Panic attacks and heart attacks have some symptoms in common. But a panic attack, while distressing, is not deadly. A heart attack is another story.
What symptoms do heart attack and panic attack share?
Both a panic attack and a heart attack can cause rapid heart rate, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, faintness, numbness of hands and feet, and trembling.
When we think of a heart attack, we may have the TV image of one in mind: A man breaks into a cold sweat, clutches at his chest, and falls to the ground. And, indeed, sudden loss of consciousness is a clear sign that it's not just a panic attack. Unfortunately, when a woman has a heart attack, it can be much trickier to distinguish from a panic attack.
In fact, women take about 2 to 4 hours longer to respond to heart attack symptoms than men. Women's heart attack symptoms can be quite a bit subtler and may be mistaken for a panic attack. Chest pain is typically "milder," and one of the chief symptoms of heart attacks in women is sudden onset of unusual fatigue.
How should I react to my symptoms?
You should always treat these symptoms as serious. Seek prompt medical attention. Your appropriate treatment can be sorted out once you're at the hospital - whether that be emergency heart surgery, a thorough physical examination to determine your heart's health, or referral to a therapist to learn how to better control your panic and anxiety symptoms.