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Can Panic Attacks Mimic Heart Attacks

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What It Feels Like

How Anxiety Can Mimic a Heart Attack

Some describe a feeling of burning, squeezing or aching. Generally, men and women experience symptoms differently. Males generally describe the classic “elephant on your chest” symptom. Women often present with vague symptoms and may feel extremely fatigued, dizzy or nauseous. They may experience upper back pain and mistake heart attack symptoms with heartburn or stomach issues. For women, if something just feels “off,” it’s important to get checked out.

You Have Stomach Ulcers

Because pain can radiate from the stomach to the chest, the pain of stomach ulcers may manifest as chest pain. Anything from the mouth down to the stomach can be the cause of chest pains, Dr. Weinberg says. Youll need to be evaluated by your physician to determine whether or not your chest pains are from ulcers, but if you have a history of stomach ulcers, this is a likely cause.

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Risk Factors For Panic Attacks & Heart Attacks

Risk factors will increase the chances of a panic attack or heart attack occurring. Some of these issues are controllable by the person, while others are completely beyond control. When people recognize the risk factors they can control, they can take steps to adjust their situations and reduce dangers.

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Why Some People Think Their Panic Attack Is A Heart Attack:

Not only do panic attacks and heart attacks feel similar, people who are prone to panic attacks particularly those who have cardiophobia often have a hard time trusting that their symptoms are coming from panic and not from a heart attack, even if theyve been through it before. Thats because panic disorder makes you believe you need absolute certainty that youre NOT having a heart attack for you to feel relief, says Wilson. Even if youve gone to the ER three times thinking you were having a heart attack, and been tested to rule out a physical condition, a person with panic disorder may see a new episode as a distinct event. They think, that was then, this is now what if it is a heart attack this time and Im missing it? he explains.

One more time, with feeling: If youre having ambiguous symptoms that scare you especially if they feel different from your last panic attack call 911.

But if you are in good health and think theres a decent chance that your brain is messing with you especially if it has in the past and youve been reassured that you dont have a heart problem you may need practice sitting with these symptoms so they can pass, and not escalating them with your fear. At some point you have to say to yourself, heres my tendency, heres my pattern, says Wilson. I need to start trusting in what others have said to me, because I cant trust what my mind is doing in those moments.

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Heart Attack Versus Panic Attack

Symptoms of False Heart Attack: Conditions That Mimic Heart Attack Symptoms

A heart attack is a physical health crisis when a part of your heart doesn’t get enough blood which might result in muscle loss and in some cases death if the treatment gets delayed. One might experience chest pain or pressure, a pounding heart, pain or discomfort in the upper body and sometimes a feeling of fainting. A panic attack on the other hand is a psychological condition which can be a sudden attack of overwhelming fear or anxiety. The symptoms of it might resemble that of a heart attack but also might have an additional feeling of impending doom. While a panic attack is not life-threatening, a heart attack can kill. So it might always be a good idea to get it checked immediately even if you are confused about whether the experience is physical or psychological.

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What Happens To Your Heart Rate During A Panic Attack

In many cases, a panic attack triggers a fast heart rate, also known as tachycardia. The heart rate may speed up to 200 beats per minute or even faster.

A fast heart rate can make you feel lightheaded and short of breath. Or you might feel fluttering or pounding in the chest. Usually, tachycardia that happens in response to emotional stress and only lasts a few minutes is not harmful. But if it happens regularly, or you have possible symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical care.

Can Panic Attacks Cause Heart Attacks

Finally, another issue that worries people is whether an anxiety attack can cause a heart attack.

The short answer is no, not on their own. But the long answer is that long term stress can damage the body, including the heart, and may contribute to health issues years down the road. Also, those that do have a heart problem but also suffer from panic attacks may be at greater risk for a heart attack, although the risk isn’t enormous.

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What Are The Causes For Atypical Chest Pains

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Common causes for atypical chest pain include gastrointestinal, respiratory and musculoskeletal diseases. It is also not uncommon for people with anxiety or panic attacks to think theyre having a heart attack.

Diseases of the heart, aorta, lungs, esophagus, stomach, abdominal viscera and muscuskeletal system may all cause chest discomfort and pain, Dr. Cooper said. One of the most common musculoskeletal causes for atypical chest pain we see in adults is costochondritis.

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to the breastbone. It causes tenderness or pain and can get worse with deep breaths or coughing.

That said, even if there is a less severe cause for atypical chest pains, in general, chest pain is a big deal in medicinesomething you should never brush off or take lightly. Why? Because when it comes to a heart attack, time is tissue.

