind panic and anxiety attacks is crucial. But, it is also beneficial to know certain risk factors for better management of these conditions. These things increase your likelihood of experiencing an attack.

Here are some of the most important risk factors that you should be aware of:

  • A generally anxious personality
  • Family, finances, work environment, and a major change in life.
  • Witnessing traumatic events as a child or having experienced them yourself.
  • A traumatic experience as an adult.
  • Serious health issues with a disease that worsens health and puts life in danger.
  • Mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Family history of panic and anxiety attacks.
  • Use of illicit drugs or alcoholism.

Diagnosis: Panic Attack Vs Anxiety Attack

If you are having episodes of anxiety or panic attacks, it is best to consult a medical professional to help you identify your triggers and establish a support system to better manage your condition. The process will start with a physical examination. During your visit, the doctor may ask you questions about your current health condition. Your doctor may run a battery of tests such as an electrocardiogram to get a better view of your heart and some blood tests.

At this point, your doctor wants to rule out other potential causes, such as heart disease or another chronic disease.

You’ll also need to go through a psychological process, where a therapist might ask you a couple of questions regarding your present life situation. This can help them get a better idea of your emotional well-being.

What Treatment Options Can Work For Panic And Anxiety Attacks?

Treatments for these conditions are classified into two main categories. When you do a comparison between anxiety attacks and panic attacks, you’ll see that the treatments are fairly similar.

The first is counseling. This may include treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been proven useful[3] when it comes to anxiety and panic disorders. Your psychologist or therapist may also introduce you to relaxation and breathing techniques.

There are anxiety and panic attack medication options that can help as well. If you have another mental health condition such as depression, your doctor may focus on treating both at the same time. You may be prescribed an antidepressant, along with other medications to keep you calm when you have an anxiety or panic attack.

What Can You Do About An Anxiety Attack Vs Panic Attack?

Apart from what your doctor and therapist can do for you, there are some things you can do for yourself at home. Knowing how to calm anxiety or panic attacks is an excellent self-help practice. Here are some strategies.

  • Take slow, deep breaths: Deep breathing is an excellent technique that helps a lot of people calm down and reduce their heart rate. One study[4] found that it’s not only effective for anxiety, but also reduces feelings of depression.

  • Recognize and accept what you’re experiencing: Awareness plays an important part in countering the effects of anxiety and panic. Sit down and recognize what you’re going through. Then, accept your feelings and the fact that you’re allowed to feel this way - finally, let go of those feelings.

  • Practice mindfulness: Another option is mindfulness. Meditating helps you reach a state of mindfulness and become more aware of yourself. This makes it easier to recognize your feelings and accept them in the process.

  • Engage in relaxation activities: Several relaxation practices can help you ease out excessive worrying and relieve stress. You can practice Tai Chi or put on aromatherapy to help you relax. You might need to do some experimenting to find what works best for you.

  • Lifestyle changes: A couple of changes to your lifestyle can do a lot to combat anxiety and panic attacks. Eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and don’t use drugs. If you drink alcohol, cut it down or stop gradually. You should also consider a supplement like Serelax. These are non-habit-forming supplements that help to keep you calm, relieve your stress, and reduce your feelings of anxiety without relying on medication.


How do you calm an anxiety attack?

It’s important to try and find a safe space where you can process your feelings. Try deep breathing exercises and grounding techniques. A lot of people also find that meditation is really helpful.

Can panic attacks be cured?

If you have panic disorder, know that there are treatments that can help. Therapy, along with the right medication, can help reduce your symptoms and give you a chance to work through your emotions.

What is the 333 rule for anxiety?

The 333 rule helps you calm down during an anxiety attack. Look around your surroundings and name three different objects. Then, identify three different sounds that you hear. The final step is to move three different body parts.


You might say that panic attacks and anxiety attacks are similar when it comes to some aspects like causes and symptoms. However, these two conditions are different, particularly on the onset of occurrence. Understanding the concepts of anxiety attacks vs panic attacks is crucial for effective management. Seeking professional help and creating a strong family and peer support system, a change in your lifestyle should help you cope with your condition.


1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430973/
2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6232935/
3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8475916/
4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9877284

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Ahmed Zayad

Dr. Zayed, has years of experience in the field and has been contributing to public health awareness. Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. Egypt. Dr. Zayed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. His articles were featured on many websites like HuffingtonPost, Chicagotribune . Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Zayed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayad

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