As a licensed mental health counselor in Jacksonville, FL, clients often ask me how to know if they have had a panic attack VS an anxiety attack. This article will explore what each of these terms mean and how to know the difference.
A panic attack is a diagnostic label with specific criteria therapists and medical doctors use. When diagnosing mental health conditions, therapists and doctors utilize the "DSM-5," which stands for "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition." This book outlines labels and diagnostic criteria for all mental health disorders officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the DSM-5 (pg. 208), the definition of a panic attack is
"… an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:
1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
3. Trembling or shaking.
4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
5. Feelings of choking.
6. Chest pain or discomfort.
7. Nausea or abdominal distress.
8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint.
9. Chills or head sensations.
10. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).
11. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).
12. Fear of losing control or "going crazy."
13. Fear of dying."
If panic attacks are frequent and accompanied by persistent anxiety more days than not, an individual may meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder, which sounds scarier than it is in reality. Many anxiety disorders can be managed or possibly even resolved completely with proper treatment.
If you read through this list and believe you may have experienced a panic attack (or many panic attacks), you are not alone, and there are MANY resources available to reduce anxiety and prevent panic attacks.
The term anxiety attack has no medical definition and is not included in the DSM-5. It is a term used in conversations among peers and on social media to describe an intense experience of anxiety. Some may use the term interchangeably with the term panic attack, while others may use it to describe intense anxiety that is not quite as severe as a panic attack.
If you are unsure of whether or not you have experienced a panic attack, you may decide to describe your experience using the term anxiety attack, as you likely have experienced anxiety so severe that it feels as if it has attacked your body and mind.
How to Treat Anxiety Attacks VS Panic Attacks
Anxiety and panic attacks are commonly treated with therapy and/or psychiatry. Therapy allows people to uncover the underlying cause of the anxiety symptoms and develop strategies to cope with past traumas and triggering events. When you understand the cause of your anxiety symptoms and how to respond appropriately, anxiety suddenly feels less daunting. Many of my clients are surprised by how quickly their anxiety decreases when they can identify the cause and use coping mechanisms that actually work.
Psychiatric medication can also help treat anxiety and panic attacks. Speaking to a psychiatrist usually entails a formal psychiatric assessment, diagnosis, and medication prescription. Psychiatry and therapy can work together to combat symptoms and provide long-lasting results.
Start Therapy for Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks with Philosophie Therapy
Philosophie Therapy provides therapy services in Jacksonville, FL, designed to treat anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Philosophie Therapy prioritizes your well-being, ensuring you feel seen and supported. Whether you're dealing with anxiety attacks, panic attacks, or general feelings of worry, we're here to help you reach a healthier state of mind. If you believe you might benefit from our expertise, don't hesitate to reach out for a free phone call with a licensed therapist. Click the button below to get started!