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Anxiety Symptoms Or Symptoms Of A Heart Attack?

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: November 17, 2019


The differences between anxiety and a heart attack:

Anxiety and heart attack signs and symptoms

Heart attack signs and symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • Upper body pain (shoulders, arms, back, neck, jaw, teeth, etc.).
  • Stomach pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Anxiety.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fainting (more likely with women, the elderly, and people with diabetes).
  • Unusual fatigue.

This list is not exhaustive. For more information about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, see your doctor.

Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety:

  • Chest tightness or pain.
  • Upper body pain (or pain anywhere in the body).
  • Stomach upset and pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Palpitations.
  • Anxiety.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Feel like passing out.
  • Unusual fatigue or exhaustion.

And a great many more. For more information about the many signs and symptoms of anxiety and anxiety attacks, see our anxiety symptoms page.

As you can see, some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety and the signs and symptoms of a heart attack are similar. It's little wonder many anxious people rush themselves to the hospital each year because of a concern about having a heart attack.

Because anxiety and heart attack symptoms can be similar, it's best to seek immediate medical attention if you aren't sure which is being caused by anxiety in which by the heart. Fortunately, most medical professionals can easily tell the difference between anxiety symptoms and heart attack symptoms.

If your doctor says your symptoms are being caused by anxiety, you can feel confident that your doctor's diagnosis is correct. There are differences your doctor can easily differentiate.

How to tell a difference between anxiety and heart attack symptoms?

If you are having a hard time telling the difference between anxiety symptoms and those of a heart attack, here are some things to watch for:

  • Anxiety generally produces more symptoms than just those similar to a heart attack.

    For example, anxiety often produces body-wide sensations and symptoms that are dissimilar to those of a heart attack. Again, most doctors can spot the differences easily.

  • Anxiety generally doesn’t cause people to pass out.

    Even though you might feel like passing out due to anxiety, most people don't. Yes, some people do, but this is the exception and not the rule.

  • Hyperventilation is a common cause of symptoms similar to those of a heart attack.

    Relaxing your breathing and giving your body a few minutes to adjust usually alleviates symptoms that are solely related to hyperventilation and anxiety. So within a few minutes, you should be able to tell the difference as heart attack symptoms generally don’t subside this easily.

  • Numbness and tingling in the feet is a symptom of anxiety but not usually of a heart attack.

  • Anxiety often causes a tightness in the throat or a choking feeling. A heart attack generally doesn't.

  • Anxiety often causes your legs to feel weak or that they won't support you. A heart attack generally doesn't.

  • While anxiety can make it feel like you need to vomit, most people don't.

    Yes, some people do, but this is the exception not the rule.

  • Calming yourself down can reduce and eliminate many anxiety symptoms within a few minutes.

    Calming yourself down does little to alleviate symptoms of a heart attack. While calming yourself down may reduce some of the symptoms of a heart attack, it generally doesn't eliminate them or as easily.

These are just a few ways you can tell the difference between anxiety symptoms and symptoms of a heart attack.

Another consideration is that many people become anxious if they think they are having a heart attack. So anxiety symptoms can coexist with heart attack symptoms. And, being anxious can aggravate heart attack symptoms. While there are some ways to tell the difference, it's best to seek immediate medical attention if you are concerned that you are having a heart attack.

Keep in mind, most medical professionals prefer you seek their assistance if you believe you are having a heart attack. They aren't bothered or annoyed by being cautious. Even if you aren't having a heart attack, it's better to be cautious than uncertain. It's also better for you to know your symptoms are solely anxiety related and not those of a heart attack, as worry is a common cause of anxiety and its sensations and symptoms.

Can anxiety cause a heart attack?

This is a common concern among anxious personalities. If you have a low risk of having a heart attack, no, anxiety can’t cause a heart attack by itself. If you have an underlying heart condition, however, the stress of being anxious can aggravate your heart condition.

If you have a heart condition and are worried about how being anxious might affect it, it's best to talk with your doctor and work at addressing your anxiety underlying factors so that your body’s stress can become lower overall.

For more information about anxiety’s underlying factors, join our Recovery Support area by clicking on the button below.


Yes, anxiety symptoms and heart attack symptoms can be similar. It’s best to discuss them with your doctor to be sure your anxiety symptoms are solely related to anxiety and not to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


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