Can You Die From A Panic Attack Or Anxiety Symptoms?
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 05, 2018
Reviewer Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
For individuals who have suffered a panic attack, you know that it is a scary event. If it's your first attack, you may not know what is happening to your body. It can feel like a serious medical problem, and if you are prone to anxiety, then experiencing a panic attack may make your anxiety even worse, prolonging the attack. That's because when you don't understand what is happening, you may assume the worst. Because anxiety can have real physical symptoms, you may be wondering, can you die from a panic attack? The truth is, it's unlikely.
The symptoms of a panic attack
The health emergency that panic attacks are most often confused with are heart attacks. And extreme anxiety can feel like you are having a heart attack. Your chest tightens; you get dizzy; and it's difficult to breathe. You may even experience tingling in your fingers or arms. But here's an easy way to know the difference between a panic attack and a cardiovascular emergency.
The tingling in your arms from a panic attack is caused by hyperventilating as you take rapid breaths. You will experience numbness and pain in both sides of your body. When someone is having a heart attack, on the other hand, the pain and tingling is usually isolated to the left arm and mostly the left side of the chest, though the whole chest may feel pressure.
When you have a panic attack you may experience:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Tingling fingers and hands, or occasionally other body parts
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling like you might faint
There are steps you can take to mitigate panic symptoms. However, even individuals who have had many panic attacks can find it difficult to reason with their logical mind during an attack. The anxiety may come from your mind, but the physical symptoms are quite real. To help get over your anxiety or even prevent an attack, try acknowledging what the attack is- anxiety and not impending death. This is easier if you have had an anxiety attack before and know that is probably the cause of your symptoms. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, and focus on fully inhaling and exhaling in a slow, natural pattern.
Can you die from a panic attack?
The symptoms of a panic attack are quite serious. That being said, if you are truly having a panic attack and not another medical emergency, then no, you cannot die from a panic attack. It may feel like you will, but the feeling will pass. For severe anxiety attacks, you may need to seek emergency medical treatment in order to get over your attack and get back to a calmer mental state.
Although a panic attack will not kill you, you should be aware that chronic anxiety and stress can have real effects on your health and may eventually lead to life-threatening illnesses. Stress causes inflammation that takes its toll on every system in your body. Individuals who do not cope well with stress are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
To keep yourself healthy and prevent anxiety and stress-related illnesses, get treatment for your panic attacks by seeing a licensed mental health professional. Even though a panic attack does not have serious short-term effects on your physical health, it takes a heavy toll on your mental health, and can negatively impact physical health over time. Anyone can occasionally experience a stress-related panic attack, even if you do not suffer from panic disorder.