May 24, 2024

The most common mental illnesses in the U.S. are anxiety disorders. In fact, they affect more than 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population. Such anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that only 36.9% of people suffering choose to receive treatment.

There are several disorders associated with anxiety; however, the symptoms can be similar across diagnoses. This can lead to confusion regarding the type of anxiety one might have, such as general anxiety and panic attacks. Below is a brief look into what panic attacks are and how anxiety of all intensities can be treated.

What is a panic attack? Described as short bursts of intense fear, these episodes are often marked by increased heart rate, chest pain or shortness of breath. They usually last under thirty minutes and may come on suddenly and without reason. A panic attack may be mistaken for a heart attack, as the fear can be so crippling that it may accompanied by extremely intense physical sensations. Up to 11% of Americans experience a panic attack every year.

Individuals experiencing recurrent panic attacks may have a condition known as panic disorder (PD). PD is a type of anxiety disorder affecting roughly 4.7% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. Women are twice as likely as men to develop PD and it typically presents in young adulthood, with roughly half of all people developing the condition before age 24.

An “anxiety attack” is different than a panic attack, though they are at times used synonymously. An anxiety attack is not a DSM-5 term or formal diagnosis, but panic attacks are recognized. Other differences include the longevity of the attack, the severity of the symptoms and how they are triggered.

Disorders — as well as anxiety as a condition and its associated symptoms — can be effectively treated. A formal examination and analysis of symptoms needs to be performed by a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Only once a disorder, condition or underlying cause of the anxiety is diagnosed can it be addressed.

What does treatment look like? It varies depending on the diagnosis and the severity of symptoms. Typical options include medication — such as antidepressants or beta-blockers — therapy, lifestyle changes or a combination of treatment methods. There are several types of therapy that can help manage symptoms and decrease sensations of fear and excessive worry. They include cognitive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy or new, innovative methods such as ketamine infusion therapy.

Much can be done to help alleviate anxiety and restore quality of life for those suffering. For additional treatment options and more information on the differences between anxiety and panic attacks, please see the accompanying resource.


ketamine therapy

Infographic provided by MD Infusions, a Chicago clinic specializing in ketamine therapy