Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues people face. Moreover, there are different types of anxiety disorders and everyone experiences them uniquely. But one lesser-known aspect of anxiety disorders is anxiety attacks. You might think it’s just an alternate term for panic attacks, however, it’s not.

Anxiety attacks are not the same thing as panic attacks. They differ in a few crucial ways.

Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks

Let’s look at the key ways in which anxiety attacks and panic attacks differ.

Panic Attacks

  • Tend to come on suddenly and unexpectedly
  • No traceable cause
  • Only last a few minutes on average
  • Feeling disconnected from oneself
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Chest pain
  • Fear of dying

Anxiety Attacks

  • Build slowly over time
  • Usually caused by a trigger
  • Can last for weeks or even months
  • Sleep issues
  • Muscle tension or headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

As you can see, panic attacks are often a far more severe experience, however, anxiety attacks can last far longer. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that anyone should have to suffer in silence with their anxiety attacks. Let’s dive deeper into how you can recognize some of the more common signs of an anxiety attack and how treatment can help.

Common Signs of an Anxiety Attack

Restlessness and Irritability

When experiencing an anxiety attack, you may feel a persistent sense of restlessness. This can present as a lingering feeling of apprehensiveness. A key factor in anxiety is worry, so it’s likely that something has triggered you to worry excessively. When this happens, it’s difficult for us to relax–we feel we constantly need to be aware and prepared.

Paired with this can be irritability. With sleep problems in the mix (more on that below), irritability is compounded. This may be an underlying sense of irritation that’s present in your everyday life. You might find you have a shorter temper and tend to snap at people for small inconveniences.

Sleep Issues and Fatigue

Because you may be feeling restless, sleep can become a problem. You may have trouble falling and staying asleep because your body and mind are so tense. When you have a persistent worry, it prevents you from relaxing and slowing your thoughts at night.

Sleep is incredibly important for mental health, so when you’re not getting good sleep, it only exacerbates other symptoms like irritability. Restful sleep is crucial in helping us maintain a stable state and have the energy to better our situation.

Muscle Tension

Another big sign is muscle tension. This might vary per person. You might feel a constant knot in your stomach, chest tightness, or get frequent headaches. When we experience a heightened state of stress, even if it’s on a lower level, it has consequences on our bodies. Combined with sleep issues, it causes us to tense up in a variety of ways.

Notice if you feel your upper back is unusually tense, if you’re clenching your jaw a lot, etc. These, with other symptoms, could help you determine if you’re experiencing an anxiety attack.

Overcoming Anxiety Attacks

The good news is there are ways you can take back control. Anxiety can be effectively treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

Therapy will help you identify your anxieties and triggers so you can then learn to overcome them. In therapy, you may also address negative core beliefs that fuel your anxiety and then learn healthy coping mechanisms to better manage your symptoms.

If you’re experiencing an anxiety attack, don’t hesitate to reach out. Together, we can help you gain control over your worries so you can feel better.