An anxiety attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear and anxiety.
These anxiety attacks can sometimes occur unexpectedly for no apparent reason, but they can also be linked to specific triggers.
“Anxiety attack” is not a formal, clinical term. Instead, it is a term often used informally by many people to describe all sorts of anxious episodes.
People may use it to describe a range of sensations, from worries about an upcoming event to intense feelings of fear that would meet the diagnostic criteria for a panic attack.
In order to understand what someone means by “anxiety attack,” it is necessary to consider the context in which the symptoms occur.
Anxiety can occur when a person fears that something bad is going to happen.
It is a non-medical term that refers to a feeling of fear or worry that often relates to a particular issue or concern.
Symptoms of Anxiety Attack
Symptoms of an anxiety attack can vary.
Some people may only experience a few mild symptoms of anxiety, while others may experience a wide variety of more intense symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry mouth
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heart rate
- Tightness in the chest and throat
- Trouble concentrating
Anxiety can be a symptom of panic, but it is different from a panic attack.
What are the differences between an anxiety attack and panic attack?
An anxiety attack, or anxiety:
- can have a specific trigger, such as an exam, workplace issues, a health issue, or a relationship problem
- is not a diagnosable condition
- is less severe than a panic attack
- usually develops gradually when a person feels anxious
- involves physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or “knot in the stomach“
Whereas a panic attack:
- does not have a specific trigger
- can be a symptom of panic disorder, a diagnosable condition
- has severe symptoms
- can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious
- involves physical symptoms and feelings of terror so intense that the person fears a total loss of control or imminent death
- often occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and last between a few minutes and an hour, although the negative impact may continue
It’s an intense feeling of terror, fear, or apprehension for no apparent reason.
If so, you may have experienced a panic attack.
If you experience recurrent panic attacks, you may have a condition known as panic disorder.
Panic attacks can be confusing and scary for the person experiencing them.
It is because they are usually sudden and are accompanied by extremely intense physical sensations.
This can lead a person to believe they may have a serious medical condition.
Because panic attack symptoms, do overlap with symptoms of certain serious conditions, it is important to rule out any medical causes.
Panic Attack Symptoms
Symptoms of a panic attack may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Chills, or hot flushes
- Fear of dying
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Feeling of choking
- Feelings of unreality (derealization) or of being detached from oneself
- Heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesias)
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Trembling or shaking