"Nobody knows whether this is for real, whether this is going to stay here," he added. "And this uncertainty is causing a lot of panic."
Mark Dubowitz, an analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says the sanctions "are designed to put sufficient pressure on the average Iranian," which could help trigger an uprising against the government -- or at least cause leaders to fear one.
"Sanctions are a form of economic warfare," he said.
Though some sanctions against Iran have existed for decades, "We've seen only 10 months of what I would call significant and severe economic pressure," Dubowitz said.
But there's no evidence the sanctions have compelled the Iranian government to change its nuclear stance, analysts say.
Ahmadinejad, in his speech Wednesday, denied suggestions that the measures could work.
"They lie when they say sanctions are pressure on the government," he insisted, adding that sanctions "are always a pressure on nations" -- meaning average citizens.
"It's a rock that the enemy has thrown. So what we should do? We should pick up the rock and throw it at them."
Anthony H. Cordesman, national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said sanctions must be "large scale and consistent" over time to be effective.
It's not possible to predict whether sanctions will change the regime, Cordesman said. "This is a duel and you find out just how effective you are over time."
Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, said so far there is no sign of a shift in the government's nuclear program.
"If Iran were a democracy, you would have had a situation in which there would have been far greater protests," he said. "Any democratic government would have fallen by now."
Parsi said he was skeptical that large-scale protests are in the cards.
Iranians "are not going to go out there and risk their lives for a change if they don't know what the next thing is," he said.
Iran saw a widespread popular uprising in 2009 after Ahmadinejad's contested re-election, triggering a brutal, deadly crackdown by government forces -- and Ahmadinejad held onto power.