What is the difference between Anxiety/panic attack and heart attack?

As anxiety or heart attack share some common characteristics, sometimes it seems complicated to figure out the difference between them. However, both are serious, and it’s essential to recognize which one an individual is experiencing for the proper treatment. 

  • Anxiety/panic attack: An anxiety attack is an unexpected attack of overwhelming fear; they are life-threatening and cause disturbance in the daily mental health of an individual. Individuals with regular or frequent anxiety attacks might have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety increases when the stress hormones trigger the body, causing rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Unable to breathe properly.
  • Chest pain.
  • Sweating.
  • Feeling of impending doom.
  • Weakness or dizziness.
  • Pounding or racing heart.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Stomach pain or nausea. 

The location of the pain:

According to “Dr. Miller” if an individual experiences anxiety attacks, the location of the pain will most likely stay in the chest. 

  • The heart attack: A heart attack usually occurs when the heart’s blood flow is blocked or reduced due to fatty substances. These fatty substances have deposits like plaque in it which cause blockage in the arteries of the heart. A heart attack can be life-threatening, so it is advised to reach out to the healthcare advisor immediately. Heart attacks or anxiety have similar symptoms, but sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between them.

 

Symptoms of heart attack:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Sweating, including cold sweats.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint.
  • Pounding or racing heart.
  • Feeling of impending doom. 
  • Discomfort or pain in the upper body, such as the jaw, neck, arms, shoulders, or back.

The location of the pain:

  • Heart attacks and anxiety attacks can cause chest discomfort; however, in a heart attack, the pain radiates to other body parts like the arm, jaw, and neck. 

How does the chest pain feel?

During a heart attack, individuals can experience chest pain that feels like:

  • Chest pressure.
  • Burning or achy sensation, like heartburn.
  • As stated by Dr. Miller, squeezing feels like an elephant sitting on an individual’s chest.

During anxiety attacks, individuals may experience chest pain that feels like:

  • Chest discomfort or heart racing.
  • Sharp or stabbing pain.

How long does anxiety and heart attack last?

Indications of an anxiety attack last for a few minutes or an hour, after this, the signs disappear, and an individual feels better. However, a heart attack lasts longer than an anxiety attack. A heart attack can cause acute chest pain, like a 9 or 10 on the pain scale. Later on, the pain may decrease to 3 to 4 before it gets worse again.

Can an anxiety attack cause a heart attack?

A panic attack cannot cause a heart attack, but anxiety may play a vital role in expanding coronary artery disease. A heart attack can be caused by the blockages of the blood vessels in the heart of an individual. An anxiety or heart attack can occur due to an emotionally stressful situation. Individuals with anxiety may have a greater risk of having heart issues and may develop heart disease because of low heart rate variability (HRV). The HRV is the time between each heartbeat. The autonomic nervous system controls the heart rate, which depends on an individual’s emotions and activities.

When to visit a healthcare advisor?

Heart attack and anxiety attacks must be dealt with carelessly and should not be ignored by individuals; after witnessing the symptoms of heart attack and anxiety, an individual must seek immediate medical attention, according to the women’s heart foundation. The consultant sometimes can mistakenly take the indications of a heart attack as anxiety in females. If you have severe anxiety and heart pain, consult your doctor immediately. The doctor, after examination, may be able to teach the coping techniques. If the mental exercises or the coaching techniques aren’t successful, the consultant might need to consider a prescription like anti-anxiety medications. These medications have risks and side effects, but using them with gaps after coping with the symptoms may help you. The healthcare advisor can perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) and a blood test to diagnose a heart attack and anxiety. 
 

References:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/anxiety-chest-pain#causes retrieved on 23 August 2022
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322797#outlook retrieved on 23 August 2022
  • https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/wellness-insights/heart-health/2020/01/panic-attack-vs-heart-attack retrieved on 23 August 2022

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-difference-between-panic-attacks-and-heart-attacks/ retrieved on 23 August 2022

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