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August 31, 2021

How to Know the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack

If you’ve ever experienced episodes of intense fear, sadness, and hopelessness, there is a chance you’re suffering from panic or anxiety attacks. These two conditions are extremely unpleasant, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. This article will help you spot significant differences and learn constructive solutions.

Sometimes, life seems to be too much, especially if you’re riddled with career-related problems, family fights, health issues, gender inequality, and society’s impact on you. On top of that, women of color encounter obstacles when navigating society because who they are is often pre-defined by individuals and institutions, and how they’re treated is often dictated by systematic racism. This, of course, can be an additional factor in proneness to various mental health issues. Read on to learn more about these two types of episodes and how you can beat them and put an end to their reign once and for all.

What Counts as a Panic Attack?

These attacks are difficult to define because different people experience them in varying ways. However, the most precise definition would be that they are a set of sudden, unexpected, and unpleasant emotions outside one’s control that occur without our intention and disrupt our overall functioning and mental health. They can happen due to clear stressors or not-so-clear ones.

Common Triggers of a Panic Episode

As stated above, the causes aren’t always clear because sometimes the pain and trauma you suppress can come back and covertly manifest themselves without your knowledge. Pain and trauma have varying modalities, so black women and mental health, and especially black women and depression must be, like any other category, viewed through a unique prism that takes into account all the nuances of our collective and individual experience.

These are some of the most usual triggers:

  • Dealing with an action you were forced to do,
  • Arguments with your family or loved ones,
  • Having to go through phobias,
  • Reliving trauma,
  • Living with a health condition,
  • Living a lifestyle that you’re not content with,
  • Unexpected financial issues,
  • Failing or feeling that you did so in some significant aspect of your life,
  • Taking a step in your life and not being ready for a new one,
  • Inability to cope with bad news.

What Are the Symptoms?

The significant difference between a panic and an anxiety attack is that the former is more oppressive and can stop you in your tracks. Panic attacks may manifest through breathing problems, the anticipation of terrible news and scenarios, fear for your health, headache, increased heartbeat, nausea, inability to control your bladder, and similar states. But what all of these have in common is that they come on suddenly and usually don’t last for extended periods of time. They’re temporary; we can equate them to individual battles, while anxiety is the whole prolonged state of war.

Anxiety Attacks – Understanding Symptoms and Causes

Anxiety is an inbuilt reaction of our bodies when in danger and isn’t harmful as such. It can become an issue if our bodies start perceiving typical everyday situations as dangerous. The result is an increase in alertness because we start feeling stressed and tense for no apparent reason.

Triggers can range from realistically stressful situations, such as work stress brought about by the position of certain minorities, such as black women in the workplace, exam-related jitters, public speaking, social conventions, and the like to everyday situations and one’s perception of self. If the latter is taking its toll on you, and if these feelings aren’t just situation-related, consider seeking help from a specialist as there might be some strategies and techniques that can help you improve your self-image, capacities, and mental health.

What Happens During an Anxiety Attack?

Many people find it hard to differentiate between panic and anxiety attacks as they often have similar symptoms. Though the latter may manifest in the same way the former does (dizziness, sweating, headache, stomachache, rapid heartbeat, a lump in the throat, choking, and alike), anxiety tends to last for longer periods.

The answer to the questions, What does an anxiety attack feel like or What is the difference between panic and anxiety attack can vary a lot depending on who you ask, as different people experience both quite differently. As a rule of thumb, if the symptoms last for a longer period of time, you’re experiencing anxiety, and if they disappear after 10-30 minutes, you’re experiencing a panic attack. Still, if you recognize any of these anxiety attack symptoms and they impair your daily routines, make sure you reach out for help.

How Can These Impact Your Mental Health in the Long Run?

People who have been battling with a disorder for more prolonged periods sometimes shun any situations outside their comfort zone and thus miss opportunities for growth of any kind. Imagine if everything you did was somehow related to avoiding fear, problematic places, people, or scenarios, or simply being unable to control negative feelings. If this is the case, it’s high time you called a professional who can help you get back on track.

