You’re short of breath, sweating, feel nauseous, experiencing pain in your chest and tingling around your body — are you having a heart attack? While these symptoms sure sound like a heart attack, they’re also indicative of a panic attack. The key differences between the two are where and what type of pain it is, and how long it lasts. Knowing those distinctions could save your life.
Breaking down the common indicators
With any type of chest pain, most of us would immediately think, “Uh oh. Is there something wrong with my heart?” It’s understandable and makes perfect sense. But heart attack chest pain differs from panic attack chest pain in that it’s very localized in the center of the chest and feels like a kettle bell weight is just sitting there and won’t go away. Panic attack victims describe their chest pain as sharp and inconsistent, meaning it comes and goes.
Heart attack pain comes on gradually, stays steady, continues longer (more than 10 minutes and possibly hours) than just a single episode, and will probably spread down the left arm, or radiate into the neck, jaw, or back. Also, any tingling sensation is felt in the left arm as opposed to the entire body like a panic attack. Panic attacks strike suddenly (usually with some hyperventilation coming beforehand), and it’s that terrified feeling that sends the heart into overdrive and generates the associated chest pain.
Nausea is common between the two, but panic attack symptoms usually do not include vomiting, and a heart attack may also trigger diarrhea.
While neither condition is one you should ignore, between the two it’s the heart attack that will do the real damage, possibly even killing you. Any chest pain episodes you experience should raise a red flag and be evaluated as soon as possible by a doctor. If you have any doubt you should seek immediate medical care or call 911, but only a physician can tell you whether or not it was a heart attack you experienced.