If you’ve ever had a panic attack — you are not alone. This also goes for anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack. Deciphering which one is which can be tricky, but knowing there is a difference can help you learn to better manage these attacks if and when they happen.

Recently, HuffPost spoke with Chrisina Boisseau, an associate professor of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, who shared that panic attacks can come out of nowhere and often come on for no apparent reason.

“Panic attacks are unexpected rushes of intense fear or discomfort that come with some scary symptoms ― your heart starts racing, you’re dizzy, you feel flushed or you get a sudden shortness of breath,” Boisseau stated to HuffPost. “Symptoms peak very sharply within a matter of minutes and don’t usually last that long.”

According to Very Well Mind, a person can have panic attacks in their sleep — these are called nocturnal panic attacks. Nocturnal panic attacks have a possibility of contributing to sleep disorders and can leave you feeling tired throughout the day.

Alice Boyes, the author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, shared with HuffPost that nocturnal panic attacks can wake a person up from a deep sleep with feelings of panic for no apparent reason. While the attack itself can happen quickly, the body takes a little more to “release the chemicals and adrenaline that’s accumulated with a panic attack.”

The DSM-5 or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was written by the American Psychiatric Association and is used to diagnose mental health issues in the United States. The most recent edition of the DSM-5 states that a panic attack is made up of four or more of the following symptoms:

  • -Palpitations or a pounding heart
  • -Sweating
  • -Muscle trembling or shaking
  • -Shortness of breath or sensations of smothering
  • -Choking sensations
  • -Chest pain or discomfort
  • -Nausea or abdominal distress
  • -Dizziness or feeling lightheaded and faint
  • -Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (feeling detached from yourself)
  • -Fears of losing control or going crazy (literally feeling as if you might lose your mind)
  • -Fear of dying
  • -Numbness, tingling sensations
  • -Chills or hot flashes

For those experiencing panic attacks regularly, there’s a chance that you could have a panic disorder. Boisseau also stated that panic disorder is “basically a fear of fear,” meaning that those who have a panic disorder are afraid for the feeling of panic itself. They are also afraid that something isn’t functioning properly with them and they’re essentially worrying about having a panic attack.

For those living with panic attacks, there are ways to cope with them and better manage them. One of the most common ways to cope with panic attacks is to focus on your breath — practicing slow breathing can help deal with feelings of panic.

However, it is also helpful to continue this practice even when you’re not dealing with a panic attack. A helpful way to think about your breath can be to “act as if you’re blowing up a balloon and then do a long, slow breath out,” according to Boyes. “People who suffer from anxiety and panic can make great gains and improvements to their lives,” she said to HuffPost.

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