7 doctors weighed in:

What are the differences between a panic attack and a nervous breakdown?

7 doctors weighed in
Dr. Alan Ali
Psychiatry
3 doctors agree

In brief: Nervous breakdown

Nervous breakdown is not a definition in our mental disorder diagnostic criteria manuals, but it can refer to a specific acute time-limited reaction to external stress, most common of which is breakdown of intimate relationship.
Closest definition in our manual is adjustment disorder with anxiety/depression. Panic attacks are sudden, no apparent trigger, chronic, and with avoidance.

In brief: Nervous breakdown

Nervous breakdown is not a definition in our mental disorder diagnostic criteria manuals, but it can refer to a specific acute time-limited reaction to external stress, most common of which is breakdown of intimate relationship.
Closest definition in our manual is adjustment disorder with anxiety/depression. Panic attacks are sudden, no apparent trigger, chronic, and with avoidance.
Dr. Alan Ali
Dr. Alan Ali
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Dr. Kevin Passer
Pediatrics - Psychiatry
2 doctors agree

In brief: Severity

Panic attacks-which if they re-occur, are part of panic disorder which is fairly common as are the anxiety disorders in general.
When one has a panic attack, he or she may feel as though they are going crazy or losing their minds. The panic feeling goes away after a while. A "nervous breakdown" suggests a person actually loses touch with reality or cannot care for themselves anymore at all.

In brief: Severity

Panic attacks-which if they re-occur, are part of panic disorder which is fairly common as are the anxiety disorders in general.
When one has a panic attack, he or she may feel as though they are going crazy or losing their minds. The panic feeling goes away after a while. A "nervous breakdown" suggests a person actually loses touch with reality or cannot care for themselves anymore at all.
Dr. Kevin Passer
Dr. Kevin Passer
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1 doctor agrees

In brief: They can overlap

A panic attack is an intense fear/discomfort with symptoms in 10 minutes such as palpitations, pounding heart.
Sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, choking, chest discomfort, nausea , dizziness, lightheartedness, fear of dying, losing control or going crazy, numbness, tingling, chills or hot flashes. A nervous breakdown refers to a loss of function due to an emotional or mental condition.

In brief: They can overlap

A panic attack is an intense fear/discomfort with symptoms in 10 minutes such as palpitations, pounding heart.
Sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, choking, chest discomfort, nausea , dizziness, lightheartedness, fear of dying, losing control or going crazy, numbness, tingling, chills or hot flashes. A nervous breakdown refers to a loss of function due to an emotional or mental condition.
Dr. Michael Blumenfield
Dr. Michael Blumenfield
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