Panic Disorder Vs Anxiety - What’s the Difference?

While panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder, there is a difference between panic disorder and other anxiety disorders. So, when it comes to panic disorder vs anxiety, what are the differences and how can one distinguish what type of anxiety disorder they may be dealing with?

Panic Disorder Vs Anxiety – What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a specific type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by specific symptoms of extreme fear and anxiety that can lead to what’s known as panic attacks. So, panic attacks are a defining characteristic of panic disorder. Furthermore, panic attacks aren’t the only thing that defines panic disorder. In fact, the most defining symptom of this disorder is that a person not only has panic attacks but has a debilitating fear of having more panic attacks. So, panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that involves having panic attacks and continual fear of having panic attacks.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is an episode of severe fear, panic, and anxiety that comes on suddenly. And, while they’re often provoked by high levels of stress or worry, people with panic disorder can have them without any triggering scenarios. During a panic attack, a person can experience a number of physical symptoms which are extremely frightening. For example, severe chest pains can resemble the same chest pains people experience during heart attacks. Other physical symptoms that accompany panic attacks can include racing heartbeat, sweating, fainting or seizures, and chills.

Who is Affected by Panic Attacks?

Experiencing a panic attack is the main reason for the development of panic disorder. Essentially, the terrifying experience of having a panic attack leads to the development of fear surrounding panic attacks, which is what panic disorder is. But, some people may be more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks and, therefore, developing panic disorder. Some of the causes of the development of panic attacks and panic disorder include:

Concurring Mental Health Issues: People that have concurring mental health issues are more prone to experiencing panic attacks. Thus, they are also more prone to developing panic disorder. These mental health issues can include PTSD, depression, and other anxiety disorders.

Health Issues: Some physical illnesses can increase a person’s chance of developing panic disorder and experiencing panic attacks as having a physical illness is scary. Some of these issues can include epilepsy and other seizure disorders, physical disabilities, thyroid diseases, and chronic pain disorders.

Genetics: Family history can play a part in the development of mental health issues, including panic disorder. So, if you have a family member that has panic disorder, you may have a higher risk of developing this disorder as well.

Substance Abuse Disorder: People living with addiction are also at a higher risk for experiencing panic attacks and developing panic disorder.

The Characteristics of Panic Disorder and Getting a Diagnosis

During the diagnosis process of panic disorder, a person will be asked questions about panic attacks they’ve experienced. And, other symptoms that characterize panic disorder. It’s important that panic attacks are distinguished from other physical health issues as panic attacks can resemble symptoms of physical illness. For example, as mentioned, panic attacks can feel like heart attacks. So, during the diagnosing process, you may be asked questions including:

  • do you often fear having panic attacks and think about these episodes?
  • are you afraid of losing control of yourself during an episode of severe anxiety?
  • do you portray avoidance behaviors as the result of trying to prevent a panic attack?

Treatment for Panic Disorder

If you feel that you may be living with panic disorder, you are not alone. And, there is help available so that you can manage the symptoms of this disorder and live a healthier life with fewer symptoms of this condition. Some of the treatments available for people living with this condition include:

-group and individualized therapy (cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, etc.)
-psychiatric medications in order to manage symptoms of severe anxiety
-supplemental therapies (mindfulness meditation, yoga, physical exercise, IV infusions, etc.)

Ready to take the first step to manage anxiety and prevent panic attacks? Delray Beach Psychiatrist is here to help. Find out more about how we help people living with anxiety disorders at our outpatient Delray Center location today.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.