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Where is the borderline between panic attack and real physical issues? How to identify that I am having just panic attacks?

15 Answers
Last Updated: 09/12/2016 at 2:47pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
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Tracy-Kate Teleke, M.A., LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

I assist adults and couples in CA experiencing relationship challenges and interpersonal struggles including anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other life challenges.

Top Rated Answers
December 8th, 2014 11:49pm
Some of the symptoms of panic attacks can be confused with heart attacks, e.g. chest pain, shortness of breath. Therefore, it is always good to consult with a physician and evaluate your risk factors for cardiovascular conditions. be tested and rule out a physical condition.
April 26th, 2016 3:08am
In my experience, panic attacks are real physical issues. Letting anxiety and anxious thoughts reach a point where they are physically harming you is very real. The best thing i've learned to use is a mood tracker. Especially when I feel my anxiety rise. Take note of whats happened, the time and how you feel. Note everything as minuscule as events seem can have a ripple effect shaking loose bigger issues. The more you know about it the more you can manage it. Hope this helped. Be kind to yourself :)
November 2nd, 2014 5:19pm
I identify my panic attacks by observing my breathing and my pain level. If my chest feels tight, like I can't quite take a deep breath, that's one sign that I'm anxious. I usually start diaphragmatic breathing to see if I can loosen up. The second thing is: a real, immediate, physical issue will almost always debilitate you. If you are still walking around and talking, it's probably a panic attack. If you have pain that has you lying on the ground or unable to move, or if you're so sick you might pass out / can't hold in food go see a doctor immediately.
April 11th, 2015 11:41am
Identifying triggers can be very helpful here. If you have symptoms that could be a panic attack or something else, you could think back (or have a friend/family member think back) to see if something caused it. If it seems to have an identifiable cause, it's probably a panic attack, especially since you've had them before. If it doesn't, consider seeing a doctor.
December 27th, 2014 9:55pm
This is often difficult to distinguish for yourself. Doing the research and being aware of what the symptoms and causes of a panic attack are can help but I recommend visiting your Doctor with any concerns that you may have of it being a separate medical issue. Panic attacks can include heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain and shaking, along with a few others.
October 29th, 2014 1:56am
Check on your thoughts. If you are in a good state of mind, it is probably physical issues. Thoughts during a panic attack tend to be fast, worrisome, not every organized and the negative thoughts tend to escalate quickly.
November 16th, 2014 12:08pm
Panic attacks can feel like a number of physical issues. Bottom line if you feel like you are experiencing something more severe then you should seek medical attention.
November 3rd, 2015 12:36am
In a broad sense, panic attacks can cause any number of odd behaviors or senses of discomfort. In a narrower sense, any kind of extreme anxiety is considered a physical issue. Excessive amounts of cortisol is released when you are in states of panic/stress which is unhealthy in a number of ways. Not to worry, panic attacks are a very common and harmless mental problem that many people face. Strong panic attacks can result in odd behaviors such as pacing in circles, profuse sweating, biting nails, tensing of muscles, confusion, chest pain, nausea, etc. It is very common for people to think that they are going insane or are about to face death/injury. These symptoms are very common and are not injurious in any irrevocable sense, but they can cause a decrease in mental performance over time and an increase of stress and problems relating to hormone/neurotransmitter related functions in the body. These problems are not extreme in most cases and are one of the most common forms of mental disorder known to exist within humans. Panic attacks are usually easy to control over time; however, if the anxiety becomes more frequent and/or more extreme, it would be to one's benefit to seek some sort of therapy and possibly psychiatric help. This is the best two cents that I can give based off of my own personal experience and my knowledge about anxiety through research.
November 6th, 2014 4:30pm
This is a really hard thing to judge. When it happens to me, I try to ask myself questions like these: Is the pain/symptom constant? Does trying to calm down help? Does it feel like previous attacks or is it a different feeling? I've been to the doctor for my panic attacks and they ruled out any sort of serious health issue, so it really helps me to compare what I'm feeling to previous experiences. You could also try telling somebody close to you about your panic attacks and their symptoms. Sometimes getting reinforcement - whether over the phone, messaging, or in person (hugs are awesome) that what you're experiencing is not life-threatening can be really helpful. The crisis call center has a 24/7 hotline, and some of your local organizations might as well: 1-800-273-8255. That said, there is NO shame or problem with contacting a physician or going to a clinic regardless. It is better to be and feel safe than to be unsure, which could exacerbate your anxiety.
November 24th, 2014 2:26am
After seing a doctor you should know if you are healthy or just have some "mental" issues. I've seen doctors and they did cardiograms and stuff like that, they found nothing wrong. Although I feel lonely or panicky, my chest or heart hurts, I have anxiety. This is how you know the difference between anxiety / panic and real physical issues. If you survive for ~5-15 min of panic, then you'll know it for sure. The pain and extra stress to feel better may have an inpact to your body in the long run over the years , but all you have to do is simply let it all pass and breathe normally until your body can do it's job on recovery and healing. So there is no need to worry and just simply show yourself to specialist/doctor for more information about your condition.
December 6th, 2014 8:21pm
Panic attacks usually come on when a stressful issue is in your life, that is the first sign. Panic attacks causes rapid heart beat and breathing difficulty. It becomes worst when you think of the stressful situation and focus too much on your symptoms. The best thing to do is to relax and practice breathing exercises. Panic attacks lasts about 10 minutes. If things become worst after 20 minutes has passed, maybe it could be something else.
April 10th, 2015 7:24pm
Based on my experience and knowledge, a panic attack can make someone have real physical issues. It can often be described as feeling like a heart attack, dizzy, blurry vision, and many other symptoms. If the symptoms continue after the panic attack subsides, this could be a ongoing physical issue. This is a very good question and could be a good question to possibly your medical professional so you will know for sure.
February 15th, 2016 4:56pm
if you have a panic attack, you will know when you have one. you will hyperventilate, your heart begins to beat rapidly, crying and shaking and numb hands come along with it, and you may feel like you're going to die. physical issues of stress or anxiety can include hot flashes, butterflies, dry mouth, or feeling light headed. there are lots of resources and medical articles that will address the differences as well :)
June 2nd, 2016 4:21pm
I would have to say that a panic attack IS a real physical issue, due to the fact that almost all of the symptoms are physical ones. For me, when i have a panic attack i only allow myself to worry about 'other issues' if any of the symptoms have drastically changed. For example, if i had a panic attack and collapsed (which has never happened to me before) i would probably visit a doctor just to check that it wasn't anything other than anxiety.
September 12th, 2016 2:47pm
If you suspect that you're having panic attacks, you need to have a discussion with your physician. Since they can feel like a heart attack or other acute and emergent illnesses, it is very important to understand the differences. Having medications available and learning good coping mechanisms, as well as truly understanding the symptoms of the illnesses you suspect (and being honest with yourself about whether or not those symptoms exist in your particular case) are all very important. With proper intervention, panic symptoms will subside within 15-30 minutes. Physical illness will not... at least not the kind of physical illness that people mistake panic attacks to be. Regardless, it's time to see a physician and a psychiatrist/therapist if you are having trouble determining the difference.