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mental health / wellness

Heart Attack or Anxiety Attack

by BetterSleep
Jul 6 • 4 min read

Are you experiencing a heart attack or anxiety? The two are often mistaken for one another. Both symptoms are very similar, so it’s easy for people to get confused about what they’re dealing with.

In today’s article, we’ll share the symptoms of anxiety vs. heart attacks and how to tell the difference.

Symptoms of a heart attack & panic attack

Heat attacks are often associated with chest pain. But, can anxiety cause chest pain as well? And can you experience shortness of breath from anxiety and a heart attack?

With both experiences, the symptoms you feel are similar. A heart attack and anxiety (panic) attack can both cause:

  • Sweating
  • Pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath

So, how can you tell the difference between anxiety and a heart attack? There are some differential factors. When you experience a heart attack, the pain usually gets worse over time, but with a panic attack, the pain usually gets better with time.

The pain may also transfer to your shoulder blades, jaw, or even arm during a heart attack. And the symptoms are usually longer-lasting and you may even experience nausea and vomiting.

What’s the difference and how can you tell?

As we mentioned prior, there are some symptoms that are specific to a heart attack. This is the main way we can tell the difference.

Although feeling chest pain in both circumstances is normal, with a heart attack the pain often moves to the jaw, arm, or even shoulder blades, as we mentioned earlier. Typically the pain experienced with a panic attack stays in the chest.

The feelings of pain are also a bit different from one another. With a heart attack, the pain may feel like chest pressure, a feeling of squeezing (almost like something is sitting on your chest), and you may have a burning or achy feeling.

During a panic attack, it’s a sharp or stabbing pain and the heart is usually racing with a chest discomfort that’s difficult to put into words.

They occur at different moments, both can happen without warning, but some heart attacks occur after physical exertion, while usually, a panic attack does not unless there is some form of emotional distress involved.

A key difference between the two is that a heart attack won’t let up. Usually, panic attacks will dissipate after a few minutes or an hour, but during a heart attack, the pain and symptoms may keep going. Although you might experience less pain, it won’t go away.


Differentiating a heart attack from an anxiety attack can be hard to do. However, there are big factors that can help us distinguish the differences. Be sure to share this article with someone who you think could benefit from it!

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