In most discussions about mental health regarding anxiety, you may have heard the terms “panic attack” and “anxiety attack.” These terms are often used interchangeably as if they describe the same thing, and while they are very similar, they are two different things. Understanding the differences between panic attacks and anxiety attacks can help you identify what you may be experiencing and point you in the right direction of treatment.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack often comes on suddenly, causing a person to feel discomfort, fear, or even terror on top of other symptoms. Panic attacks are often so severe that they cause significant disruption to one’s life. They typically occur in people with panic disorder, but they can happen even if you do not have one. They generally are more intense than anxiety attacks and last longer.


Panic attacks can show up in both mental and physical symptoms. These symptoms will typically peak within ten minutes of the episode and then begin to subside, but some attacks can last longer than average or even occur in succession.

Mental Symptoms: Fear of losing control, feeling detached from yourself, fear of dying, fear of going crazy, and feelings of being disconnected from reality

Physical Symptoms: Hot flashes, chest pain, excessive sweating, shakiness, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, chills, dizziness, numbness, nausea, and feelings of choking

What is an Anxiety Attack?

Unlike panic attacks, anxiety attacks build up over time and cause a person to excessively worry about a perceived danger. At times, these feelings of worry can result in high-stress levels that can cause a person to become overwhelmed, hence the name “anxiety attack.”


Just like panic attacks, anxiety attacks have both mental and physical symptoms. However, they differ in that the symptoms of an anxiety attack are less intense.

Mental Symptoms: Restlessness, problems concentrating, and irritability

Physical Symptoms: Increased heart rate, sleep problems, fatigue, dizziness, muscle tension, and increased startle response


At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.