Panic attack vs anxiety attack: These can be very confusing and not everyone is aware of what could be first aid in such situations. Let us find out what experts have to say.

What is the Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attack? How to Tackle It? Experts Speak
What is the Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attack? How to Tackle It? Experts Speak

Anxiety, stress, sadness, depression- all these words are often used interchangeably and they do not all mean the same. Mental health is a sensitive yet a vast umbrella that still needs more awareness around it. Panic, stress, and anxiety are a few terms that many relate with. But, these are different and have different effects on different people. In this fast-paced hustle culture being stressed seems like the new normal. Often can lead to developing anxiety and other mental health issues. In severe cases people also get panic or anxiety attacks. But, these are not the same. The do have overlapping symptoms but are different.

So how do we understand this nuanced difference between panic and anxiety attack? Dr Aparna Ramakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatry, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai, shared about these difference and hoe we can handle it.

Panic vs Anxiety Attack Key Differences


  1. Severity: Symptoms are severe. Often physical symptoms. Person feels like he is going crazy, losing control, or going to die. Has a feeling of impending doom
  2. Onset: Often comes out of the blue, with no warning or triggers Sudden. Disruptive, intense
  3. Duration: Symptoms usually peak around 10 min and then subside quickly

more symptoms are present during a panic attack:

  • Palpitations
  • pounding heart
  • Excess sweating
  • Trembling
  • Sensation of shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing
  • hyperventilation
  • Choking sensation ·
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy
  • unsteadiness or light-headedness
  • Feeling of unreality/detachment from self
  • Fear of losing control/going crazy/dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Chills or hot flushes


  1. Severity: Varying severity of symptoms – mild to severe
  2. Onset: Gradual progress of symptoms over a period of minutes, hours or even days or months. Stress reaches overwhelming levels and feels like an attack
  3. Duration: Symptoms can persist for a very long period of time

Other symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Fidgetiness
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness

Panic vs Anxiety Attack: How to Deal With It?

Imagine, someone is hanging out with friend maybe trying console ina time of need or anything else and that person gets a panic attack. How do e we tackel that situation? What first aid can we perform from our end because this is not a wound or bruise on the skin where apply antiseptic would work.

Hence, it is important to understand this difference between the two and act accordingly. According to Dr Aparna Ramakrishnan, here are a few things that we can do to help a person having a panic attack:

  1. Keep calm: Don’t get overwhelmed on seeing the person’s symptoms. If you are calm, it will help the panicked individual know that everything is going to be ok and they can himself calm down.
  2. Name it: “This is a panic attack. It will pass. I am with you” Stay with the person and help them to come out of it. Reassure them that you will not leave and the symptoms will gradually pass. Most panic attacks settle down in 20-30 mins.
  3.  Invite them to sit down somewhere comfortable and quiet, give them space, a glass of water.
  4. Model deep breathing, box breathing, mindfulness and grounding techniques to the individual and do these calming techniques with them . Use 1 technique at a time. Focus on breathing slowly. Distract them by external stimuli
  5.  Engage in light, slow conversation: Enquire about the trigger, stressor (if any) so that you can view the panicked individual’s situation objectively.
  6.  Offer coping statements like “ You can handle this” OR “ This will pass” . Offer support and comfort to the individual.
  7. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional for the symptoms.

Dr. Ramakrishnan further added that one should refrain from statements like – “ It’s not that bad” OR “ You are over reacting” OR “ You just want attention” OR “ You have nothing. Seeking professional advise is paramount.

Mental health matters and we must understand that it is ok to not be ok.

Published Date: April 11, 2023 1:03 PM IST

Updated Date: April 11, 2023 1:03 PM IST

Source link