Here’s how to tell the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack

Symptoms can seem similar, so it is important to know the difference.

Hopefully, you’ll never experience either one of these types of attacks, but it can be life-saving knowing the difference. Some of the symptoms can coincide, but it is the other symptoms that will help you know the difference.

Panic attack symptoms

A panic attack often occurs during a stressful environment. It can happen all of a sudden and quite often you’ll feel scared or uncomfortable, typically for around 10 or 15 minutes. Panic attacks can go on for longer though.

The following are the five most common symptoms of panic attacks:

  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking

Other symptoms can also include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or GI upset
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chills or heat
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Feeling of unreality or that the person is detached from themselves
  • Fear of losing control or fear of dying

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Here’s how to tell the difference between a heart attack and a panic attack Jair Lázaro/Unsplash

Heart attack symptoms

A heart attack occurs when an area of the heart doesn’t receive enough blood in order to stay healthy according to Karol Watson, M.D., Professor of Medicine/Cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

These are the most common heart attack symptoms in women:

  • Chest pressure, tightness, palpitations or sharp pain
  • Nausea, indigestion, stomach pain or some acid reflux
  • Discomfort in arms, neck, jaw or back
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Cold sweat and paleness

Similarities

As you can see, chest pain, palpitations, dizziness, tingling, nausea are common for both heart attacks and panic attacks, but one of the ways to tell the difference is the setting. Both heart attacks and panic attacks can also leave you with a feeling of impending doom.

Even though the two can feel similar, if you think you are having a heart attack, you should definitely get emergency help. Even if there is a tiny bit of doubt, it is better to be safe and to get assessed by a medical professional.

Glenn Levine, MD, Master Clinician and Professor of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston says:

If someone is not sure, they should seek immediate medical attention, including calling 911,
Heart attack: You're more likely to have a heart attack at this time of day and temperature Heart attack: You're more likely to have a heart attack at this time of day and temperature