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How are Panic Attacks and Anxiety Attacks Different?

Therapy for anxiety and panic attacks is helpful.
The terms panic attack and anxiety attack are often used interchangeably, but there are actually some clinical differences between the two that can affect treatment options and approach. Always make sure to talk to a doctor to determine the best treatment course.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Tingling sensations in extremities
  • A fear of going crazy
  • A fear of dying or being seriously ill

Symptoms of an Anxiety Attack

  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Increased startle response
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty concentrating

How are Panic and Anxiety Attacks Treated?

Panic and anxiety attacks can be successfully treated with a combination of therapy and medication or therapy alone. The types of therapy include:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of treatment for panic and anxiety attacks, as it focuses on the thinking patterns and behaviors sustaining or causing the attacks. This form of therapy helps the patient view fears and worries in a realistic way.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy can also be used to expose a patient to the physical sensations of panic in a safe, controlled environment. This provides the opportunity to learn healthier ways of coping. Through each exposure, you’ll become less afraid of these bodily sensations and find a greater sense of control over your panic.


Medication can be used to temporarily control or reduce some of the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks, though it will not resolve the problem fully. Medication can be extremely useful in some cases but should never be the only treatment used. It’s the most effective when combined with therapy and lifestyle changes.

Medications used for panic and anxiety disorders include:

  • Antidepressants: These take several weeks to begin working, so they must be taken continuously, not just during an attack.
  • Benzodiazepines: These anti-anxiety drugs act quickly by providing almost immediate relief of symptoms. It’s important to know that benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, so they must be used with caution and only if recommended by a specialized doctor.

Call us for Help with Panic and Anxiety Attacks

If you or someone you know is struggling with panic or anxiety attacks, contact our Salt Lake City anxiety treatment professionals for help as soon as possible. We’re here to help patients in Salt Lake City and throughout Salt Lake County cope with panic and anxiety attacks so they can regain control over their lives.