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Distinguishing Anxiety and Panic Attacks from a Heart Attack

Posted at 2:16 PM, Apr 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-14 16:17:01-04

Anxiety disorders are very common. If you’ve ever experienced an anxiety or panic attack, the symptoms can feel scary and debilitating—even mimicking symptoms of a heart attack. But, how do you distinguish between the two, and when should you seek medical attention?

Shared symptoms of heart attack and panic attack

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flushed skin
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing Heart disease

Although it can be quite difficult to distinguish between an anxiety disorder and a heart problem, it is important that you get to the bottom of your symptoms and know your risk. When in doubt, talk to your doctor right away.

There are a variety of tests your doctor may suggest if he or she suspects heart disease, likely beginning with a physical exam. Treatment options for both medical concerns are available, but diagnosis is the first step.

When should seek emergency medical attention?

If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms, especially chest pain and difficulty breathing, don’t hesitate to call 911.

Although panic attacks are generally non-life threatening, it is important to remember that anxiety disorders can be serious and the symptoms you experience are very real. Even if your symptoms are not heart-related, your doctor can help you find treatment options that work for you.