Scenario: You're having strong physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings. It feels like you may be panicking. But you're not sure. Is it a panic attack or is it strong anxiety? Are there any differences? YES. There are some big differences between panic attacks and anxiety.
One of the most important differences is that panic is in the present, while anxiety is not.
Panic is Fear, with a capital F. It's from the fight or flight response, and it's your brain telling you that there is imminent physical or mental danger right now, right here, in this moment. You may feel like you are dying, having a heart attack, or going crazy, right then.
But an important thing to know is that panic cannot kill you by itself. Although it sure feels like it can.
Several years back, the National Institute of Mental Health had a powerful advertisement on television. It featured a woman stuck on the train tracks. A train was coming, and was almost upon her. The following words flashed across the screen. "THIS is a Panic attack."
Anxiety, on the other hand, is more leisurely, so to speak. Although anxiety can feel very intense and uncomfortable, it's more about "What IF I go crazy?". "What IF I am having a heart attack?" "What IF I'm dying?" "What IF something bad happens to me later, or already has happened?"
But if you're having a panic attack, there's no leisure about it. You're sure that you're dying, going crazy, or having a heart attack this minute. And there's no question in your mind that you need to get help immediately.
With panic attacks, many people find themselves in the ER. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Because if you do feel that you could have a life threatening disorder, it's important to seek medical help.
Initially, a visit to the ER will usually sort out whether you are having a panic attack, or a true medical emergency.
But if panic sends you to the ER regularly, then you are most likely experiencing fear and anxiety about having panic. And at this point you may be referred for psychotherapy, or realize yourself that you need help.
And this is the really good news. Anxiety psychotherapy can help enormously with both excessive anxiety and panic. Both of these conditions are treatable. You can get better.
To learn more about your own situation, please feel free to contact me via email or phone, and I'd be glad to set you up with an appointment.
To your good health. Linda