The difference between anxiety and panic attacks and how to spot it

Anxiety is very common, and it affects many people under the age of 35 say scientists from the University of Cambridge. They estimate that four out of every 100 people suffer with anxiety. Researchers claimed it is not given the same priority as other mental health issues. 

So what is anxiety and how does it differ from having a panic attack? What can you do if you're feeling anxious? 

What is anxiety? 

Anxiety is the feeling of being nervous, uneasy, anxious and awkward or feeling that you've been forced into an uncomfortable situation. We often feel it in everyday situations like interviews, exams etc. and it can be manageable, but but sometimes it can be extremely overbearing and hard to control. Sometimes it seems to get overlooked or not taken seriously, and it can lead to complications and can get out of control. 

How anxiety differs from a panic attack? 

Anxiety and panic attacks are two different things, although it can be hard to identify the symptoms. 

How to spot anxiety

Panic attacks happen when your body's nervous system feels like it is under attack or in danger, but often nothing is happening. This is when the brain's alarm system is out of control. It is alerting us to danger that is not real. It may be that we feel anxious because of previous experiences in similar situations, however, the brain can alert us subconsciously too, causing us to feel anxious, even if we don't consider the situation stressful and we don't really know what is going on and we cannot explain why we are feeling anxious. 

Panic attack can make you feel like you are about to collapse, having a racing heartbeat or be short of breath. These attacks can, at times, last a few minutes or a few hours. 

Anxiety on the other hand can be there all the time, in the background, in the subconscious of your mind. When you experience periods of anxiety it tends to manifest in general nervousness or awkwardness in situations.

To help you identify if you've suffered with the symptoms of anxiety here are the top 10 signs of anxiety:

  • You feel awkward, anxious, uneasy or nervous. 
  • Feel doubtful of your self-worth and self-confidence.
  • Feel faint, light-headed, disconnected from the surrounding area. 
  • Easily irritated, breathing becomes heavy, muscles become sore.
  • Twitching, trembling, shaky feelings, palms start to sweat.
  • Continuous crying, feeling of hopelessness.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
  • Focusing on upsetting events that have happened in your life.
  • Repeated conversations of people's voices in your head. 
  • Feeling of wanting to escape from your surrounding area or situation. 

Top tips for dealing with anxiety

Courtney Lee Deakin started experiencing anxiety at university. She says it's important not to "taunt yourself" and to breathe. Listening to cheerful music helps too.

These are her tips. The best way of actually telling whether someone is feeling anxious or not, is just waiting for them to speak to you with confidence, knowing that they can trust you, that you will not judge them and that you have an open mind. 

One in four people at university every year deal with anxiety attacks, so here are some tips on dealing with it.

1. Breathe - Although this sometimes I know does not always work and that's fine. Starting to control your breathing will calm your mind and body down. 

2. Write down all the things that you're worried about and try to keep your life organised so that you won't panic.

3. Have confidence in telling your friends and family that you deal with anxiety attacks. 

4. Take yourself out of the situation that you feel awkward in.

5. Think positively about your self worth.

6. Don't taunt yourself with negative comments. This brings down your self-confidence and causes your anxiety attacks to happen more frequently. 

7. Maintain a balance of good sleep and control stress.

8. Listen to happy upbeat music or watch happy films - like Disney. 

9. Count to 10 in your head to help you calm your emotions down.

10. Speak to a doctor if it gets too serious and out of control.

Exercising also helps with lowering stress through lowering stress-hormon (cortisol) levels in the body and getting to bed before 10pm helps with getting better quality sleep, which also helps with stress reduction. 

Going for a walk and back into nature can also help with reducing symptoms of being overwhelmed. Helping quieten a busy mind can be crucial for people who suffer from anxiety and are prone to panic attacks. 

If you are not sure what to do, get in touch with one of our colleagues, we offer half an hour free of charge consultations.