7 Signs You’re Having An Anxiety Attack Versus A Momentary Freak-Out 

Share
Ad failed to load

As someone who's been diagnosed with both major depressive disorder and an anxiety order, I know all too well what it means to suffer an anxiety attack. Although I'm in the 36.9 percent of people who receive treatment and take medication daily for both of my disorders, it doesn't guarantee that my depression won't occasionally kick into high-gear or that I'll never have anxiety attack. And, depending on what's going on in my life, either outside struggles or internal ones, my anxiety attacks can pop up more than usual. Or I can go months without one. For example, just in the last couple weeks, I've suffered two major anxiety attacks. Before that, it had been a few months.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Every year, 18.1 percent of the population, ages 18 and older, are affected — that's roughly 40 million people. Although anxiety disorders are treatable, the majority of people skip treatment, with only a fraction, 36.9 percent, receiving treatment for their anxiety, despite the fact that those who have anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders, than those who don't have anxiety disorders. Basically, treatment is absolutely key.

But the thing with anxiety is that it's a legitimate disorder and not just some momentary freak-out. I have freak-outs all the time (I'm like a walking bundle of nerves), but there's a clear difference between an anxiety attack and a freak-out. So before you label your next freak-out an anxiety attack, know the difference because an anxiety attack makes a freak-out look like a walk in the park. Here are seven signs experts say it's an anxiety attack.

Ad failed to load

1You Feel The Need To Escape

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Although an anxiety attack can come on out of nowhere, when it hits, you immediately feel the need to escape the space, the situation, and everything around you.

"You feel an overwhelming need to escape the situation you're in as the only way to feel better," psychologist, Dr. Greg Kushnick, tells Bustle. "Once you remove yourself, you feel the difference. For example, you're in a movie theater and you begin to panic about how many people you have to squeeze by in order to reach the exit in the event of an emergency. You get to the lobby and automatically feel less anxious."

2You Feel Trapped

Ashley Batz/Bustle

"The anxiety you feel involves being trapped in a particular place, such as a meeting, a concert hall or a train," says Dr. Kushnick.

One of my greatest fears is having an anxiety attack on a plane. I can't even imagine what that would be like, if I were on a 15-hour plane ride to whatever faraway country I plan to run off to next, and having an anxiety attack. And it's not a fear of flying; it's a fear of an anxiety attack creeping up on me and not being able to become un-trapped in that attack.

3It's A Familiar Feeling

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

So. Familiar. It's as though it's sticking to a script and it's refusing to waver or even add another plot to the storyline.

"The panic you feel reminds you of other recent anxiety attacks," says Dr. Kushnick. "Panic attacks often have a pattern to them. They are predictable based on their location/context."

Ad failed to load

4You're Aware Of How Irrational The Attack Is

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

"You are fully aware of the irrational nature of the anxiety attack and therefore logic and reason don't help you to feel better," says Dr. Kushnick. "A freak-out involves really believing that there's a threat."

That might not make sense to someone who doesn't suffer from anxiety attacks, but when an anxiety attack strikes, you're actually aware how irrational it is, so no amount of trying to reason with your brain is going to make it go away. I once had an anxiety attack sitting on the couch, next to my mom, watching a movie. Logistically, it didn't make sense. I was comfortable, I was safe, I was actually, for the most part feeling pretty OK about life — or as "OK" as a depressive can feel about life — and it hit. A freak-out can be rationalized. Your wallet, for example, is stolen and your bank account has been drained, so you freak-out. That makes sense; that's justified. With an anxiety attack, there is sometimes no justification, well, except for the wiring in your head.

5Anxiety Attacks Can Last For A Long Time

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

While a momentary freak-out is just that: momentary, an anxiety attack can last and last and last. According to Dr. Kushnick, although most attacks are 15 to 20 minutes in length, some can last all day long. And, again, no amount of talking yourself out of it is going to undo the situation. You need to let it run its course, or if you've been prescribed something like Xanax, take one and hope it works. I've had anxiety attacks that have been so extreme that not even a Xanax can take the edge off — my mind just rejects any and all attempts at help.

6Your Body Has A Physical Response

Fotolia

Sure, your heart can race and you can even become nauseous during a freak-out, but your body's physical response to an anxiety attack is completely different. We're talking about shaking, sweating, heart pain, dizziness, numbness, and even rashes — my body, in particular just loves to break out in a some hives during an anxiety attack. The physical pain can be so overwhelming and so intense that some people have even mistaken them for heart attacks and have gone to the ER, only to be told it's an anxiety attack.

Ad failed to load

7Depression May Follow

Fotolia

"You can also tell if it's an anxiety attack if you feel mild to moderate depression within about 24 hours of the event," says Dr. Kushnick. And, because depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand for many people, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of American, this can come as no surprise. It can also come as no surprise because the mental and physical stress than an anxiety attack inflicts on the body and mind, even if you don't really understand just how extreme it is in the moment, can be truly exhausting, making us even extra vulnerable to depression.

Now that you know the difference, if you think you suffer from an anxiety disorder, then it's time to get help. Don't be in that large percentage of people who suffer in silence. While it may not be curable, it is treatable, with both medication and therapy.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale