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What Is The Difference Between A Panic Attack And Heart Attack?

Distinguishing between a heart attack and a panic attack can get difficult since both show similar symptoms. Read below to know the how can you identify the two.

What Is The Difference Between A Panic Attack And Heart Attack?

Heart attack and panic attack: Both the conditions cause heavy breathing


  1. You must visit the emergency in case of panic or heart attack
  2. The two conditions can have similar symptoms
  3. Heavy breathing in both conditions makes people confuse between the two

At times, it might get difficult for one to distinguish between a panic attack and a heart attack. Both the conditions tend to have similar symptoms, like sweating, pain in the chest, prickly feeling, uneven breathing and nausea. What majorly confuses people between the two is the fact that heart attack can induce panic. However, despite their seeming similarity, heart attacks and panic attacks can be distinguished from one another. However, the best way is to seek medical help in case you are feeling symptoms which signal panic attack or heart attack.

panic attack

Panic attack and heart attack can have similar symptoms
Photo Credit: iStock

How to recognise heart attack?

Constricting pain

Usually, the pain caused during a heart attack is constricting. It happens in the centre of chest and slowly moves downward along the left arm along the back. The pain caused by heart attack can also spread to teeth, neck and jaw area. The intensity of pain caused during heart attack can change. The pain usually lasts for more than 5 minutes and does not affect a person's breathing. The prickly feeling caused during a heart attack is generally restricted to a left arm alone. The same is accompanied by a cold, feeling of nausea, sticky sweat and even throwing up.

Also read: How To Help A Friend Through A Panic Attack

When a heart attack reaches its peak, people begin to get afraid because of the pain in the chest and the thought that they might die.

Also, during a heart attack, a person experience quickened breathing. This is leaving aside the quickened breathing which is provoked by a panic attack.

Experiencing symptoms of heart attack for more than 5 minutes means you need to call an ambulance or seek medical assistance instantly.

heart attack

Seek emergency help in case heart attack symptoms last for more than 5 minutes
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: 6 Common Symptoms Of Heart Attack In Men

How to recognise a panic attack?

There is a widespread misconception about panic attack, even though it occurs in the most ordinary circumstances.

Usually, symptoms of panic attack reach their peak after 10 minutes. This pain is focused on the chest and is such that it rises and then falls.

The prickly feeling and numbness which occurs during a panic attack is not restricted to the left arm. It happens in the right arms, legs and fingers.

Also read: This Simple Change In Lifestyle Can Reduce Risk Of Heart Attack

Also, people tend to experience certain irrational fears when they are getting a panic attack. These fears include going insane or feeling extremely suffocated.


People experience irrational fears when having a panic attack
Photo Credit: iStock

If you are experiencing a panic attack or a heart attack, you must make efforts to see a doctor immediately. In either case, waiting is not the solution.

Heart attacks are more fatal and can cause death in case you don't receive medical health on a timely basis.

Similarly, in the case of panic attack, if you don't seek medical help on time, the symptoms might get worse and cause such attacks more often. Timely medical examination can help you have an improved quality of life and increase your life expectancy.

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Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this 


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