The Difference Between a Panic Disorder and Anxiety

The Difference Between a Panic Disorder and Anxiety

Many people confuse panic and anxiety because they share overlapping symptoms and side effects. However, anxiety and panic disorders are very different and have unique treatments. According to StatPearls Publishing, “Panic disorder and panic attacks are two of the most common problems seen in the world of psychiatry.” Anxiety is also incredibly common and often co-occurs alongside other conditions. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention treats anxiety-related issues like panic disorder using psychotherapy and other evidence-based methods

The Primary Differences Between Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder, while anxiety can be a symptom of many issues, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). According to MedlinePlus, “Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder” that “causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger.” The possible risk factors for developing panic disorder or anxiety include: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Genetics 
  • Environmental factors 
  • A family history of anxiety disorders 

Some of the ways that panic disorder differs significantly from anxiety include: 

  • Feelings of fear or panic may have no trigger 
  • Symptoms can manifest at any time 
  • Panic disorders often involve a sudden sense of fear or unease regardless of emotional state or environmental triggers 

Living with panic can leave people on edge, never knowing when the next attack will strike. Early intervention and treatment can protect against long-term issues by providing the tools you need to cope and function from day to day. Mindfulness-based techniques, relaxation exercises, and other coping skills can decrease the symptoms of panic disorder over time. You can also use the same methods to reduce stress and general anxiety. 

Possible Side Effects

The possible side effects of anxiety or panic disorder can affect your physical and mental health. In many cases, talk therapy or other treatments decrease the risk of side effects, including: 

  • High blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of kidney and heart disease
  • Panic attacks
  • Physical symptoms, including sweating, muscle weakness, nausea, elevated heart rate, and shortness of breath 
  • Increased risk of long-term hypertension 
  • Chest pain during and after episodes of panic 

Anxiety can profoundly affect long-term heart and brain health. Many people experience physical symptoms like chest pain and may confuse panic for a heart attack or other serious illnesses. However, it is essential to get checked by a medical professional if you experience physical discomfort like heart palpitations. In some cases, they may signify the presence of other, more serious health issues. 

Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders often respond the best to a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), peer support, alternative holistic therapies, and prescription medication. The most common therapies used to treat anxiety-related conditions like panic disorder include: 

  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) 
  • Trauma therapy 
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) 
  • Additional forms of psychotherapy 
  • Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

A holistic approach to treatment can give you the best results. Diet education is also an essential part of treatment for individuals with high anxiety levels. Some foods may exacerbate the symptoms, and a dietician or nutritionist can teach you what foods to avoid. In addition, a lack of proper nutrition can profoundly affect the brain and body. A healthy diet can improve mood, decrease stress, and reduce overall anxiety. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends that people “Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and turn to family and friends who [they] trust for support.” Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention offers dietary coaching and health education to help clients build the foundation for a healthier lifestyle. 

Treatment Options for Panic Disorder

Personalized care ensures all active and underlying issues get treated simultaneously using integrative treatment, including: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy 
  • Exposure therapy
  • Antidepressant and antianxiety medication 
  • Peer support and self-help groups 
  • Alternative holistic therapies 
  • Medication management

You can work with your care team to determine what complementary treatments will work best to help you heal and recover from the effects of panic disorder. Care plans may also involve collaboration with your family and other members of your support system.

You Can Recover From Panic and Anxiety

Recovery from anxiety disorders takes time and a willingness to change. You can successfully heal from anxiety-related mental health issues. During treatment and aftercare, you will form healthy relationships and learn new ways to cope with everyday challenges. You can recover with the help of your loved ones and our care team. The treatment process involves collaborating closely with our compassionate clinicians and engaging in alternative holistic therapies. 

Treatment for panic disorder usually involves a transition through various levels of care followed by continuing care, where you can take advantage of the following resources: 

  • Community-based support groups 
  • Individual and trauma therapy 
  • Alumni support services 

Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes, and you will always have moments where you might start to feel overwhelmed. Treatment provides you with the tools to recognize the signs of panic and will help manage stressors in a healthy way. You can successfully recover from panic and anxiety disorders. 

Anxiety and panic disorder have very similar causes and side effects but different symptoms. In addition, the treatments that work best for panic disorder are often different from the ones used to lower overall anxiety. Anxiety may be caused by feeling overwhelmed by internal or external stressors or chronic emotional distress and usually involves triggers. However, many people with panic disorder experience panic attacks, often without any noticeable triggers. Alter San Diego Crisis Intervention provides essential support services and crisis stabilization to help people struggling with the effects of panic disorder and anxiety. To learn more about our programs and the services we have to offer, call our office today at (866) 986-1481.