What’s The Difference Between GAD & Panic Disorder?

what’s the difference between gad & panic disorder

What’s The Difference Between GAD & Panic Disorder?

Many people panic in certain situations, experiencing things like a racing heartbeat or shortness of breath before a big school test, work presentation, or some other stressful event. But when these feelings become overwhelming, they can result in more serious conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. 

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

If you have extreme worry, anxiety, and tension surrounding everyday life, you may be experiencing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it’s present in more than 20% of all patients with anxiety symptoms who are seen in primary care settings, being present in 22% of primary care patients who complain of anxiety problems. GAD affects women more than men, especially those over the age of 35, but relatively few adolescents.

What Is Panic Disorder?

A panic disorder also is rooted in worry, but primarily around deep-seated fear of when you may experience another panic attack. Mostly irrational fear surrounds non-life-threatening situations, but such feelings can worsen over time in some people and lead to panic disorder in about 3% of U.S. adults. In cases like these, the symptoms become problematic when they force changes in behavior – such as avoiding potential triggers, withdrawing from loved ones, and staying away from places where attacks have happened before.

GAD vs. Panic Disorder

To the average person, distinguishing between generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder may be difficult. Still, they’re two distinct mental health problems that can be treated by ketamine or other therapy once you know what you’re dealing with. Here’s how to recognize the differences between the two.

What does Panic Disorder Mean?

You may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder if you have continual panic attacks, fear of losing control, feel detached from reality or yourself, you constantly worry about future panic attacks, you experience physical symptoms like chest pain, trembling, shortness of breath, and a fast heartbeat.

What about generalized anxiety disorder?

The biggest difference with GAD is the overall severity and length of the symptoms, and the effect they have on daily life. Panic attacks or depression don’t always result in generalized anxiety disorder, but if the symptoms linger without being treated, you may eventually be diagnosed with GAD. Someone with GAD may have extreme worry about daily life, worry that interferes with everyday life, sleep problems, muscle tension, irritability, problems concentrating, and digestive problems.

Differences in Everyday Life

Generalized anxiety disorder is rooted in worries around unusual life circumstances or those which have taken on elements of pressure not regularly experienced in everyday life. This would include things like concerns about finances, problems at your place of employment, disruptions in childcare arrangements, or your health. 

Panic disorder also is concerning, but most of its symptoms happen in a short timeframe – about a 10-minute span – before they go away. It’s characterized by physical symptoms described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), including chest pain, dizziness, nausea, numbness, and others.

On the other hand, generalized anxiety disorder has symptoms including headaches and fatigue, which persist for six months or longer and can affect someone’s quality of life. Warning signs rarely go away on their own and can lead to other health problems.

Another difference between the two? Panic disorder is more widespread, affecting an estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, while generalized anxiety disorder is less common at about 3.1%.

In either case, your healthcare provider may recommend self-help remedies, or refer you to a specialty clinic that offers ketamine infusion therapy. When dispensed in low doses intravenously, ketamine can relieve symptoms of either condition, but its success depends on many factors, including overall health and severity and duration of symptoms.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you think you’re experiencing panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, don’t ignore them and assume they’ll just go away. People with mental health issues sometimes forgo treatment because of the stigma involved but seeing a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options is the best first step to take. Diagnosis requires a physical and psychiatric evaluation to determine potential causes for symptoms and treat them if possible.

Your medical professional may recommend psychotherapy, antidepressants or other medicine, self-help strategies, diet or lifestyle changes, and newer forms of treatment. In some cases, you may be referred to a specialty clinic with expertise in ketamine infusion therapy to relieve symptoms of either condition.

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