Difference between Heart Attack and Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Heart attacks and anxiety attacks can have similar symptoms, but what are the main differences between them? This article will help explain.


A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infraction or an acute myocardial infraction, is a medical event that occurs when blood stops flowing to part of the heart, which does damage to the heart muscle. Risk factors for a heart attack include age, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and obesity. Heart attacks are rarely spontaneous and the symptoms occur gradually. Chest pain is the most common symptom, followed by shortness of breath. Other symptoms include excessive sweating, light-headedness, and nausea. A heart attack cannot be treated, only prevented; its prevention involves decreasing the above-mentioned risk factors.  Further heart attacks can often be prevented by heart surgery.

panic attack

A panic attack or anxiety attack is a period of intense fear or apprehension, sometimes occurring as a result of an anxiety disorder. Frequent panic attacks are known as panic disorders. Symptoms of panic attacks include fearing imminent death, chest pain, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, faintness, and nausea. While the symptoms of panic attacks are physical and very real, the causes are more mental. Panic attacks cannot be treated, although the symptoms may be alleviated by medical intervention.  The only thing that can help panic attacks recurring is examining the underlying cause of panic attacks such as anxiety disorders.

Comparison chart

Heart Attack Anxiety Attack
Physical causes Mental causes
Can kill Cannot kill
Involves vomiting Does not involve vomiting
Chest pain duller and spread out Chest pain localized and sharp

Heart Attack vs Anxiety Attack

What is the difference between a heart attack and an anxiety attack? The main differences are in the underlying causes, the mortality rate, whether or not vomiting is involved, and the nature of the chest pain.

Heart attacks, caused by problems involving blood flow to the heart, stem from physical issues in life such as obesity, high blood pressure, tobacco use, and age. Anxiety attacks, however, stem from more mental issues such as stress and anxiety disorders. The symptoms are always felt physically in both cases, of course.

Heart attacks can cause death. Anxiety attacks, however, will not cause death. People having an anxiety attack might feel like they’re going to die, but the reality is an anxiety attack will not kill.

A person suffering from a heart attack will sometimes vomit, but vomiting does not occur during anxiety attacks.

The chest pain from a heart attack is much duller and more spread out across the chest, whereas the chest pain from an anxiety attack is much sharper and usually localized in one spot.


The video below explains some differences between heart attacks and anxiety/panic attacks.