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Cardiac Arrest or a Panic Attack?

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Cardiac Arrest or a Panic Attack?

By Molly Mann, DivineCaroline

I’m an anxious person. My pencils are always gnawed down to nubs, my fingers are constantly drumming on my desk or my steering wheel, and I gave up on regular sleep around 2007. So it really came as no surprise when, during the summer of 2009, I started having panic attacks — sudden onsets of intense fear and physiological symptoms, such as a pounding heart, sweating, and disorientation. As I learned firsthand, panic attacks are bad for many reasons, but their worst feature is their similarity to heart attacks. However, once I learned to tell the difference and realized I wasn’t actually dying every time my pulse began to race, the panic attacks stopped.

Heart-Stopping Symptoms
According to the American Heart Association, many of us may not be able to recognize a true heart attack when we see one, because we’ve watched too many movies. While a small percentage of heart attacks are “movie heart attacks” — sudden and intense, leaving no doubt about what’s happening — most begin slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. It can be difficult to tell this kind of heart attack from, say, indigestion, and many people who are actually going into cardiac arrest wait too long before getting help, because they aren’t sure of their symptoms.

Though they vary, the warning signs of a heart attack are:

  • Chest discomfort. Most people having a heart attack will experience pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of their chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and returns.
  • Upper-body discomfort. Heart attack sufferers may also feel pain in one or both arms or in their back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This may also accompany chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea or vomiting, or lightheadedness.

Keep in mind that these symptoms are most common in men. Heart attacks present slightly differently in female victims; though women will also feel chest pain or discomfort, they’re more likely to experience some of the other common heart attack features — particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain — as their primary symptoms.

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At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

83 comments

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4:43AM PST on Nov 12, 2013

Well, the first time I had a major attack they put me on xanax but it messed with my head really badly and I had memory issues. My discharge papers noted that while medicated by it I had little to no acknowledgement of externally inflicted bodily harm/pain. What I do remember is waking up the next day with a swollen ankle and multiple bruises that hurry like hell from walking into things or just letting the car door close on me.
Later, someone recommended me this treatment, and I’m very grateful with it, i can go anywhere i want without problem, no anxiety, no panic attacks, i'm a new person. Read this article, it helped me a lot!! : panicsolutionkey.com

2:29AM PST on Mar 6, 2012

thanks

12:29AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

thanks

7:39PM PDT on May 8, 2011

Thank you for this. It definitely hits home. I have had panic attacks and I believe I suffer panic disorder. I deal with panic on a regular basis. I have also thought I was having a heart attack. No fun! I hope I can one day put panic attacks behind me...

7:36PM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Please check out the important info on this site:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0215/p743.html

A simpler screening tool for panic disorder, consisting of a single question, also has been developed. The question is, “Have you experienced brief periods, for seconds or minutes, of an overwhelming panic or terror that was accompanied by racing heartbeats, shortness of breath, or dizziness?”10 The physician must remember that panic disorder and significant arrhythmias are not mutually exclusive, and that cardiac evaluation still may be necessary in patients with suspected panic disorder. In addition, some patients or physicians may find it difficult to determine whether the feeling of anxiety or panic started before or after the palpitations. Therefore, true arrhythmic causes must be ruled out before the diagnosis of anxiety or panic disorder can be accepted as the cause of the palpitations.1,11,12

7:30PM PST on Mar 12, 2011

I agree with some of this article but pls do read Janya Barrish's article as that is extremely relevant too.

7:12PM PST on Mar 12, 2011

I agree that its very important to know the signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest versus a Panic Attack. I agree with the spirit of what this article says, but please note that a Panic Attack is NOT not dangerous. Lately, I have been reading on several sites that Panic Attacks do not pose a danger, but from someone who has chronic panic attacks and has had them to a lesser or greater degree for the last 7 years - PANIC ATTACKS with uncontrolled Tachycardia (racing heart, rapid heart beats) can be very dangerous. I once had a panic attack, where my heart just took off and would not stop racing. I was nauseous, could not breathe and began to turn blue- my finger nails and my face especially. I was counting my last moments. When EMS arrived, they said my pulse was racing at quite at quite a high level. They gave me an exercise to perform in such moments which is basically bearing down on as if you were going to the bathroom, as when constipated. Also splashing your face with cold water or a wet towel on the face helps. If I had not somehow got my ticker back in some semblance of normal rhythm, I would not be around today, writing this. Remember, that panic attacks can arise of out of many reasons. People with MVP (Mitral Valve Prolapse) have panic attacks. There are several types of Tachycardias, some of which are dangerous and can be misdiagnosed as supposedly simple Panic Attacks. Again, one must distinguish between feelings of panic, versus a real Panic Attack.

7:05PM PDT on Sep 29, 2010

very good article. many people do not easily distinguish the difference between panic, anxiety, or even a heart attack. I found this site to be very useful http://curepanicattacks-anxiety.com

4:37AM PDT on Aug 13, 2010

Good info,thanks.

3:04AM PDT on Apr 13, 2010

i suffer from panic attacks!
I'm pretty better now! I can have a normal life!
thanks for the article!

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