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At the moment of stress, you may strongly feel that the difference doesn’t matter. That’s understandable. However, understanding where anxiety ends and panic begins can be very helpful when it comes to getting the help you need. The mind and body seem to work in mysterious ways. Actually, we know a fair amount about how stress affects us.

If you fear something bad is about to happen, you increase the chances of dealing with anxiety. When you take the time to learn more about how these mechanisms work, you are taking a giant step toward recovery. Let’s use this post as a step in that direction.

What is a Panic Attack?

Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to fear. This doesn’t mean that response is proportionate or logical. In fact, a panic attack is usually just that. We react intensely whether or not intensity is warranted. Here are some important panic attack facts:

  • A panic attack can be a one-time or occasional event.
  • A panic attack can be a clear symptom of a panic disorder.
  • It does not have to have an obvious trigger.
  • It can occur suddenly—adding to the anxiety and panic.
  • A panic attack can happen regardless of your current state of mind.
  • Panic attacks can end in a matter of minutes but, as they are happening, they feel permanent.

Young white woman with long brown hair sitting on a couch with her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs | showing someone feeling anxious or having a panic attack

Most commonly, a panic attack is a symptom of a diagnosable mental health condition called Panic Attack Disorder. The symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • Body temperature fluctuations (hot or cold)
  • Chest pain, racing heart rate
  • Shallow breathing, feeling like you might be choking
  • Shaky legs, hands, voice, and more
  • Extreme perspiration
  • Stomach disturbances (particularly nausea)
  • Feeling as if you may faint

More abstractly, a panic attack can bring on feelings like:

  • Detachment from your surroundings
  • Complete loss of control
  • Fear of having a heart attack
  • Fear of dying

What is an Anxiety Attack?

For the record, the term “anxiety attack” is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V). This does not make it any less real or any less frightening. You’re already struggling with high anxiety. Suddenly, everything kicks up a few notches, and you’re overwhelmed. Generally speaking, an anxiety attack is less intense than a panic attack and caused by an identifiable trigger. Even so, its symptoms can mimic a panic attack and be mistaken as such. Simply put, an anxiety attack is precisely what those two words mean.

Managing the Panic

To bring things back to where we started, all of the above may feel unimportant when such an attack happens. Your initial, urgent goal is to end the anxiety and panic, manage it the best you can. After that, you can get the professional help you need to identify the root causes. Some suggestions in the meantime:

Understand What’s Happening When You Experience Panic

This entire post has been about helping you recognize what you’re going through. You can’t fully prepare for a panic attack. But if you know what they are, why they happen, and how to calm yourself, they feel less frightening.

White woman with brown hair pulled back and her eyes closed wearing a pink sweater | her mouth is open slightly and her hands are near her face with thumbs and index fingers touching | showing someone calming themselves with deep breathing

Breathing Exercises to Calm Anxiety and Panic

Practice them when all is calm. Call on them when you feel anxiety rising. You can’t avoid all your triggers. But you can lessen the impact of some symptoms. Deep breathing helps… a lot.

Bodily Awareness to Ease Anxiety and Panic Attacks

During a panic attack or an anxiety attack, all your focus is centered on your thoughts. Reconnecting with your senses can help move you out of the attack. Try taking your shoes off and walking around in the grass. Find a candle or essential oil to smell. Go outside, maybe visit Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio and look at birds or notice the wind in the trees. Grounding yourself with your senses will help your mind focus on the present and away from your worries. 

Wooded area with a trail and sunlight in the Nature Preserve at Highbanks Metro Park in Columbus Ohio

Columbus Ohio Therapists

You do not need to live in fear of the next attack. Speaking with a licensed therapist or counselor will help you identify your triggers and help you come up with coping techniques should panic strike again. Call today to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors in Columbus Ohio and regain control of your anxiety