If you are plagued with generalized anxiety or panic attacks then it may be important and helpful for you to understand the difference between generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder. Understanding the difference will help you communicate what you are feeling to your doctor and may help in successful treatment of GAD and panic disorder.
Symptoms of panic disorder or panic attack
Symptoms of panic disorders or panic attacks tend to pop up suddenly, often for no apparent reason. Panic attacks or panic disorders are not pervasive, but are characterized by periods of extreme panic which generally last anywhere from five to 30 minutes.
The symptoms of a panic attack can often be severe, leaving you with a sense that you are dying or having a heart attack. General symptoms of panic disorder include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, chills, tightness in the chest and throat and a sense of being disconnected from reality.
Symptoms of panic disorder tend to be severe and often paralyzing. The symptoms alone can create an unrealistic sense of fear or dread creating a cycle of panic that is sometimes difficult to overcome.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) includes ongoing worry or fear that isn’t related to any particular event, situation, or task. It tends to interfere with day-to-day with activities. Generalized anxiety is often experienced during the course of common daily activities such as personal or job responsibilities. GAD can cause anxious feelings about seemingly trivial concerns that shouldn’t cause distress or anxiety.
Symptoms of GAD can be persistent and overwhelming. Obsessive worry or fear is a key marker of GAD . Muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, irritability, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating are characteristic symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. While they sound a lot like the symptoms associated with panic disorder they tend to be more pervasive and may seem irrational in light of what triggers the symptoms. Sometimes generalized anxiety disorder can come on with no apparent reason.
Living with GAD and panic disorder can be challenging. Once you have experienced GAD or a panic attack recent studies indicate that it is likely that you will experience one again. It can become a vicious cycle. It is possible to treat the symptoms and, in some cases, to overcome GAD and panic attacks. Psychotherapy, medication, and natural treatments have been used to successfully treat generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
If you experience feelings associated with panic disorder or GAD it is important that you discuss the symptoms, possible triggers, and treatment with your doctor.
GAD and Panic Disorder: What’s the Difference , John Hopkins Health Alert
Generalized Anxiety Disorder , Mayo Clinic
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms , Mayo Clinic
Influence of Psychiatric Comorbidity on Recovery and Recurrence in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, and Panic Disorder: A 12-Year Prospective Study ; American Journal of Psychiatry – abstract
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder , Mayo Clinic