As a person who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks for a very long time. However, I also didn’t learn the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack until a few years ago. Given that mental health is extremely important to me, and many other college students, I think this is some information we can all benefit from.
What typically distinct an anxiety and panic attack is that a panic attack usually comes on very suddenly, and usually subsides after ten minutes; while an anxiety is usually provoked by some sort of distress, last longer, and can happen one right after another.
Their symptoms slightly differ as well. Panic attack symptoms include: sweating, shaking, the sensation of choking, nausea, and fear of death just to name a few. Anxiety attack symptoms, while they do include panic attacks symptoms such as shaking and sweating, go on to include much more; a sense of doom, a sense of losing control, hot flashes, feeling the need to escape, and feeling separated from reality.
Now that everyone knows what an anxiety and panic attack is, it’s time to share my hypothesis. If their symptoms are different, what happens to your body during each must also be different. In an article from Medical Daily, it cites a research review of animal studies published by Dr. Jieun E Kim that link the provoking of stimulation in the amygdala to reactions similar to a human panic attack. Given that the amygdala is a small part of the brain responsible for emotional behavior; but more specifically fear and aggression. In other words, panic attacks are believed to stem from the amygdala.
Turns out, science also believes that the amygdala plays a role in anxiety attacks; at least partially. The National Institute of Mental Health
explains that memories with intense emotions, specifically emotions where a fear began, are stored in the amygdala. However, the hippocampus also plays a role in anxiety attacks because it processes whether an event from a memory was threatening or not.
So while symptoms between the two differ, on a neurological level, panic and anxiety attacks are actually quiet similar. However, it is important to note that psychology does separate panic and anxiety attacks into different disorder categories.