Difference Between Panic Attack and Heart Attack Symptoms

by | Aug 8, 2022 | Axiom Medical, Tempo Live, Workplace Mental Health

When suddenly overcome with symptoms such as a tightness in the chest area, profuse sweating, or a racing heart rate, you may be wondering whether you are having a heart attack or suffering a panic attack. It’s often a challenge to tell the difference between these two, so the more you know, the better you can respond. Here is the difference between panic attack and heart attack symptoms.

What is A Panic Attack?

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Discomfort or pain in the upper region of the body
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting or nausea

Common signs of a panic attack are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Strong feelings of fear and anxiety
  • Racing heart rate
  • Nausea or stomach pains
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dizziness

Panic Attack or Heart Attack: How to Tell the Difference

Heart attack and panic attack symptoms are sometimes similar, so it’s understandable the two can be confusing when they occur. Here are ways to tell the difference.

The Location of the Pain

Both attacks cause chest pain or discomfort, but this will differ depending on which one you experience.

  • Heart Attack: Pain will radiate out to other areas of the body like the neck, jaw, or arm.
  • Panic Attack: Pain usually stays centered in the chest area.

How the Chest Pain Feels

  • Heart Attack: The pain is more a feeling of intense pressure and may resemble squeezing. You can also experience a burning or achy sensation.
  • Panic Attack: You experience a sharper or stabbing type of pain. Your heart races, and you may be unable to describe the exact discomfort.

The Triggers

  • Heart Attacks usually occur following physical exertion or strain.
  • Panic Attacks are triggered mainly by emotional stress, not physical exercise.


  • Heart Attack: Pain associated with heart attacks may come and go, getting worse eventually.
  • Panic Attack: Symptoms usually last minutes or up to one hour, then disappear.

Is it Possible for a Panic Attack to Cause a Heart Attack?

Panic attacks are usually a response to emotional stress. While suffering is not likely to lead to a heart attack in most cases, it is still possible.

Those with a history of chronic stress tend to have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, potentially resulting in heart problems, heart attacks, and strokes.

When to See a Doctor?

If you suffer symptoms like those above or ever become concerned that you might be having a heart attack, don’t wait! Seek medical attention right away.

If you believe you had a panic attack, consult your doctor to be sure and find ways to prevent these from occurring in the future.

Axiom Medical Can Help!

Having a trusted partner with expertise and experience in the workforce mental health space is key to providing your employees compassionate care. Axiom Medical has designed effective end-to-end solutions to help employers like you build a high-performing, resilient workforce.


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