Can You Die From a Panic Attack?

A panic attack can feel like you are dying, but you won't die directly from one.

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A panic attack can feel like you are dying; however, you won’t die directly due to one. Read on to learn more about the risks of panic attacks and how to stay safe during one.

Are Panic Attacks Harmful or Dangerous?

Although panic attacks are not fatal, they can have long-term risks to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being if they become persistent.

What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?

A panic attack can be extremely scary as it is difficult to calm down and manage the symptoms alone. Many of the physical symptoms can feel very intense.

For instance, a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, extreme fear, lightheadedness, trembling, chest pain, choking and feeling out of control.

After experiencing a panic attack, the fear of having another can cause complications such as phobias, substance abuse, depression, and medical issues. If left untreated, it can lead to suicide.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

You May Fear Having Another Panic Attack

For some people, the fear of another attack can completely disrupt their lives. They will avoid certain situations and places where they’ve had an attack before. For instance, if they experience a panic attack in a grocery store, they may develop an intense fear of going into one again.

They may socially isolate themselves. They may fear going outside and refrain from leaving their home. This can prevent them from getting the help that they need. This may affect their ability to go to work which can have financial consequences.

Therefore, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you experience frequent panic attacks and/or they have become more intense.

A mental health professional can help offer support and treatment options. Panic attacks can be treatable and do not have to burden your life.

Can Panic Attacks Shorten Your Life?

Frequent panic attacks can negatively impact the quality of your life. Unfortunately, they can also have severe health consequences that can reduce your lifespan. 

If You Have Heart Problems, Panic Attacks May Worsen Your Heart Health

A study published in 2005 looked at people with coronary artery disease and whether regular panic attacks affected the health of their hearts. They compared those with and without panic disorder. Someone with panic disorder experiences regular panic attacks. 

The study participants underwent a challenge test that mimicked a panic attack. They inhaled a gas mixture that contained 65% oxygen and 35% carbon dioxide. Perfusion defects (reduced blood flow to the heart), heart rate, blood pressure, and 12-lead electrocardiogram were continuously measured during the challenge, and a heart scan was completed after the procedure. 

The results showed that participants with panic disorder who had a panic attack during the test were more likely to develop a reversible myocardial perfusion defect compared to those who did not have an attack.

The study concluded that panic attacks in those with coronary artery disease could cause damage to their hearts.

Can a Panic Attack Turn Into a Heart Attack?

Many of the physical symptoms of a panic attack can feel similar to those of a heart attack, but they can not directly turn into a heart attack. However, panic attacks can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

A cohort study published in the European Heart Journal looked at the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), acute myocardial infarction (MI), and CHD-related mortality in those with panic attacks or disorders. The results showed a significantly higher incidence of MI following new-onset panic in people under 50.

Too Much Stress Affects Your Health

Regular panic attacks can cause chronic stress and anxiety in your life. Some stress in your life is normal; however, if you’re overly stressed all the time, it can wreak havoc on your health. 

During a stress response, cortisol is released into your body. When this occurs frequently, there is a higher level of stress hormone in the body. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke.

The Relationship Between Panic Disorders and Your Heart Health

A study examined the mechanisms that mediate the relationship between panic disorders and adverse cardiac outcomes. It showed that chronic anxiety could increase the risk of blood clots, lead to inflammation and weaken the heart muscle. These physiological changes can increase the risk of cardiac events. In addition, certain behavior changes play a role in the relationship. Those who experience anxiety disorders such as panic disorder are more likely to engage in behaviors associated with poor cardiovascular health, such as decreased physical activity, substance use, and an unhealthy diet.

What Are the Signs of a Heart Attack?

Call 911 in an Emergency

Please call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately if you have any of the major signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Severe chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, one or both arms or shoulders 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Unusual tiredness

How to Know If You're Having a Panic Attack

Panic attacks are terrifying as they are intense and can occur suddenly without notice. It can feel like you are going to die. However, knowing the symptoms and recognizing them can help you stay safe during a panic attack.

Panic Attack Signs and Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pressure
  • Extreme fear
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Feeling out of control
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Dry mouth
  • Hyperventilation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

How to Stay Safe During a Panic Attack

Here are some things you can try during a panic attack that can help you stay safe:

  • Don’t try to stop the panic attack: Tell yourself that you are having a panic attack, that it will not hurt you, and that it will pass. Ride out the attack by staying present and keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t try to distract yourself. Be mindful of your senses and count the number of things you can see, hear, smell, and touch.
  • Face your fear without judgment: Don’t run away from your fear or try to fight it. The more you try to escape those anxious feelings, the worse they will feel. Instead, confront and accept the fear and wait until they disappear. It allows you to see that nothing bad will happen.
  • Do a breathing exercise: Some people breathe rapidly during a panic attack. However, hyperventilation reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and can exacerbate symptoms, making you feel more dizzy and lightheaded. Instead, close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply and slowly. Breathe in through your nose and breath out through your mouth. Doing so can help increase the level of carbon dioxide in your body and reduce your panic attack symptoms.


Although you won’t die from a panic attack, experiencing them persistently can have serious long-term health effects. It’s important to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider if they are happening time after time. Panic attacks do not have to be debilitating. Treatment options such as talk therapy, medication and support groups are available to reduce and/or prevent symptoms.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Myocardial perfusion study of panic attacks in patients with coronary artery disease. The American Journal of Cardiology. 2005;96(8):1064–1068.

  3. Walters K, Rait G, Petersen I, Williams R, Nazareth I. Panic disorder and risk of new onset coronary heart disease, acute myocardial infarction, and cardiac mortality: cohort study using the general practice research database. European Heart Journal. 2008;29(24):2981–2988.

  4. Elevated stress hormones linked to higher risk of high blood pressure and heart events. American Heart Association.

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  6. CDC. Heart attack symptoms, risk factors, and recovery | cdc. Gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine is the author of three books (How To Deal With Asian Parents, A Brutally Honest Dating Guide and A Straight Up Guide to a Happy and Healthy Marriage) and the creator of 60 Feelings To Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions. She has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system.