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

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.
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.
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.

Related Questions

Earlier this year I had a panic attack and recently I had nervous breakdown and im only 21, and this concerns me.

Anxiety disorder. You are experiencing an anxiety disorder, which responds well to various psychotherapies and medication, such as Prozac, Paxil, (paroxetine) and Zoloft. Sometimes benzos help. Make sure you reduce any dietary stimulant sources, such as caffeine, ginkgo bilbo, energy drinks, tea, diet aids, coffee, cigarettes. Meditation, yoga, stress reduction, and good sleep habits help.