Anxiety Attacks vs. Nervous Breakdowns vs. Panic Attacks part 1: Definitions

*Revised on May 13, 2015
*Revised on May 17, 2015
*Revised on May 31, 2015
*Revised on June 3, 2015
*Revised on June 6, 2015
*Revised on June 13, 2015
*Revised on June 16, 2015
Even though terms like anxiety attack, nervous breakdown, and panic attack may seem like synonyms on the surface, the deeper analysis of each type of mental or physical shutdown of one’s abilities are, in some cases, very different. It is important to understand what is happening in your head in times of crisis or panic, so you can reassure yourself that you understand why you’re upset and that the feelings will subside.

Anxiety Attack
An anxiety attack is an intense, overwhelming episode of anxiety. Anxiety itself is usually a major core feature of many mental illnesses that are deemed as a type of anxiety disorder, such as agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and several more. Anxiety usually accumulates over an extended period of time. Symptoms of an anxiety attack are often a bit weaker than those of other types of breakdowns, but anxiety can last for very long periods of time; hours, days, and sometimes weeks. [1]
Anxiety photo 1
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Nervous Breakdown

A nervous, breakdown is when a person is temporarily unable to function properly due to stress, but are not always directly linked to mental illnesses or disorders. Nervous breakdowns usually occur when a person is subjected to a situation or environment that they find stressful, or when stressful thoughts become too overwhelming for a person to handle. Although these breakdowns are not directly linked with any possible mental health problems, if they occur quite often, they could be a sign or symptom of a disorder such as depression or GAD [2]. Here is a song that relates to some of the feelings that occur during a nervous breakdown:

Here is a link to the lyrics of the song.
Panic Attack

A panic attack is a sudden engulfing feeling of anxiety or fear, with symptoms that usually occur very suddenly (often triggered by a certain event or thought, but sometimes appear without apparent reason), spike after about 10 minutes and then subside. However, some panic attacks last longer or occur in succession. Panic attacks are often linked to anxiety-related mental disorders such as borderline personality disorder (BPD),depression, GAD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, or any type of phobia [3] . 

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Here is another song that relates to stress, a common cause of panic attacks/disorders:

Here is a link to the lyrics of Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots

If you’d like to learn more, read Anxiety Attacks vs. Nervous Breakdowns vs. Panic Attacks part 2: Causes and Symptoms and/or part 3: Help

[1] Ankrom, Sheryl. “Anxiety Attacks Versus Panic Attacks: What’s the Difference.” Abouthealth., 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 2 May 2015. <>.
[2] Hall-Flavin, Daniel K. “Depression (Major Depressive Disorder): What Does It Mean to Have a Nervous Breakdown.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Web. 4 May 2015. <>.
[3] “Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 10 May 2015. <>

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