What's the Difference Between Panic Attacks, Anxiety Attacks, and Panic Disorder? 1/3 Panic Attacks

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What’s the difference between an anxiety attack, a panic attack, and panic disorder? This is important because people sometimes use these terms interchangeably, they both have a lot of overlapping symptoms, but the treatment for each of them is different. So in this video we’ll talk about the difference, in the next video we’ll talk about good and bad advice for treating them and in the third video we’ll talk about how to stop panic attacks.

Okay, so what’s the difference? First, definitions vary because the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual of mental health disorders, doesn’t define an anxiety attack. Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, physical discomfort, and fear. Anxiety attacks usually come in anticipation of some event. You might have work stress or a family event or financial trouble or all three, and the stress becomes overwhelming. Anxiety builds over time until it reaches a breaking point. While anxiety may build over hours or days, anxiety attacks usually last less than 30 minutes.

Panic attacks are defined in the DSM-5. Around one in three people will have at least one panic attack in their lifetime. With panic attacks, a sense of overwhelming fear comes on suddenly. They are more like a balloon popping. There are two types of panic attacks: unexpected panic attacks which seem to come out of nowhere, and expected panic attacks which come in response to some kind of phobia. For example, if you’re afraid of snakes and suddenly come across one, that may trigger a panic attack.

Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks include a sense of fear, discomfort, and the FFF response triggers physical symptoms like fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, tightness of throat, dizziness, nausea, sweating, dry mouth, shaking) etc.

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Therapy in a Nutshell and the information provided by Emma McAdam are solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and are not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Emma McAdam is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.
In therapy I use a combination of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Systems Theory, positive psychology, and a bio-psycho-social approach to treating mental illness and other challenges we all face in life. The ideas from my videos are frequently adapted from multiple sources. Many of them come from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, especially the work of Steven Hayes, Jason Luoma, and Russ Harris. The sections on stress and the mind-body connection derive from the work of Stephen Porges (the Polyvagal theory), Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing) Francine Shapiro (EMDR), and Bessel Van Der Kolk. I also rely heavily on the work of the Arbinger institute for my overall understanding of our ability to choose our life’s direction.
And deeper than all of that, the Gospel of Jesus Christ orients my personal worldview and sense of security, peace, hope, and love https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/comeuntochrist/believe

If you are in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or your local emergency services.
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Padmini Ram says:

Can you please talk about teenage anxiety and what parents can do to help them?

ngpi1987 says:

Dear Emma, I am finally treating my TDAH, I've been under meds for almost a months and I am using journaling as a tool to help me remember all kind of stuff and helping me become conscious around the challenges of this condition.

I wanted to ask you about your journaling course. Since organizing and committing to habit is very challenging for me, I wanted to ask you (for weird as it sounds) how much time do you recommend to dedicate to it daily, or how long it takes, and if you think it could help me with my issues.

Joey Lewis says:

One thing that’s helped me is if I try to control it, it will control me. If I accept the panic attack, and just keep telling my self over and over again, “it’s not going to hurt me, it will only last for a few moments”. I imagine a square with my breathing and follow the outline of that square with my breathing and it really helps. My panic attacks are at a minimum now. I haven’t had a full blown attack in about 3 months. The constant underlying anxiety/panic is still there sometimes but no where near as bad as they used to be. So don’t try to control it, or it will 100% control you.

Many Hats says:

Once I helped out in a dangerous situation. Right after I thought I should go baby myself up. I went and laid down with a cold rag on my head. Guess what, I got real nausea! I jumped back up and started moving around, this helped. The adrenaline of the event had to leave my body slow. I had forced it to calm down too fast by pampering myself. Adrenaline(panic) needs to slowly leave the body system.

Regina Semenenko says:

I know this probably isn't as severe as an attack, but neither I nor my husband can sleep. He is from Ukraine and Vladimir Putin's paid terrorist soldiers are killing innocent civillians, even as they try to evacuate. My hubby came to the US 20 years ago and he is a US Citizen. My guy is feeling very guilty about not helping with the war effort because he is former military. We are donating some money, but my husband feels he should do more. He is extremely nervous/disagreeable/angry every day and I wish I knew how I could better support him. I try to encourage him, pray for him, handle some things that he normally does to help him cope, but it doesn't seem to help.

Rishabh Singh says:

More power to u guyss …..u all r heroes ….remember u r not alone ,I m shouting for u guyss nd I feel that u r all gonna get better with time bcoz u r all so strong ,stronger than many people out there.

Loubielou says:

I’ve suffered panic attacks (well I know it’s a panic disorder) for 2 years, it’s the dizziness that gets me sometimes it’s ok, lasting 30 minutes but sometimes it’s so bad I’m stuck in the bathroom and the dizziness lasts for more then an hour. I have an amazing partner who helps me.

Katie craven says:

Your videos are life changing. Thank you so much!

Kevin Garnica says:

I'm still not sure which one I have. I get all the usual symptoms (fast heart rate, feeling weak in the knees/faint, dizziness, numbness in my extremities, jitteriness, high blood pressure). I would say they come on unexpectedly and suddenly, I can't foretell based on anything particularly stressful in the immediate future, usually it's in the middle of something mundane or even happy. However, They last a long time. 30 minutes? I wish! Mine seem to last upwards of an hour at least. Usually have to take Lorazepam for them. Which one do I have?

Atypical Paul says:

I agree trying to stop the panic attack makes it worse. If I drive home it gets better but that running away makes it worse next time

Atypical Paul says:

With My panic attacks once they subside I'll have anxiety attack for hours
For me it is often anxiety attack into a panic attack then back into an anxiety attack.

Atypical Paul says:

I have both anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I'm in a bad cycle of panic attacks right now. I start getting anxious when I leave my house and when I get about 10 mins away I have a panic attack

Clare Miller says:

I worked out when I was having recurring panic attacks on the train, that getting off the train didn't help in the long run. Sure I calmed down, after a bit, but then I just had to get back on to make it home! I'll watch the next video too but I just wanted to share what worked in the end for me was staying in the feeling and repeating to myself that I was safe and I wasn't going to be hurt where I was.
The most frustrating thing really was that the attacks were not precipitated by like being in a train crash, but because I needed to go to the bathroom really badly a few days in a row during the longest stretch of the train ride and basically freaked my nervous system out. This was in 2019 and I still get a little voice in my head of fear that I have to fight when I go to the shops (being stuck in lockdown for months on end didn't help the leaving-the-house anxiety much either thanks COVID). Basically I'm constantly reminding myself that I won't have a bathroom accident in public and, even if I did, I wouldn't die so no big deal. It's SO dumb and embarrassing but if it helps one person feel less alone then it's worth sharing.

International College Infopedia says:

If you read my comment I have witness sudden fast heart beat and breathing issue and I suffer it for 15 to 20 days continously what type of attack it is before practicing deep breathing techniques I was having attack but I didn't witness any sort of attack

Jill Kinsley says:

I am more confused.

tacettin kilic says:

So I know mine is panic disorder it takes hours I had it easy 10000 times

lily marie says:

i’m a 14 year old teen and my teacher helped me find your youtube. i want to thank you for these videos because they help me deal with things in a way i never would have known to deal with. do you have any ways i could deal with panic attacks at a school environment?

Miguel Garcia says:

Hi Emma, I think I have a disorder of some kind of somniphobia and anxiety depression do you think you can help me or point me in the right direction?

Mariah Sisneros says:

Oh my god! Thank you SO MUCH for this. I could cry tears of joy. I had been having panic attacks for about 5 days straight, I even had to call 911 so I could be calmed down. It is like you're speaking directly to me. I want to cry tears of joy because you explained everything I've experienced!!! I think I have GAD and panic disorder. I start therapy in 2 days and am so relieved. It's hard for others to truly understand what I'm going thru. Thank you for this! I'm actually going to be on my way soon for my anxiety meds at my drs office.

ayo akinsiku says:

I have had a really bad panic attack while delivering a presentation and man it's not preety. Lost all motor functions and nothing seemed to work to calm me. Haven't had it since though.

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