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Key Differences Between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack

The terms ‘panic attack’ and ‘anxiety attack’ are often used interchangeably as if they are the same thing. And although there are similarities, they are two different conditions.

It’s important to understand the differences so that, should you experience one or the other, you can correctly your symptoms and seek out effective treatment. Read on to find out more about the differences between a panic attack and an anxiety attack.

1. Clinical Definitions

Medical professionals use a handbook called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, when diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. In the DSM-5, as it is more commonly referred to, VeryWell.com explains that the term ‘panic attack’ “describes the hallmark features associated with the condition known as panic disorder.”

The DSM-5 does not contain a definition for ‘anxiety attack,’ however. Instead, the source says, “anxiety is used to describe a core feature of several illnesses identified under the headings of, ‘Anxiety Disorders,’ ‘Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders,’ and ‘Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.’” These include panic disorder, as well as others such as social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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