Panic Attack Or Heart Trouble? 3 Ways You Can Distinguish Between The Two

29 July 2015
 Categories: Health & Medical , Blog


Each year, five out of every 1,000 people in the United States end up in the emergency room or urgent care after experiencing symptoms of anxiety or after having a panic attack. Why so many? The truth is that panic and anxiety symptoms can closely mirror that of a heart attack or other cardiac-related event. Many people with panic disorders want to know the difference between a heart attack and panic attack so they can ward off or recover from a sudden, unexpected attack.

While it's important to be able to distinguish between panic and  a heart-related event in order to calm yourself down when you're having a severe attack, it's as equally important to know when to seek out medical attention. Following are three ways you can distinguish between a panic attack or heart-related event.

Traveling, Worsening Pain

Panic attacks and cardiac events can both cause chest pain. However, there are usually several differences. Pain associated with a heart attack continues to escalate and may travel to other areas of the body, such as the arms, back, abdomen, neck, throat or jaw. Heart-related chest pain also usually occurs during  or immediately after physical exertion. Pain associated with panic attacks, on the other hand, is usually localized and passes after several minutes. It also commonly occurs out of the blue while the body is at rest. 

Changing, Evolving Symptoms

You can also distinguish between a heart event and anxiety by tracking how your symptoms evolve. Symptoms associated with heart trouble may subside with rest and get worse with activity. However, anxiety symptoms usually subside with activity and increase when the mind has nothing else to concentrate on. What's more, panic attacks usually reach their peak in 10 minutes while heart events can occur over several hours. 

Skipped, Missed Heartbeats

In most panic attacks, the heart rate escalates evenly over several seconds. In cases of heart arrhythmia, however, the heart may skip or miss a beat before beating rapidly. Additionally, you will often feel anxiety symptoms before you notice an elevated heart rate with a panic attack. With heart-related events, the anxiety usually comes after. 

If there is even a slim chance that your symptoms are not due to a panic attack, seek out medical attention immediately at a place like West Ocean City Injury & Illness Center. Do not take any chances with your life. You should also seek medical attention if your symptoms are different than those associated with your panic attacks.