What is the Difference Between an Anxiety and a Panic Attack?

image
We all become anxious or nervous from time to time–when preparing for an important meeting with a boss, speaking in front of a large group, or going through a challenging life transition. For some people, overwhelming thoughts and behaviors become so frequent and forceful that they begin to overtake their lives.

So, how do you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line or maybe even developed into a panic disorder? The differences between panic and anxiety are best described in terms of the intense symptoms and length of time the predominant symptoms occur.

Panic Attack

A Panic attack typically doesn’t come in reaction to a stressor. It’s unprovoked and unpredictable. And during a panic attack the individual is seized with terror, fear, or apprehension. They may feel that they’re going to die, or lose control or have a heart attack. These symptoms usually occur “out of the blue,” peak within 10 minutes and then subside.

 
During a panic attack, the symptoms are sudden and extremely intense. They have a host of physical symptoms which may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea. And in addition to these terrifying panic attacks, people start worrying about having the next one. Additionally, some attacks may last longer or may occur in succession, making it difficult to determine when one attack ends and another begins.

There’s also a lot of what’s called anticipatory anxiety. So, following an attack, it is not unusual to feel stressed, worried, out-of-sorts, or “keyed up” the remainder of the day.

 
Anxiety Attack

While some of the symptoms of an anxiety arrack are similar to many of the symptoms associated with panic attacks, they are generally less intense. During an anxiety attack, people may feel fearful, apprehensive, may feel their heart racing or feel short of breath, but it’s very short lived, and when the stressor goes away, so does the anxiety attack. Anxiety is highly correlated to excessive worry. Another important distinction is that, unlike a panic attack, the symptoms of anxiety may be persistent and very long-lasting — days, weeks or even months.

Treatment

Anxiety and panic disorder treatment may involve therapy or medication or a combination of both. Lifestyle modifications such as avoidance of alcohol, nicotine or caffeine, being aware of anxiety levels to avoid panic attacks, proper control of feelings and relaxation techniques ( breathing, meditation, Yoga) will help to cope up with anxiety and mild panic attacks whereas severe recurrent episodes will be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy with or without drugs like anti-depressants or Benzodiazepines.

 
The good news is that with time and patience, up to 90 percent of people who obtain proper care from a mental health professional will recover and live full and productive lives.

Mindfulness and Relationships

 

What is mindfulness and what does it mean to be “mindful”? How can it help our relationships?

image

The term “mindfulness” originates from philosophical and meditative traditions. Mindfulness has two important parts. The first part is defined as attentiveness and awareness of the present moment, both internally (what is happening inside of you) and externally (what is happening outside of you – i.e. with others). The second part involves not judging, comparing, or evaluating the present experience as you observe it.

 

So how can this help your love life? If you think back to the beginning of your relationship, there were probably many moments of blissful unison. You may remember spending hours together and losing all concept of time. It may have flown by or stood still, but either way you were so involved with each other that time didn’t matter. And you probably weren’t thinking about things like laundry, shopping, paying bills and work. It was strictly you, your partner and your love.

 

Mindfulness can help you recapture some of those feelings since you are exclusively concentrating on your partner and the moment. If any other thoughts like laundry and work come up, mindfulness teaches you to not to ignore them, but to recognize them, dismiss them and move on. Then you gently go back to being with your partner. No judgments, no penalties, no harm, no foul.

 

Taking the concept one level deeper, the practice of mindfulness can allow us to develop some distance between ourselves and our emotions so that we don’t cling to the thoughts and emotions as being something we identify with. It doesn’t become ‘my anger’ anymore; instead we see it as just ‘being angry’. So we no longer think ‘I am so angry!’ instead we can say to ourselves more calmly, ‘I am just experiencing some momentary anger and I know this will soon pass.’

 

Mindfulness also helps us to understand and accept that no one is perfect. No one. Start to learn how to accept your imperfections. If you are not fully aware of your mistakes, you may not only miss what is most significant in your life, but also fail to recognize your true potential in terms of your relationship with your partner and yourself. Instead of suppressing your mistakes, review them mindfully. A successful person accepts and learns from those moments when we are not our best. So, highlight your weak points and start working on them. If you can’t solve your problem, ask for some assistance from trustworthy people. You will not become small by asking. Share your problems with your partner and truly open yourself up to their support and advice.

 

While it may not be possible to be mindful all day long, the power of a mindful moment each day shared with someone you love can make a relationship strong and more loving. And a mindful moment with yourself can keep you peaceful and capable of developing those parts of yourself that you might have neglected or minimized. Either way, you’ll learn more about being kinder to yourself as well deepening your connection with your partner so that your relationship can grow.