Am I having a Panic or Heart Attack?

Panic and heart attacks can both have similar symptoms. Intense chest pain, sweating, tingling feeling. However, knowing the symptoms of both could help save your life, since many people who are having a heart attack think they’re actually having a panic attack, and don’t get the help they need.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms but are not sure if you’re having a panic or heart attack, go to the nearest emergency room.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

  • Chest pain as “crushing” Usually starts in the middle of the chest and may travel down the left arm and on to the back.
  • Pain may extend to the neck and jaw
  • Tingling feeling is usually only on the left arm
  • Sometimes break out in a cold sweat and even start to vomit
  • Usually there is no hyperventilating, unless the heart attack triggers a panic attack.

If you have these symptoms for over 5 minutes, go to the Emergency Room.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

  • Heart racing without doing anything physical that would make it speed up.
  • Feeling pressure in the chest
  • It’s hard to breath
  • Hyperventilating (breathing hard as if you just ran up a flight of stairs)
  • Dizziness
  • numbness or tingling feeling in the arms and legs.
  • getting chills
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes
  • tightness in the throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • feeling afraid

Many times panic attacks seem to come out of nowhere. Panic attacks usually last for 10 minutes. But they can last up to 30 minutes. Rarely do they last an hour. Symptoms may be different in some people. Regardless, you should get medical help because there are many treatments to stop these panics.

In the moment of feeling panicky, there are some suggestions to relieve the pain.

  • Acknowledge that something is not right. DON’T ignore how you’re feeling and continue to do whatever you’re doing. Stop what you’re doing or sit away from people if you’re in a public place.
  • Hold your breath for as long as you can. The feeling of not having enough air when you hyperventilate in not caused by not breathing in enough air, it’s breathing out too much air. Holding in your breath will help prevent the dissipation of carbon dioxide. (We breath in more oxygen and some carbon dioxide. When we exhale, we breath out less oxygen but more carbon dioxide.)
  • Take short, deep breaths and slowly make them longer. For example, BREATH IN FOR 2 SECONDS LONG, BREATH OUT FOR 2 SECONDS LONG, REPEAT 2-3 TIMES. THEN BREATH IN FOR 3 SECONDS LONG, BREATH OUT FOR 3 SECONDS LONG, REPEAT 2-3 TIMES. THEN BREATH IN FOR 4 SECONDS LONG, BREATH OUT FOR 4 SECONDS. Try to go keep going until you can breath in and out for 8 seconds. Focusing on counting in your head will help your mind slow down.
  • Drink plenty of water afterwards.

If you experience frequent panic attacks, getting counseling could help uncover why you’re having them in the first place. Learning what your triggers are could also help you prevent them from happening.


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About the author.

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.



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