Anxiety Attack vs. Heart Attack

You’re in a company, you’re having fun – until one of your friends get all cramped up, is having chest pains, a shortness of breath and becomes nauseous. Is he or she experiencing a heart attack? Because nobody in the company is medically schooled, you’re likely to call 911 for the ambulance service. The patient is rushed into the emergency room. Once some basic tests are done, the doctors find out that your friend is quite alright, that he or she is having a panic attack.

How can you tell the difference, as there are similarities between a heart attack and an anxiety attack?

  • Both attacks can lead to an increased heart rate.
  • Both cause irregular heartbeat.
  • Both cause pain and discomfort.

Learning to distinguish between the two is not easy, but there are some things you may try not to forget.

People who are having a heart attack experience a fast heartbeat. Sufferers from a panic attack equally experience them, but in their case the fast heartbeat is not usually followed by severe pain.

During a heart attack, the heavy pain will mainly concentrate on the chest and will last longer than just a couple of minutes. The pain will also affect other parts, mainly in the upper body. This can include one or both arms, the neck, the jaw and/or the stomach. The pain may come and go, but won’t disappear.

When you suffer a heart attack, you’ll experience a shortness of breath. Sometimes you’ll feel as if you can’t get any air anymore. People in an anxiety attack may experience rapid breathing, which is not the same. In fact, all they have to do is to try and take a deep breath, to self-regulate the breathing and slow it down.

The panic may cause cold sweat and nausea, which are also present during a heart attack. But there really is no connection between the two. A person in panic doesn’t think clearly. They tend to be less rational and won’t believe that nothing is wrong with them.

When in doubt, and even when you’re sure it’s just a panic attack, do call the emergency services or a doctor. All medical professionals will advise likewise. Because only a thorough examination and an array of tests will make evident what is the cause of your troubles. And it’s a lot better to hear that you are only having a panic attack than experiencing a real heart attack!

Debra Moser and Kathleen Dracup did a study of heart patients, and came to the conclusion that patients who went through a heart attack will do a lot better and have fewer complications when they feel in control of their emotions. The tests she performed checked the feelings of anxiety and control of a situation. She found out that most of her heart attack victims belonged to a group with high stress. Stress-related chemicals thicken the blood, and this causes problems. That is why physicians often treat heart attack victims with calming measures.


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