Difference Between a Seizure and a Panic Attack

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 31, 2023

       

Difference Between a Seizure and a Panic Attack

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Introduction

Nowadays, people are becoming prone to several illnesses that may seem small but cause immense problems if neglected for extended durations. Stress and anxiety are problems in themselves, but they may cause certain conditions that probably seem sudden but happen because of continuous neglect and stress.

Seizures and Panic attacks are two conditions that happen suddenly, giving very less time to react and find a solution. They can attack a person unwarned and leave them shocked and puzzled perpetually. Medical specialists have stated many causes and reasons for Seizures and Panic attacks. In the same way, there is a whole list of symptoms and signs of these conditions.

Seizure vs Panic Attack

Seizures are caused by rapid and uncoordinated electrical firing in the brain, causing varied physical effects, occasionally led by psychological symptoms. On the other hand, a panic attack is an unexpected feeling of drastic fear with no known reason or undue to a perceived threat leading to physical and psychological symptoms.

Some serious symptoms of Seizure include- teeth getting clenched, frothing occurring in the mouth, uncontrolled bowel movements, bladder loss, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, rapid movement of eyes, and loss of consciousness. The symptoms of a Panic attack include trembling, increased pulse rate, chest pain, hyperventilation, numbness, sweating, nausea, chills, and losing body control.

Difference Between a Seizure and a Panic Attack in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonSeizurePanic Attack
DefinitionA Panic attack is a hasty feeling of anxiety and fear due to a certain cause that may be unknown.A Seizure lasts from a few seconds to some minutes.
DurationA Panic attack may last from a few minutes up to half an hour.The symptoms of a panic attack can be-trembling,
sweating,
chest pain,
increase in pulse rate,
SymptomsThe symptoms may include-
loss of consciousness,
rapid eye movements,
dizziness,
headache, 
mood swings
The symptoms of a panic attack can be trembling,
sweating,
chest pain,
increase in pulse rate,
Possible causeThe causes of a seizure include-
a brain irregularity present at birth, 
a brain injury during childbirth, 
electric shock, 
Electrolyte imbalance
The possible causes for a panic attack can include-Biological factors,
Short-term stressors, 
Agoraphobia, 
Anxiety disorder, 
Neurotransmitter imbalance
TreatmentThe treatment for Seizure patients includes Surgery and antiepileptic drugs.Panic Attack patients may be prescribed with Psychotherapy and anti-depressant drugs.
Risk FactorsThe risk factors can be- Brain tumours, brain injuries, hormonal imbalances, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.The risk factors include- Stress, family history, OCD, phobias, childhood trauma or abusive childhood, etc.

What is a Seizure?

A Seizure is a sudden and uncontrollable shot of electrical activity in the brain, causing a change in behavior, feeling, level of consciousness, and movements. The symptoms can be dramatic, noticeable symptoms, mild symptoms, or absolutely no symptoms.

The word 'seizure' arrives from the age-old belief in multiple cultures that seizures were a symbol of occupancy by an odious spirit or demon. Modern science has revealed the truth that anyone can have seizures, and some people can have them more than others.

Symptoms of a Seizure

Sometimes you may also feel some symptoms before a seizure. These symptoms may include:

  • a jerky motion of the arms and legs that may cause you to drop things
  • an out-of-body sensation
  • a sudden feeling of worry or anxiousness
  • a sensation of being ill in your stomach
  • a transformation in vision
  • mood changes can also be experienced
  • a headache is the most common

Some symptoms display that a person is experiencing a seizure. These include:

  • drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • feeling an eerie taste in your mouth
  • clenching of teeth
  • having impulsive and rapid eye movements
  • biting the tongue
  • experiencing unmanageable muscle cramps

Types of Seizures

Seizures are classified based on where and how the brain activity causing the Seizure begins. They are classified basically into two main categories- Focal and Generalized.

Focal Seizures- Focal seizures occur due to electrical activity in one part of the part. They are further divided into the following types:

  • Focal Aware Seizure - During a focal aware seizure, you stay fully aware of what is happening near you, even if you are unable to move or react.
  • Focal impaired-awareness Seizure - This type of seizure can result in complete unconsciousness. You may not even remember what happened during the seizure.

Generalized Seizures- Seizures that begin to involve all areas of the brain from the time they initiate are called Generalized Seizures. They are of the following types:

  • Tonic Seizures - This type of seizure causes tightening of the muscles. Muscles in the back, arms, and legs get affected.
  • Absence Seizures - These last for only a few seconds and are also known as petit mal seizures. They can cause you to blink continuously or stare into space. They result in a brief of losing of cognition.
  • Atonic Seizures - They result in a loss of muscle control. You may suddenly feel your muscles becoming limp. They are also brief and last for about 10-12 seconds.

Treatment of Seizures

  • The first treatment option is usually Antiepileptic drugs for people who experience multiple seizures. They are several types. Your doctor should prescribe the most suitable one for you.
  • Surgical procedures to treat epilepsy include resective surgery, multiple subpial transections, hemispherectomy, and corpus callosotomy. 
  • Nerve Stimulation Devices can be used by doctors for treatment. This treatment includes setting electrodes around the vagus nerve in your neck and a generator for these electrodes in the upper chest.
  • Avoiding triggers that stimulate your panic attacks has an optimistic impact. These can include stress, drinking alcohol, and lack of sleep.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden feeling of fear and anxiety that may cause shortness of breath, palpitations, sweating, chest pain, etc. This can last from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the intensity. Panic attacks are not rare; 30 percent of people experience a panic attack at some point in life. A person who experiences panic attacks frequently is said to have a panic disorder. Panic attacks can occur due to several disorders, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorder, social anxiety disorder, depression, and medical problems. In those with frequent attacks, counseling or medicines may be used. Breathing training and muscle relaxation procedures may also help. Those impacted are at a greater risk of suicide.

