How are anxiety and panic different?

Not everyone with a social anxiety disorder has had an attack. Not everyone who has had a panic attack has a social anxiety disorder. How are all these terms different – and does it matter what you call it? A lot of terms are thrown around, so it is helpful to be clear when it comes to labels, terminology, and definitions. It is helpful to know if you suffer from a phobia or whether you practice a compulsive behavior so you can seek appropriate remedies.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors (OCD) and panic attacks. I have found that remembering to take proper breaths helps me immediately and I get sustained relief. When I start to feel anxious, I have to use a tiny electronic reminder to remember to do my breathing (for more on that, see BreathMinder.)

According to the National Institute on Mental Health ( definitions are:

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, keep focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.

Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress. These sensations often mimic symptoms of a heart attack or other life-threatening medical conditions. As a result, the diagnosis of panic disorder is frequently not made until extensive and costly medical procedures fail to provide a correct diagnosis or relief.

I have read that there is a natural “flight or fight” response within all of us – fearful situations often cause a natural responses of increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and perspiration. These body changes prepare us to be able to escape from or cope with a dangerous situation.

Reading on the topic will reveal some subtle differences in these terms. You may experience repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning, or you may have constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities.

Associated disorders include

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event)
  • Phobias (either social or specific that leads to avoiding social situations or objects because of an unfounded, irrational fear.)


Often OCD, PTSD, or Phobias are part of an overall disorder that should be examined by a professional.

October has been chosen for National awareness. . . .





Helpful tools from our Sponsor. . . .

There are people who have stopped having Anxiety and Panic attacks completely by practicing proper breathing. Shallow “chest breathing” can cause an oxygen/carbon dioxide imbalance and bring on feelings of panic – proper, diaphragmatic breathing can be learned to resolve that issue.

My problem is remembering to practice the proper breathing techniques I have learned – so I’ve been using a breathing reminder device called the BreathMinder. Anxiety and panic have been a challenge for me, but I have learned that if I breathe properly, I am able to cope with the feelings much more effectively and quickly. It is discreet and won’t attract attention, its persistent (with a “nag” alarm,) there’s nothing to program, and tiny so I can clip it just about anywhere under my clothes. Click here for more information.

Also, I have found lots of information on the relationship of anxiety and depression and what can be done about it at Anxiety: Information on causes and treatment from

Page last updated August 27, 2017