You may notice many people talking of panic attacks and anxiety as though they are the same, however, though they may share similar symptoms they are different conditions.


Anxiety disorders impact over 40 million people every year within the U.S. Though everyone may experience anxiety from time to time, anxiety disorders cause persistent stress or unease about even daily situations such as socializing with others, driving, or work. Left untreated, anxiety can significantly impact ones’ quality of life and ability to participate in activities that they used to enjoy.

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by strong feelings of tension, worry, physical changes such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. People with anxiety disorders have constant intrusive thoughts or concerns.

Anxiety disorders come in a variety of forms from general anxiety to more specific conditions such as social anxiety or panic disorders. Anxiety develops from several compounding factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Many patients who are diagnosed with anxiety may also have co-occurring illnesses such as substance abuse, depression, or other mental health conditions.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Nervousness, restlessness, and feeling like you cannot relax
  • Feelings of danger, panic, and dread
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing or hyperventilation
  • Increased or heavy sweating
  • Muscle twitching or trembling
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Avoidant behavior
  • Obsessions about certain ideas


Panic attacks can be caused by heredity, chemical imbalances, stress, and the use of stimulants such as caffeine or drugs. Panic attacks are often described as occurring suddenly and involving intense feelings of fear with symptoms that are often considered severe and disruptive. During panic attacks, the body’s fight or flight response often takes over, which leads to a more abrupt response compared to anxiety attacks.

Both panic and anxiety attacks can share the following symptoms such as:

  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness or disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Trembling

Panic attacks typically reach their peak level of intensity in 10 minutes or less before beginning to subside. Unlike anxiety attacks though, panic attacks can occur unexpectedly without any clear triggers.

Common Stressors
However, panic attacks can also be the result of certain stressors similar to anxiety disorders or attacks. Common stressors include:

  • Caffeine
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Medication
  • Phobias or feelings of distress
  • Reminders of traumatic experiences
  • Social situations
  • Stress
  • Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol

At Spectrum Behavioral Health, we tailor each treatment plan to the individual needs of the patient. We will carefully go over any symptoms you are experiencing, your medical history, and any other relevant factors such as life events and behaviors. We will work with you and any other members of your healthcare team to reach a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment plan for your needs and lifestyle.

For more information on anxiety and panic and our treatment options or to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.