Anxiety and Panic: How Are They Different?

February 3, 2015

Carolyn Bulmash, a therapist at Associates in Psychotherapy, explains differences between panic attacks and generalized anxiety.

Anxiety and Panic
By Carolyn Bulmash, LCSW

All of us feel anxious sometimes.  Having a performance evaluation at work, going on a first date, or stepping up to the plate in the big game can make any of us feel nervous.   So how do we know if we struggle with anxiety?

Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience feelings of stress, tension, and worry even when there is no life event to provoke these feelings.  Some people with anxiety disorders can feel overwhelmed just by the thought of getting out of bed in the morning. They may have constant, repetitive worries and anticipate the worst possible outcomes.

People with anxiety disorders may have difficulty relaxing or sleeping, startle easily and have difficulty staying focused on work or other activities. They may also struggle with physical symptoms such feeling out of breath, having to go to the bathroom more frequently, headaches, nausea, hot flashes, and irritability.

Many people have asked what is the difference between anxiety and a panic attack?

Anxiety is a more persistent state of functioning.  Each day is affected by worry, dread or doom.  While panic attacks may evoke many of the same physical responses as an anxiety attacks, panic attacks generally occur out of the blue, and while intense, typically last only several minutes.  Both conditions lead to physical discomfort for people and can affect their work, home, and social lives.

There are different types of anxiety disorders and research indicates treatment can help someone suffering from anxiety.  Psychotherapy can help someone better understand the source of their anxiety as well as how to cope or eliminate it.  Medications may also help a person manage their anxiety.  If you feel like you are experiencing difficulties with anxiety or panic, please contact Associates in Psychotherapy at (866) 220-8371 for a consultation.