Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks: What’s The Difference?

If you have ever had an “anxiety attack” or panic attack, you know just how frightening and stressful they can be. Although the terms anxiety attack and panic attack are often used interchangeably, there are a few key differences between anxiety and panic attacks.

The main difference is that panic attacks are generally sudden or acute and are associated with episodes of “extreme fear and a sense of detachment.” Anxiety, on the other hand, often occurs as a long-term or chronic condition characterized by excessive worry and fear and can be brought on acutely by stressful events. You can have anxiety without escalating into a panic attack.

Neurofeedback therapy is an invaluable tool for addressing the symptoms of both panic attacks and anxiety.

For more than 40 years, the Drake Institute has helped patients suffering from anxiety and stress-related symptoms achieve a higher quality of life.

What’s more, our process is non-invasive and non-drug based. Instead, our patients learn the self-regulation skills needed to reduce the frequency and impact of symptoms.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about panic disorders vs. anxiety disorders, and how neurofeedback therapy may help.

To learn more about how Drake uses neurofeedback therapy, call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free contact form.

Are Panic Attacks & Anxiety Attacks The Same Thing?

Panic attacks and anxiety share similar symptoms, but they’re not identical.

Panic attacks are characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms due to a specific trigger or without any known trigger. An anxiety disorder is a condition in which an individual experiences a general sense of anxiety, fear and/or worry.

What Are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks occur suddenly and are accompanied by feelings of profound fear or terror as if you are in immediate danger or a life-threatening experience.

This intense discomfort can cause unpleasant physical symptoms, despite no real threat present. These symptoms reflect the body’s natural fight-or-flight response and can become disruptive to daily life.

When panic attacks occur regularly, this is called a panic disorder.

There is no singular cause of panic attacks. Genetics, stressful events, physiological changes in the brain, and a sensitivity to negative emotions are all factors that could contribute.

Symptoms Of Panic Attacks

During a panic attack, the brain communicates to the body that there is a deadly threat, even though there isn’t. Many of these symptoms, like increased heart rate, replicate what happens to the body when a genuine threat is present. Here are some of the most common symptoms of panic attacks:

  • A sense of impending danger or death
  • Fear of death or loss of control
  • Feeling detached from reality or the self
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Headache 

What Are “Anxiety Attacks”?

There is no medical consensus on the existence of “anxiety attacks”, as there is on panic attacks, but anxiety disorders are obviously recognized.

Having feelings of worry or anxiety every once in a while is a normal part of life. However, when this anxiety becomes too frequent or intense, and disrupts social or occupational functioning, as well as the quality of your life or health, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder.

Instead of a sudden onset of symptoms that we see in panic attacks, anxiety disorders are characterized by symptoms regularly felt throughout the day or during specific and recurrent situations. [i]

For example, a person with a social anxiety disorder may experience unpleasant symptoms whenever faced with an upcoming social event. Other anxiety disorders include separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, selective mutism, and various phobias.

The primary difference between panic attacks and anxiety is that panic attacks are acute and short-lived, while anxiety disorders are experienced over the course of weeks, months, and even years.

Symptoms Of Anxiety

As with panic attacks, the symptoms of anxiety can be both psychological and physical. If left untreated, these symptoms can become disruptive to daily life and cause further health concerns. Here are the main symptoms of anxiety:

  • A sense of impending doom, apprehension
  • A feeling of being in danger
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Feeling inexplicably tense
  • Racing thoughts
  • Self-doubt
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or other sleep problems
  • Hyperventilation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Digestive issues
  • Teeth grinding
  • Cold or sweaty hands 

What Is Neurofeedback & How Does It Work?

Neurofeedback therapy is also referred to as EEG-Biofeedback therapy. It is a non-invasive and non-drug treatment protocol that uses a self-generated process to reduce symptoms linked to abnormal brain function.

This brain dysregulation may be associated with conditions like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can be physical, cognitive, or emotional and negatively impact the patient’s quality of life.

During neurofeedback therapy, sensors are placed on the patient’s scalp. These sensors measure brainwave activity in specific regions of the brain.

This information is then displayed on a screen in the form of a video game as part of a neurophysical feedback loop. The patient, through operant conditioning, learns to guide their brain activity to healthier, more appropriately functional patterns. Because the improvement is self-generated, learning skills are acquired that can lead to long-term improvement.

Is Neurofeedback Therapy Safe? 

Yes, neurofeedback therapy is safe. During neurofeedback therapy, no drugs are administered and the brain is not stimulated in any way.

In our clinical experience for over 40 years, the side effects of neurofeedback therapy are typically rare, mild, and short-lived. Our treatment protocols are developed by our Medical Director and target the symptoms linked to abnormal brainwave activity in order to safely reduce symptoms.

How Can Neurofeedback Help With Anxiety Disorders & Panic Attacks?

Anxiety disorders and panic attacks are two conditions for which neurofeedback works very well.

Both conditions are linked to dysregulation in the brain. To reduce negative symptoms, neurofeedback targets the areas of the brain experiencing dysregulation that are linked to the symptoms and guides the brain toward healthier, more desirable functioning patterns.

These improved patterns help the patient reclaim a stronger sense of well-being through one’s own control, and allow them to better regulate their emotional responses under stress.

In short, neurofeedback therapy teaches the patient how to achieve healthier brain wave patterns without the use of any external stimulation or prescription medications. This self-regulatory method can allow for a reduction of anxiety and panic attack symptoms even after treatment sessions have ended.

How The Drake Institute Uses Neurofeedback To Panic Attacks & Anxiety Disorders

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has been using neurofeedback therapy to help patients achieve a higher quality of life by reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks.

Our Medical Director and clinical staff use advanced technology to enable patients to acquire self-regulation skills that they can continue to practice even after treatment sessions have ended.

Our treatment process includes analysis of brain mapping with individualized neurofeedback therapy protocols

Brain Mapping

Before therapy can begin, a patient’s brainwave activity must be mapped out. To do this, our clinical staff will place 19 sensors around the scalp to measure brainwave activity.

Then, qEEG brain mapping technology measures brain activity through these sensors. Results are recorded and compared to an FDA-registered reference normative database of asymptomatic, same-age individuals.

Comparisons will reveal where there may be dysregulation in the patient’s brain linked to symptoms. Once these locations are identified, our Medical Director can create a neurofeedback protocol. 


The neurofeedback treatment protocol is designed specifically to address each patient’s needs, depending on their symptoms, brain map findings, and other factors.

As a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment for a variety of disorders, including anxiety and panic attacks, neurofeedback is safe and effective. This therapy helps patients gain self-regulatory skills that can help them adjust their brain activity toward healthier patterns that help reduce symptoms.


At the Drake Institute, we may occasionally use neuromodulation as part of the treatment protocol, especially for more resistant symptoms.

Neurostimulation technology gently stimulates brain activity to healthier, more functionally desired patterns.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

Panic attacks and anxiety disorders can be challenging to navigate without help. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety-related conditions and needs relief, get in touch with the Drake Institute today by calling 800-700-4233, or fill out the free consultation form.



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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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