The longer it takes to diagnose and treat an acute coronary syndrome or heart attack, the more permanent damage is done to the heart and the less likely the patient is to have a favorable outcome or even survive, Dr. Cooper said. Even if you have been in the ER 10 times before for a suspected heart attack, with nothing found except anxiety, its a heart attack until proven otherwise.

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Is It A Heart Attack Or Panic Attack

Its always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. So if you cant tell if youre having a heart attack or panic attack, seek medical attention right away.

If youre in the Gonzales, LA area, stop by Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales to get checked out. Were open 7 days a week from 9 am to 8 pm to address your medical needs, so contact us any time.

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The Role Of Genes In Anxiety Disorder

Just like a major heart attack, a burn is a horrible thing, says McCann. About 33% of patients who have really severe burns develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Which makes us wonder about the 66% who do not get PTSD. We think genes are a huge part of it. Were currently researching whether this same genetic vulnerability holds true for cardiac disease.

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What Happens If I Go To The Emergency Room For A Panic Attack

There is no harm in taking the extra precaution of going to the emergency room for a panic attack. Since people are so easily confused by panic attacks masquerading as heart attacks, emergency professionals become familiar with the issue.

The professionals can offer you education about the differences between the two attacks and offer medication to reduce symptoms. Hopefully during future incidents, you will be better able to discern a panic attack from a heart attack and employ mental health strategies to feel better.

If you need help from a mental health expert, seek out therapy and medication as appropriate.

Trouble Breathing And Solution

Panic Attack Symptoms and Panic Disorder

Heart attacks can cause trouble breathing, specifically a shortness of breath. Panic attacks can cause trouble breathing as well. During severe panic attacks, a person may have serious challenges getting a breath, and the difference between that and a heart attack is minimal. Thus it is not necessarily a good indicator.

But as you learn more about panic attacks, you may start to notice that you can somewhat control your breathing to be a bit more efficient. Instead of shortness of breath, you may notice that you have this intense desire to get more air that isnt fulfilled by yawning or trying to take a deep breath. That is more of a symptom of hyperventilation.

Hyperventilation is when you breathe too quickly and expel too much Co2. But it causes whats known as a paradoxical reaction, where you feel like you cant get enough oxygen and try to breathe deeper. Since your body already has enough oxygen, your ribs dont expand and the breaths feel less fulfilling. If that describes your experience, it is more likely to be a panic attack.

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How Are Panic Attacks Like Heart Attacks

Although for many it is obvious that heart attacks are more dangerous than panic attacks. But many do not know the difference, especially if they have never experienced a panic attack before. While only a medical doctor can officially assign a diagnosis, there are still several signs and symptoms that can help a person discern whether or not what he or she is suffering from is a panic attack or heart attack.

If A Heart Attack Is Ruled Out Medically But Panic Attack Symptoms Continue

Consider visiting your primary care doctor if:

  • The panic attacks are beginning to interfere with your daily life or ability to function at work, school, home or in important relationships
  • The fear or anxiety of future panic attacks negatively impacts any of the above areas
  • You find you’re actively avoiding doing certain things or going places for fear of having another panic attack
  • You’re interested in learning how to manage your panic attacks or panic-related anxiety better

“With treatment, you can learn how to recognize the signs of an oncoming panic attack, learn skills to de-escalate the panic and break the anxiety cycle,” says Dr. Walker. “While treatment can’t necessarily prevent panic attacks from happening, they can improve your ability to manage the severity, frequency and duration of these attacks so that they’re not as disruptive or distressful.”

If you think you are experiencing a panic attack, Dr. Walker has some helpful advice. “Self-talk is important when having a panic attack. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself out loud something like I’m not dying. I’m having a panic attack. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m OK. This will pass.’ Keeping a level head can be difficult when anxiety tries to hijack your thinking, but the more we can talk ourselves through it, the easier it can be to feel like you’re in control.”

Need help with frequent panic attacks?402.836.9292

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What Else Should I Know About Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder may be extremely anxious and fearful, since they are unable to predict when the next episode will occur. Panic disorder is fairly common and affects about 6 million adults in the U.S. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, and its symptoms usually begin in early adulthood.

It is not clear what causes panic disorder. In many people who have the biological vulnerability to panic attacks, they may develop in association with major life changes and major lifestyle stressors. There is also some evidence that suggests that the tendency to develop panic disorder may run in families. People who suffer from panic disorder are also more likely than others to suffer from depression, attempt suicide, or to abuse alcohol or drugs.

Fortunately, panic disorder is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy and medications have both been used, either singly or in combination, for successful treatment of panic disorder. If medication is necessary, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, certain antidepressants or sometimes certain anticonvulsant drugs that also have anti-anxiety properties, or a class of heart medications known as beta-blockers to help prevent or control the episodes in panic disorder.

