In this post I will discuss anxiety and panic as these two terms are oftentimes being used interchangeably. More so, the word attack is frequently attached to either one and both are often used to mean the same thing. Technically this isn’t right.
All mental disorders are classified in a special manual, DSM 5 or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. It doesn’t have Anxiety Attack listed at all, but it has Anxiety Disorder as well as Panic Attack.
This in itself is very telling. The mere word disorder implies a relatively slow process that can last a long time, whereas the word attack suggests a sudden onset, often without warning, intense, doesn’t last long and usually ends up in the same way it started. You can think about an attack as a blood sugar spike that promptly drops, while a disorder is more like Type 2 Diabetes that tends to develop rather slowly.
Anxiety is a normal emotion and a natural body response to just about any stressful situation. This however isn’t always a bad thing. Generally, anxiety is a part of a fight-or-flight protective response to a real or perceived danger. This response calls for your attention to a problem at hand and motivates you to seek a solution. And boy, did it motivate me to do just that. I posted about it only a few hours ago.
If however anxiety persists, becomes constant and affects your everyday life, then it is a disorder. Anxiety Disorder is usually a reaction to a stressor and has a slow onset, while a Panic Attack is generally unprovoked and occurs suddenly.
The symptoms of Anxiety Disorder are less intense than those of a Panic Attack. They can include worrying, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, increased heart rate and breathing, heart palpitations, trembling, numbness, or being detached from yourself, etc. The treatment can include therapy, meds, self-help or a combination of these.
The main difference between the two is that anxiety is a reaction to a stressor and is longer lived than a panic attack does. Attack, on the other hand, starts suddenly, is intense and occurs without a warning. Like, out of the blue. A single panic attack can peak within about 10 minutes and then subsides. However if a few panic attacks occur in a succession, then all of them together can last longer than a single attack and it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
As far as my own reaction to my car problems, now I don’t think that I had a panic attack; it was more like anxiety that right now all but gone.
Then again, my procrastinating nature kicks in that tells me, whatever unfolds, it’s tomorrow but not today. Take it easy and procrastinate for the time being. On top of it all, I am able to function and my life doesn’t fall apart on that account. Admittedly I was anxious that motivated me to seek a solution, part 2 of which is to be continued tomorrow. And this whole incident doesn’t feel like the end of the world. Here’s to hoping it won’t turn out to be anything big, knock on the wood.
Will post about the types of anxiety next. Stay tuned.