Knowing how to choose a therapist isn’t always easy, especially for women of color. A culturally sensitive professional, be it in Asian therapy, Indian therapy, black girl therapy, or Latinx therapy, can best understand you and the special conditions that form your unique experience. Do your research on how to find and fund therapy as a person of color and read about what to expect in your first therapy appointment, as this knowledge can help you get the most out of your journey.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks and Related Health Disorders

Anxiety may be a symptom of a medical or physical condition, and if there are some indicators that that’s the case, you should, by all means, seek professional help. It might ensue from the following medical disorders, among others:

  • Diabetes,
  • Irritable bowel syndrome,
  • Respiratory problems,
  • Thyroid issues.

Still, it doesn’t mean that learning how therapy works or knowing how to calm yourself down won’t help. When discovering health issues, many women of color struggle with accepting the new reality due to strong social stigma, but you can actually benefit the most from combining medical treatment with therapy. Your mind needs love and care as much as your body does.

Overcoming Attacks

Since no individual is the same, no mental health issues are the same accordingly, and different people benefit from different approaches. A licensed and knowledgeable therapist of color will know precisely how to go about your case and explain to you the difference between an anxiety and panic attack in the context of your specific situation. Still, some techniques may come in handy, which can alleviate the pressure and demystify the disorder.

Deep Breathing and Meditation

Mindfulness is all about purpose and being present in the moment. That is why meditation as a form of attaining that quality is strongly recommended in counseling for women. Deep breathing can make you regain focus and send a message to your body that all is right and you’re in control again. At the same time, meditating is a way to form habits that may have a positive psychological effect on your overall functioning.

Positive Self-Talk

The world is better with you in it.

Emotional support is paramount, but you need to give it to yourself first. Being able to break the cycle of talking down to yourself or seeing yourself in a negative light or through the eyes of people who don’t like you is not easy, but it’s vital for your recovery.

It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay if you didn’t know when to walk away from a relationship or how to deal with stress in the past. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you have a disorder; it just means you stumbled temporarily, but if you consider it as an opportunity to learn, that’s a whole different story. So don’t say things to yourself you wouldn’t say to other people. Repeat out loud every day how great it is to be you.

Find Yourself Again in Writing

Writing is the best way to understand one’s soul, which is why numerous black women therapists and other counselors for women who belong to minority groups suggest their clients take this up as one of the self-care ideas for women. Be it a gratitude journal, an account of the events in your life in a diary, or something creative, such as a short story or poem, it can help you grow since it forces you to put everything close to your heart into perspective.

Having a Balanced Diet

The question of how eating affects mood has been explored and researched largely, and any scholar will tell you that some foods simply create a negative response in our bodies as they make us feel either too high or too low. In general, you should try to avoid too much coffee, sugar, and alcohol. If you’re interested in getting a more in-depth knowledge of how to nurture your body correctly and avoid an eating disorder, make sure you find the time to read resources about superfoods women should eat. An eating disorder may be an issue on its own, but it is also intertwined with depression, anxiety, and panic. Having an eating disorder implies a skewed image of one’s body, constant dissatisfaction with one’s looks, and the need to punish oneself for any behavior perceived as bad, all of which can further exacerbate any other preexisting mental issues.

Therapy Can Set You up for Success

Regardless of what issues you’re facing and if you’re wondering, Am I having an anxiety attack or panic attack, having adequate assistance is crucial as it can put you back on track and facilitate your understanding of things with more insight and knowledge. Both types of episodes can be treated more efficiently in the early stages, so don’t wait. Unfortunately, these unpleasant occurrences don’t disappear if we pretend they’re not there, so booking therapy for women of color can go a long way in helping you attain your goals and live a more fulfilling life. The good news is that from day one of your treatment, you’ll enter a new chapter and start living a freer life.