What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Attacks?

Updated April 5, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Anxiety attacks are bouts of intense, powerful emotions. They can mimic serious, life-threatening conditions and disorders, such as heart attacks. There are different types of anxiety attacks linked to various conditions, each of them as unique as the people who claim them. Understanding and recognizing how anxiety can manifest may help you or a loved one prevent or cope with it in the future. In this article, we’ll be exploring the different forms of anxiety attacks, including their symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Want to learn more about anxiety - and how to cope?

What is an anxiety attack?

An anxiety attack is characterized by the sudden onset of a series of at least four symptoms of anxiety, including, but not limited to the following: shortness of breath, racing heart, nausea, dizziness, gastric distress, numbness or tingling in the limbs, sweating, chest pain, trembling, and overwhelming, unexplained fear. Anxiety attacks (also called panic attacks) are often difficult to discern from medical conditions, as the symptoms so closely mimic many medical conditions, including heart murmurs, heart attacks, and even thyroid dysfunction.

Anxiety attacks must possess at least four of the above symptoms to qualify for a diagnosis, and attacks must occur regularly. Anxiety attacks last between a few minutes and ten minutes at a time but can come in a rapid-fire series of attacks, as well, with dips and crescendos.

Perhaps the most intense part of an anxiety attack is fear: panic attacks, specifically, are known for the fears they inspire. Fear of severe medical conditions and fear of dying are common fears that come screaming to the surface amid a panic attack. Some of these fears may be legitimized when a visit to the hospital yields high blood pressure, a racing heart, and low blood oxygen levels, though these symptoms may be psychosomatic.

What are the different anxiety disorders?

There are numerous anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each of these disorders has anxiety as the base, but each has its own unique set of symptoms and expected causes.

General anxiety disorder is characterized by a general feeling of anxiety that is not explained by a situation or occurrence, unexplained fatigue, restlessness, irritability, tension, and sleep disturbance. GAD is one of the most common forms of anxiety and may be accompanied by anxiety attacks.

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme anxiety in response to social engagement. Social anxiety might appear in response to public speaking or other speaking engagements, or it may appear in the form of not wanting to get involved in social situations in general. SAD often creates a cycle of struggling to get out among people, leading to potentially strange or undesirable behaviors, which further build on anxiety and creates a loop of symptoms.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder characterized by avoidance, hyperarousal, unwanted memories, and mood changes, all of which begin to show up at least one month after a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. PTSD symptoms are somewhat different from many other anxiety disorders, as they revolve around these four core symptoms, then branch outward from there.

Panic disorder is so named for its proximity to panic attacks; panic disorder is a condition in which panic attacks are a regular occurrence. Symptoms of stress arise because of the fear of having a panic attack, both due to the likelihood of experiencing distress while amid an attack and having to explain what exactly has occurred to the people around you.

Finally, obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by rigidity, intrusive thoughts, and disordered thinking. OCD can cause people to engage in rituals that are in no way fundamental to functioning, but that serve as an absolute must for the person with the condition. People with the condition might struggle to let go of things and may grow obsessive in times of stress, discomfort, or confusion.


What are the different types of anxiety attacks?

Just as each different type of anxiety disorder has its own symptoms, each disorder has a unique approach to anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks usually occur in conjunction with the symptoms related to each anxiety disorder and have different causes. Within these parameters, there is a fan of our different types of anxiety attacks: cued, uncued, standard panic attacks, and limited panic attacks.

A cued panic attack is one that happens for a reason. Someone with social anxiety disorder, for instance, might experience a panic attack when they are required to go out in a crowd or engage in some form of social interaction. Someone with PTSD might experience a panic attack when faced with something that reminds them of a traumatic memory.

An uncued panic attack is one that does not have a specific root cause. These attacks often happen in the middle of something seemingly simple, unimportant, or uninteresting. These attacks may be accompanied by even more fear than a cued attack, as you may not recognize them as panic attacks; after all, what could have happened to cause them?

A standard panic attack is one that lasts between a few minutes and 10 minutes, has a clear upward trend, and has at least 4 of the standard panic attack symptoms. This is the most common type of panic attack and is the one most used to diagnose panic disorder.

The final type of panic attack is a limited panic attack. Limited panic attacks are so named because they do not fit the criteria for a standard panic attack; although they usually exist within the same time frame as a standard panic attack, they may not have 4 or more symptoms from the common list of symptoms, instead of demonstrating 3 or fewer symptoms. Just as with a standard panic attack, any combination of symptoms can be seen within limited panic attacks, and episodes are experienced somewhat regularly.

How are anxiety attacks treated?

Anxiety attacks are treated via psychotherapy, pharmaceutical intervention, and lifestyle changes, with the most effective treatment model employing all three. Panic attacks are treated in much the same way as any anxiety disorder, as they are borne of anxiety and ebb and flow in line with anxiety's ebbs and flows.

The most common type of psychotherapy for panic attacks is cognitive behavioral therapy, though basic talk therapy might also be employed, as can other forms of therapeutic intervention, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). These therapies work to change the perceptions, patterns, and ideas you have regarding yourself, your condition, and your environment, to create healthier patterns of thought and behavior.

Pharmaceutical intervention for panic attacks usually involves a sedative medication of some kind and an antidepressant, or one of these options on its own. Pharmaceutical intervention might be constant or could be administered in response to an episode to quiet the feelings associated with the attack.

Lifestyle interventions are typically those that treat anxiety as a whole, rather than targeting panic attacks directly. This can be done by eliminating (or limiting) alcohol, refined sugar, and caffeine and implementing a diet filled with healthy, whole foods. This could also be done by making sure to participate in regular exercise and engage in some form of mindfulness practice, including yoga or meditation. All three of these treatment areas fused can yield powerful results when trying to minimize anxiety or overcome panic attacks.

Want to learn more about anxiety - and how to cope?

Online counseling with Regain

Panic attacks can be difficult to handle on your own and might be most effectively tackled with a solid treatment plan developed by a professional. A mental health professional can help you identify the negative thought patterns you’re experiencing and give you tools to manage your symptoms more efficiently. You can access therapy locally or through online services like Regain. Regain is an online counseling platform that lets you connect with licensed therapists right from your home. You can talk through video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging and according to your availability. As anxiety or panic attacks come on throughout the day, you can message your therapist for support and guidance instead of waiting days or weeks for another appointment. Online counseling can help you prioritize your mental well-being and work toward living a happy, healthy, and productive life.  

The effectiveness of online counseling 

Online counseling has been shown to be an effective treatment option for mental health disorders such as anxiety. In one study, researchers found that internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety disorders was both effective and cost-efficient. Participants experienced clinically significant improvements in their anxiety symptoms, and these outcomes were maintained at a one-year follow-up. CBT is a therapeutic approach that focuses on altering an individual’s automatic thought patterns. Over time, those who engage in CBT can come to recognize when their thoughts are unhelpful and reframe them to be more positive. CBT, therefore, has been associated with a variety of promising mental health outcomes like higher self-esteem, self-efficacy, and confidence. 


Living with anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, particularly when panic attacks occur, but there is hope: anxiety and panic disorder are both treatable, and you can walk away from them with some semblance of order in your life. Although living with an anxiety or panic disorder can be overwhelming and isolating, with the help of a professional, a solid support system, lifestyle regimens, and medication, even a powerful case of anxiety or panic can be treated and potentially overcome. In many cases, the most important aspect of treatment is consistency; consistently adhering to a treatment regimen, including talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes, can yield the greatest results and can be the key to lessening anxiety symptoms, lessening anxiety attacks, and improving quality of life.

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.