Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States. Among these disorders, there are generalized anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. While panic attacks fall under the anxiety disorder category, you may wonder what is the difference between a panic attack vs. anxiety attack. These two terms may get used interchangeably but there are some subtle differences. Whether you have anxiety attacks or panic attacks, a behavioral therapist in San Antonio TX can help you sort it out and begin to get it under control.

Panic Attack vs Anxiety Attack

Your heart races, your face flushes, you feel an overwhelming dread come over you. You may even feel nauseous and dizzy. The incident lasts for several minutes, then disappears. What happened? Was it an anxiety attack or panic attack? Also, medical professionals say there is a fine line between the two situations. Let’s look at the similarities of the two conditions first, then we’ll consider the differences.


Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks share many of the same physical symptoms. These include:

  • Heart racing or heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Chest tightness
  • Quivering or shakiness
  • Numbness and/or tingling sensations
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling lightheaded or like you may faint
  • Chills or hot flashes (may alternate)


So, what is the difference between a panic attack and anxiety attack? Anxiety attacks have a few more emotional symptoms attached to them only because they are usually linked to a situation or concern. Let’s take a look at the differences in emotional symptoms. The only emotional symptoms associated with panic attacks are general fear, fear of dying or losing control, and detachment from the world or yourself.

Anxiety attacks have the following emotional symptoms:

  • Worry
  • Stress
  • Restless or agitated
  • Fear (but not necessarily a fear of losing control)

In addition, the way in which panic attacks occur explain why the difference in the emotional symptoms. Panic attacks come on suddenly. They seem to come for no reason, and they are unexpected. This makes the person feel like they are losing control or possibly dying (two of the fears). Whereas, anxiety attacks are always connected to some problem, worry, or issue. So, anxiety attacks may build up over time and can vary in severity. You can have a mild anxiety attack, and you may have a vague idea what it’s about. Although it’s still uncomfortable and frightening, you feel some sense of control.

During a panic attack, you may not have been worrying about anything. Nothing was building up in your mind, but you suddenly had an attack of the symptoms. This is more startling and frightening.

The last difference worth noting is that the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks, whereas anxiety attacks are not recognized in the DSM-5.

Introducing San Antonio Recovery Center

At San Antonio Recovery Center our compassionate staff is an expert in anxiety disorders. We believe healing is possible through proper therapy techniques. Using only evidence-based therapy modalities, our accredited facility offers top quality therapeutic approaches.

Some of our therapy programs include:

Don’t let addiction and co-occurring mental health problems overwhelm your life. Now that you know the difference between a panic attack vs anxiety attack, you can have a bright future that is full of serene happiness. Contact us at 866.957.7885, and we’ll get you on the path to healing.

san antonio recovery center texas addiction rehab center drug and alcohol rehab center txThe San Antonio Recovery Center in San Antonio, Texas is not your typical drug and alcohol treatment center. Founded in 2010, we abide by the philosophy that recovery from drug and alcohol addiction requires a full spectrum of treatment, not just a focus on one area.

As an independent drug & alcohol treatment center, our caring recovery staff make decisions on patient care in-house. You or your loved one are given the best chance of recovery knowing that your best interests are always at the forefront of our decisions. Learn More