Symptoms of Panic Attack

Some of the symptoms include:

  • a strong feeling of fear, threat or foreboding
  • fear of going furious, losing control, or dying
  • accelerated heart rate
  • a feeling of constriction in the chest
  • chills and tingling feeling in the arms and hands
  • trembling or shaking; sweating
  • feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath
  • tensed muscles

Some people also encounter tunnel vision due to blood flow leaving the head to more critical body parts in defence. Shortness of breath and chest pain are the prevailing symptoms. Panic attacks are different from other forms of anxiety in their intensity and their impulsive, periodical nature.

Causes of Panic Attacks

  • Experts say that your brain and nervous system play a vital role in terms of how you face fear or handle anxiety. Therefore, the exact reason why some people experience frequent panic attacks is still unknown.
  • Some Biological reasons can also cause a panic attack. These biological reasons may include post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hyperthyroidism, Wilson's disease, hypoglycemia, mitral valve prolapse, and labyrinthitis.
  • Short-term stressors may also trigger a panic attack. Substantial personal loss, including an emotional attachment to a romantic partner, life evolutions, and life changes may all initiate a panic attack to occur. 
  • A person with an anxious character, excessive need for consolation, hypochondriacally fears, overcautious opinion of the world, and cumulative stress have considered to be connected with panic attacks. Social transitions can also be a reason.
  • Exposure to a phobia can also be one of the reasons why people may experience panic attacks. 
  • Hyperventilation syndrome can aggravate respiratory alkalosis and hypocapnia. This syndrome often comprises protuberant mouth breathing as well. It causes a group of symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and light-headedness, which can trigger panic attacks.

Treatment of a Panic Attack

  • Changing your lifestyle can prove very effective in treating panic attacks. Caffeine may cause or aggravate panic anxiety. Anxiety can temporarily rise during withdrawal from caffeine and various other drugs. 
  • Increased and disciplined aerobic exercise has been shown to have an optimistic effect on battling panic anxiety. There is indication that puts forward that this outcome is correlated to the excretion of exercise-induced endorphins and the following reduction of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Breathing retraining exercises assist in rebalancing the oxygen and CO2 levels in the blood.
  • Most specialists agree that a mixture of cognitive and behavioural therapies is the best cure for panic disorder. Medication might also be suitable in some cases.
  • Benzodiazepines and antidepressants are the medications prescribed by doctors for patients suffering from panic attacks. Although, Benzodiazepines are being prescribed less frequently because of their possible side effects, such as addiction, tiredness, slurred speech, and memory loss.

Main Differences Between Seizure and Panic Attack (In Points)

  • Seizures are a consequence of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. They can induce physical symptoms such as convulsions, whereas Panic attacks originate from psychological factors and embody intense fear or anxiety.
  • A person having a panic attack remains conscious and may experience chest pain or shortness of breath. On the other hand, a person undergoing a seizure may lose consciousness or experience muscle stiffness.
  • The risk factors for Seizure include a brain tumour, a brain infection, a brain injury, hormonal imbalance leading to changes in brain chemicals, the commencement of Alzheimer’s disease, and other variables. A panic attack is caused by the appearance of extreme feelings of fear without an explanation or reason, or by the perception of an unnecessary threat. Specific phobias, panic disorder, PTSD, GAD, and ODD, are common triggers for panic attacks.
  • Usually, a seizure lasts from several seconds to a few minutes. On the other hand, a panic attack can be witnessed for a few minutes to half an hour.
  • The treatment of seizures is executed through surgery and antiepileptic drugs generally. On the other hand, Panic attacks can be cured and prohibited if lifestyle alterations are made. It is also cured through psychotherapy.
  • Headaches, sweating, nausea, chills, trembling, increased pulse rate, hyperventilation, chest pain, numbness, losing control of the body, and fear of detachment or dying are some of the symptoms witnessed in case of panic attacks. On the other hand, headaches, higher confusion and dilemma, muscle spasms, consciousness loss, frothing occurring in the mouth, teeth getting clenched, uncontrolled bowel movements, rapid movement of eyes, dizziness, anxiety, bladder loss, and severe mood swings are some of the severe symptoms of a seizure.

Conclusion

Let's sum it up. Firstly, Seizures and Panic attacks are two conditions or disorders that happen in the body that originate in the brain and exemplify physical symptoms that look alike and can even be confused with heart attacks. Secondly, they both have different symptoms. The symptoms of a seizure include increased confusion and dilemma, muscle spasms, teeth clenching, frothing in the mouth, uncontrollable bowel motions, bladder loss, rapid eye movement, dizziness, etc. Whereas, the symptoms of a Panic attack include nausea, chills, headaches, shaking, sweating, chest pain, headaches, fear of detachment or death, etc. The third and final point is that a seizure is physiological and a panic attack is psychological. Both can bring about drastic changes in the behaviour and psyche of a person, but they are different from each other in various aspects. The symptoms and causes are objective and weird but we have tried to explain everything precisely.

This article has explained the definition, causes, symptoms, and treatment of a Seizure and a Panic Attack in detail. The differences Between a Seizure and a Panic Attack have also been made clear throughout the article.

References

  • https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/panic-attack#causes-other-than-anxiety
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seizure/symptoms-causes/syc-20365711

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"Difference Between a Seizure and a Panic Attack." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 01 Mar. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-a-seizure-and-a-panic-attack>.



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