THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PANIC ATTACK AND ANXIETY

After the global events of the past two years, ‘mental health’ was one of Google’s most searched keywords. All the uncertainty played a role in the collective anxiety and panic. As we emerge from the pandemic, people are searching for ways to heal and feel better, more centred and calmer. But before we jump into simple practical tools to help you deal with worry, let’s understand the fine difference between panic attacks and anxiety.

What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is an exaggerated body’s response to fear, stress or sometimes excitement. Panic attacks come on very quickly with symptoms usually peaking within the first 10 minutes. Most panic attacks last for 5-20 minutes. The sensations may include a pounding heartbeat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, breathing discomfort or inability to breath, feelings of losing control of the body accompanied by shaky limbs and legs.

What is anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. You can probably relate to feeling tense, uncertain and, perhaps, fearful at the thought of a job interview, going to a dentist, or starting your own business. You may worry about appearing silly, feeling awkward or how successful you can be. These worries can affect your sleep, appetite, and ability to focus. But if everything goes well, the anxiety will fade. This type of short-term anxiety can even be useful. Feeling nervous before an interview can make you feel more alert and enhance your performance.

If the anxiety continues at a peak level for a long time, you may feel that it is difficult to deal with everyday life. When anxiety becomes severe; you may feel helpless, out of control, as if you are about to collapse or lose your mind. Overwhelming anxiety may lead to a panic attack.

Why is it happening?
Although there are no clear causes for unexpected panic attacks, some of the common triggers include traumatic experiences, phobias, chronic stress, cardiovascular diseases, chronic physical pain and sometimes awkward social situations. Other reasons could be withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, side effects from medication or supplements, too much caffeine, or thyroid problems.

How to cope:

  • As with many other health issues, changes in your lifestyle play a huge role. Adopting healthy lifestyle practices can help prevent anxiety and panic attacks, as well as reduce the severity of symptoms when an attack occurs.
  • Manage stress in your daily life, learn how to identify and stop negative thoughts.
  • Exercise regularly or take walks in nature, practice meditation or yoga.
  • A lot of people underestimate the impact a healthy diet has on our mental wellbeing. Eating a balanced diet can help reduce anxiety and stress as well as improve overall wellbeing.
  • Consumption of alcohol, drugs and caffeine should be avoided if you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.
  • If you feel a panic attack coming on, take deep slow breaths and bring your thoughts out of your head and into your body. Concentrate on the physical sensations while focusing on relaxing your muscles.


Conclusion
The symptoms of anxiety are not the same as a panic attack, though these terms are often used interchangeably. They have similar symptoms and causes; however, panic attacks tend to be more severe and are often associated with more serious physical symptoms.

Kamalaya offers a host of comprehensive wellness programs within the Stress & Burnout and Cultivating Heart, Body & Spirit categories that can help you to reduce anxiety and manage panic attack symptoms.

The Embracing Change program in particular can help to release physical and emotional blockages. While Asian Bliss program can help to recover from stress and burnout by restoring your inner balance, bringing you to a state of physical and mental harmony. And our Sleep Enhancement wellness program can help deal with one of the most common side effects of anxiety – insomnia, while also tackling any stress in your life.

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