Panic Attack Or Heart Attack? Identifying Some Common Signs And Symptoms

If you've ever suffered an anxiety attack, you may have noticed your panic level ratcheting up a few notches as the fleeting question, "am I having a heart attack?" passes through your mind. Indeed, many of the most well-known symptoms of an anxiety attack, like trouble breathing, chest pain, and lightheadedness, can also be some of the earliest signs of a heart attack. Read on to learn more about some of the similarities (and differences) in symptoms between these two medical events and what you'll want to do to seek care for both. 

In what ways do heart attacks and panic attacks present similarly?

There's some significant overlap in some of the most common symptoms of panic attacks and heart attacks. These symptoms can include: 

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness 
  • Tunnel vision or a roaring sound in your ears 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Racing heartbeat or palpitations 

During a panic attack, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that can speed up your heart and make you feel like you're having a heart attack. This, combined with the dizziness and faint feeling that can come from hyperventilation, can often make your panic attack worse before it gets better. If your symptoms don't abate after a few minutes of sitting quietly and taking deep breaths in through your mouth and out through your nose, you may want to seek medical attention at an urgent care facility. 

What are the differences in symptoms between panic attacks and heart attacks? 

There are a few heart-attack-specific symptoms that you're unlikely to experience if you're having a panic attack. These include:

  • Pain in your left arm or radiating up your jaw
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sweating or clamminess

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Delaying your trip to a doctor can cause your heart to suffer irreversible damage due to the lack of oxygen, compromising your ability to make a full recovery. In general, a panic attack will resolve itself within a few minutes to an hour, while a heart attack will continue to cause pain, pressure, and discomfort until the blood clot is broken loose or your condition quickly worsens. 

If you have a nearby emergency room, this is likely your best bet during a heart attack; however, if you're fairly far from a hospital or the emergency room is overcrowded, you may instead want to telephone your primary care physician or go to an urgent care center so that your treatment can begin immediately. Visit a site like for more information