“These mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb….” Nawja Zebian
Do you have symptoms of:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
Anxiety feels like fear. It is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. When it’s there a lot of the time, caused by a problem in our life that can’t be solved, like money difficulties, we call it worry. If it is a sudden reaction to a threat, like looking over a cliff or being confronted by a vicious dog, we call it fear. Anxiety and fear are normal human emotions.
Fast facts about anxiety
- An anxiety attack usually involves a fear of some specific occurrence or problem that could happen.
- Symptoms include worry, restlessness, and possibly physical symptoms, such as changes in heart rate.
- Anxiety is different from a panic attack, but it can occur as part of an anxiety or panic disorder.
Kathleen Davis FNP states in Medical New Today (5 November 2018) that anxiety can be a symptom of panic, but it is different from a 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”
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
NOTE: The term “anxiety attack” is not listed in the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V).
Panic attacks, however, are a symptom of panic disorder in the DSM-V. Only a licensed professional can diagnose panic disorder.
Difference in symptoms
Both panic and anxiety can involve fear, a pounding or racing heart, light-headedness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and irrational thoughts. However, in a panic attack, these are far more severe. The person may genuinely believe they are going to die. A person is more likely to require medical attention if they have a panic attack versus an anxiety attack.
Differences in how they start
Anxiety can be a response to a specific worry or fear. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe. There may be a sense that if only this problem can be solved, everything will be all right.
A panic attack can happen without warning, and there is no way to prevent it. It can happen whether a person feels calm or anxious, and even during sleep. There is often no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger. In fact, according to the APA, the reaction is unrelated to the situation.
Differences in duration
Anxiety is often related to a specific situation. It tends to build up and continue for some time.
A panic attack starts suddenly, symptoms peak after 10 minutes and usually abate after 30 minutes or so, although the effects may last longer. Anxiety generally does not peak in this way, but some people with anxiety can progress to panic attacks.
Can anxiety lead to panic?
A person who has panic disorder may experience anxiety that they are going to have a panic attack. The uncertainty about if or when an attack is going to happen can lead to anxiety between attacks.
For a person with panic disorder, anxiety may trigger a panic attack. The fear of having a panic attack can affect the person’s behavior and ability to function in daily life.
The APA suggest there may be a biological factor underlying panic disorder, but scientists have not yet identified a specific marker.
Anxiety disorders differ from normal these normal emotions in terms of degree and duration. The fear is excessive and continues beyond developmentally appropriate periods.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that share a general feature of excessive fear, which affect how we feel and behave and can cause physical symptoms. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. In order to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the DSM criteria require that symptoms must cause a person significant distress or impairment. Therefore, just because someone is experiencing some symptoms of anxiety, it does not mean they meet the requirements for a mental disorder unless their symptoms are highly distressing to them, and/or cause significant problems in their functioning. Similarly, panic attacks are a prominent symptom of many anxiety disorders.
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Panic Attacks
- Panic Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Selective Mutism
- Specific Phobias
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Related Disorders
- Associated Psychiatric Disorders
All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms:
- Panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Sleep problems
- Not being able to stay calm and still
- Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Tense muscles
Researchers don’t know exactly what brings on anxiety disorders. Like other forms of mental illness, they stem from a combination of things, including changes in your brain and environmental stress, and even your genes. The disorders can run in families and could be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and other emotions.