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Functional Morbidity With Pd And Chest Pain

Panic Attack vs Heart Attack: How To Tell The Difference

The above studies suggest that patients with PD and chest pain have substantial functional morbidity, since patients with PD make up a sizeable portion of patients with chest pain and normal coronary arteries. However, no direct study of patients with chest pain and PD was completed until a study by Beitman and colleagues86 in 1991. This study of patients with chest pain and normal coronary angiograms found that patients with PD had greater functional disability at follow-up 38 months later than did those without PD. The patients with PD had high rates of persistent chest pain 22% found that their chest pain had worsened after their normal angiogram. Further, nearly half of these patients had difficulty with ordinary activities due to their symptoms, and 31% felt that their general health had worsened over this period. The patients also had work difficulties, missing more than 16 workdays in the previous year due to their symptoms. Despite this significant disability, only one third of the patients were prescribed psychotropic medications, and less than a quarter sought psychiatric care. These rates of persistent chest pain, worsening health perception, and inability to complete daily activities were significantly worse than in matched patients with normal angiograms but no PD. Further, the patients with normal angiograms and PD reported worse social adjustment, higher anxiety, and more psychological distress than their counterparts without PD.

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Do Panic Attacks Harm Your Heart

Finally, it can also help to know that the rapid heart rate of a panic attack doesnt cause any damage.

From the point of view of the heart, thats really no different than if you were to go jogging for 20 minutes, says Dr. Merchant. Your heart rate would be 160, 170, 180 for the same amount of time. Most of the time, your hearts quite accustomed to beating fast for short periods of time, and there doesnt seem to be any evidence of any long-term damage or anything like that.

Symptoms Of A Heart Attack

  • Pain that gets worse over time
  • Pain that radiates to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades
  • Sudden onset during or following physical activity
  • Squeezing pain and pressure in the chest

Panic attacks, on the other hand, are a fear response. These can happen alone or as a symptom of panic disorder. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America says that about 2-3% of people in the United States experience panic disorders each year, and more will experience a panic attack without even having a panic disorder.

For some people, the body reacts in a big way, even when theres no real danger. Once adrenal levels rise, it affects the heart and oxygen levels, so the body produces a similar experience to a heart attack.

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When Should You Seek Medical Attention

If youre older, if youve had a heart attack in the past, a family history of heart disease and if your chest pain is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, such as shortness of breath and dizziness, call 911 or get to the ER right away. If youre young and healthy, with no history of heart disease, you should also check in with your healthcare provider.

Bottom line: If you think youre having a heart attack, you may very well be, Dr. Cooper warned. Because a heart attack can be deadly, you dont want to roll the dice on this one. If it turns out your chest pains are due to something less seriousgreat! You will be reassured you arent having a heart attack. But at least you took the appropriate steps to find out.

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Heart Attack Panic Attack Or Something Else

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Unusual chest pain, nausea, abdominal paincould you be having a heart attack? If youve never felt this way before, you jump to the worst case scenario, like many of us would. You call 911 or have your spouse rush you to the nearest urgent care center in Tyler. After three hours of waiting and examinations, you realize youre still alive and breathing. The doctor walks in and tells you that you are suffering from dyspepsia.

You sob: Oh no, dyspepsia! Wait, what is dyspepsia, Doc?

Doc grips your shoulder and calmly explains that you have a good ol case of indigestion.

There are many things that can feel like a heart attack, so its not surprising that chest pain would fall in the top 6 emergency room false alarms, especially considering we live in a nation plagued with stress, overexertion, and overconsumption of foods and medications. But with heart disease still the number one cause of death in the world, youre better off playing it safe and rushing to the ER. When in doubt, its always best to seek a doctors advice, particularly if youre dealing with heart attack symptoms.

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Treatment Of Panic Disorder In Patients With Chest Pain

Panic disorder, as described above, can have profound effects on social, financial, and occupational function, as well as on elevated rates of cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, PD is highly treatable, as borne out by a number of trials using both pharmacologic and psychotherapeutic treatments. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors ,1,87,88 venlafaxine,89 and tricyclic antidepressants9093 are among the antidepressants with proven efficacy in PD, with rates of response of approximately 50% to 70% over several months. Benzodiazepines,88,9498 especially alprazolam and clonazepam, have also been proved effective in PD. Furthermore, cognitive-behavioral therapy , the best studied of the psychotherapies for PD, appears to be comparable to medication in the treatment of PD.99102 Treatment of patients with PD can be individualized on the basis of a patient’s preference for medication or psychotherapy, prior history of response, presence of comorbidity, and severity of symptoms.

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