Are Anxiety Attacks And Panic Attacks The Same Thing?

The terms panic attack and anxiety attack are used interchangeably by most people, but are panic and anxiety really the same thing?


Panic attack is the official term used in the DSM-IV-TR to describe the extreme feelings experienced by people with panic disorder. Terror is a word commonly used to describe the feeling accompanying a panic attack, and it is not an overstatement. People who are experiencing panic have physical symptoms like a racing heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. They also often feel a detachment from reality, and fear dying, losing control, or going crazy. Panic attacks usually come on quite suddenly and are often over within 20 minutes.


Anxiety is used to describe a central component of several different disorders, all categorized together under the heading of anxiety disorders. Anxiety often results in symptoms similar to panic, such as increased heart rate and shortness of breath, but anxiety is less intense than panic. It is more associated with feelings of excessive worry rather than terror or extreme fear.

Anxiety tends to last for a prolonged period of time--weeks or months rather than minutes as with panic. If untreated, it often increases in intensity over time. While people with a panic disorder experience anxiety, those with other anxiety disorders do not necessarily experience panic.

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