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woman-heart-panic-attack-170hAre a Panic Attack and a Heart Attack Similar?

Some situations will cause anyone to feel extreme anxiety. Seeing a child unheedingly following a ball towards a busy street, mounting the top of the first hill of a large roller coaster, or extreme turbulence when aboard an airplane cause almost anyone's heart to pound more rapidly, and respirations to become rapid and shallow.  But, there are instances when, without warning, these same feelings will intrude in an otherwise calm day. A moment that was serene changes within minutes and agitation and fright ensue.  What does a panic attack feel like? The following paragraphs will initiate the reader to a phenomenon, the causes of which are varied and unpredictable.

How to Recognize a Panic Attack

First of all, panic attacks are real. It's not imagined anything.  But it is not the symptom that it mimics for the person dealing with it.  You may feel like you are having a heart attack, but it is a panic attack.  Like other medical diagnosis which have no finite and across the board agreement on panic attacks continue to baffle health professionals.   Panic attacks can occur at any time, sometimes causing an incapacitating terror, and are most often not situation dependent. This last part means that you can be traveling a road you have taken often on a clear bright day in which there is no traffic, and suddenly you grip the wheel and try to ignore the feeling that you can't breathe or think clearly.  It's like a daytime nightmare is occurring. Children often experience this type of feeling during nightmares, but as one matures the nightmares often stop completely.

Primary Symptoms

The primary symptom of a panic attack will vary between sufferers, but will often mimic a heart attack or breathing difficulties.  Some describe it in the following terms. Thus, some of the acknowledged symptoms include:

  • A very rapid heart beat
  • Quick, shallow breathing, such as what occurs during hyperventilation.
  • Tingling sensation in the extremities
  • Feeling very weak and/or lightheaded
  • Experiencing increased perspiration
  • Having an upset stomach and generalized nausea (this symptom is especially noticeable to women during heart attack or panic attack)
  • Chest pains

These indicators seem to parallel a heart attack and have led to an initial misdiagnosis in patients undergoing a panic attack. The way that a doctor and a sufferer can determine the difference is through other more psychological signs. These include:

  • Complete sense of loss of control
  • Extreme terror when the situation does not warrant such a response
  • An uncontrollable desire to escape a certain situation
  • Loss of sense of reality (feeling you are dreaming or the in the presence of hallucinations)
  • The fear that death is imminent
  • Fear of moving forward or going on with the day

When all of these indications are present, the likelihood is that the person is undergoing a panic attack and not some other physical disease.

Statistics Regarding Panic Attack

Some good news first. These attacks are not associated with death.  Some people who have suffered from a panic attack report that the sensations last only a few minutes and then disappear.  Others do have a sense of incapacity for several hours.  Few attacks have lasted for days, however.  Usually the person has hyperventilated during the attack and getting the blood gasses back in balance will lead to feeling much better.  The "breathing into a small paper bag" and rebreathing their own breath for about 3 to 5 minutes or more usually makes a profound difference.

The problem is that people who suffer from an attack, just as with allergies, in fact,  are much more likely to have another. This may be due to the vigilance and increased generalized anxiety that follows the initial attack. People who have experienced one will try to avoid another at all costs and so they begin trying to avoid situations that may bring on another. This means that they always have some level of nervousness and, therefore, in increase the chance that another will occur. If the panic attacks continue to occur the individual can develop phobias (specifically agoraphobia: a fear of open spaces) and/or a panic disorder. Though this only rarely occurs, it is a possibility if the condition remains untreated.

Panic attacks can be successfully treated via counseling and/or psychotropic medication. So, again, what does a panic attack feel like? Basically a heart attack with an extreme amount of irrational terror associated.  Please seek professional help if you suspect that you have experienced a panic attack because it may be or at the least lead to a significant medical problem that thankfully can be solved with the right kind of help.

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