Can you die from a panic attack?

Naomi Carr
Author: Naomi Carr Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

Although the symptoms of a panic attack may sometimes feel like a heart attack, you are not actually in any danger of dying from a panic attack. Understanding more about what is happening to your body during a panic attack, receiving appropriate treatment, and taking care of your physical and mental health can all help to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is the sudden onset of intense physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. People who regularly experience panic attacks may be diagnosed with panic disorder, but panic attacks can occur within the context of any anxiety disorder, such as social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias [1][2].

Symptoms of panic attacks can include [1][3]:

  • An intense and extreme feeling of anxiety and fear
  • Feeling out of control
  • Being afraid of dying or of something terrible happening
  • Increased heart rate, pounding heart, or heart palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Panic attacks can occur at any time – you can get day or night-time panic attacks – and often start suddenly or without warning. This can be very distressing and frightening. Many people who have panic attacks are afraid that they are going to die because the symptoms may resemble that of a heart attack [4].

Can you die from a panic attack?

The good news is that you cannot die from a panic attack. Although the symptoms of a panic attack may feel very frightening, they cannot cause death [4].

These symptoms occur due to a sudden release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body. This release is often referred to as the fight or flight response. It increases a person’s blood flow and heart rate to prepare the body for fighting or running away from perceived danger. The reason for the release of adrenaline and cortisol during a panic attack is not due to an actual threat, but because a rush of anxiety caused a stress response [5].

When these physical changes occur suddenly and for seemingly no reason, it can cause people to believe that they are experiencing a heart attack, as there are many similarities in the symptoms. Also, the fear of physical harm or death can contribute to or cause these symptoms, which can prompt or exacerbate a panic attack [1][5].

Having an understanding of what is happening to your body during a panic attack can actually help to reduce the severity of the symptoms you experience by reducing the level of fear associated with the attack [4].

Most panic attacks last between 5 and 30 minutes. Most symptoms significantly reduce after this time. Typically, you are not in danger of any physical harm during a panic attack. Being able to recognize and understand the physical symptoms that occur can help to reduce the severity and length of your symptoms [4][5].

Can panic attacks cause any other health issues?

There is some research that suggests that the regular panic attacks associated with panic disorder and chronic anxiety disorders may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. This is partly due to the increase of stress on the heart that occurs with regular panic attacks [6][7][8].

However, an increased risk of cardiovascular problems is likely to also be related to behavioral risk factors sometimes associated with panic disorder and other anxiety disorders. These include but aren’t limited to: low levels of exercise, smoking, poor diet, and taking medications. These behaviors increase the risk of coronary heart disease and other health concerns, such as obesity and diabetes [7][9].

Similarly, people with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder are at increased risk of substance and alcohol misuse, which can also contribute to poor health outcomes [3].

Many physical health conditions, such as asthma and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can cause symptoms that are similar to those of a panic attack, thus complicating diagnosis of physical health issues or anxiety disorders [3][10].As such, there is no direct cause of serious medical complications resulting from panic attacks. However, people who often experience panic attacks may be at an increased risk of developing certain physical health conditions. For this reason, it is important to form and maintain healthy habits to help prevent worsening physical health in the context of panic disorder or other anxiety disorders [7][8][9].


How to deal with panic attacks

If you experience panic attacks, utilizing the following techniques may help you to manage or reduce the frequency or severity of your symptoms [1][4][5][10]:

  • Therapy: Engaging in talk therapy can help to reduce the occurrence of panic attacks, by reducing emotional distress and teaching positive coping strategies.
  • Medication: If it is deemed necessary for your treatment, your doctor can prescribe a medication to help reduce the occurrence of panic attacks and alleviate the emotional and physical symptoms that occur prior to and during a panic attack.
  • Self-help: Various techniques can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic attacks, such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, having a good sleep schedule, and practicing mindfulness exercises.
  • Breathing: Practicing breathing exercises can significantly reduce the severity of panic attack symptoms, helping to slow breathing and heart rate and return the body to a more relaxed state.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. (Revised 2022). Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. NIMH. Retrieved from
  2. Cackovic, C., Nazir, S., & Marwaha, R. (2022). Panic Disorder. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved from
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013, text revision 2022). Anxiety Disorders. In The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed., text rev.). APA. Retrieved from
  4. Health Scotland. (Updated 2023). How To Deal With Panic Attacks. NHS Inform. Retrieved from
  5. Department of Health, Victoria. (Reviewed 2022). Panic Attack. Better Health. Retrieved from
  6. Fleet, R., Lavoie, K., & Beitman, B.D. (2000). Is Panic Disorder Associated with Coronary Artery Disease? A Critical Review of the Literature. Journal of Psychosomatic Research48(4-5), 347–356. Retrieved from
  7. Celano, C.M., Daunis, D.J., Lokko, H.N., Campbell, K.A., & Huffman, J.C. (2016). Anxiety Disorders and Cardiovascular Disease. Current Psychiatry Reports18(11), 101. Retrieved from
  8. Gomez-Caminero, A., Blumentals, W.A., Russo, L.J., Brown, R.R., & Castilla-Puentes, R. (2005). Does Panic Disorder Increase the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease? A Cohort Study of a National Managed Care Database. Psychosomatic Medicine67(5), 688–691. Retrieved from
  9. Machado, S., Sancassiani, F., Paes, F., Rocha, N., Murillo-Rodriguez, E., & Nardi, A. E. (2017). Panic Disorder and Cardiovascular Diseases: An Overview. International Review of Psychiatry (Abingdon, England)29(5), 436–444. Retrieved from
  10. Manjunatha, N., & Ram, D. (2022). Panic Disorder in General Medical Practice – A Narrative Review. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care11(3), 861–869. Retrieved from
Medical Content

Our Medical Affairs Team is a dedicated group of medical professionals with diverse and extensive clinical experience who actively contribute to the development of our content, products, and services. They meticulously evaluate and review all medical content before publication to ensure it is medically accurate and aligned with current discussions and research developments in mental health. For more information, visit our Editorial Policy.

About is a health technology company guiding people towards self-understanding and connection. The platform offers reliable resources, accessible services, and nurturing communities. Its mission involves educating, supporting, and empowering people in their pursuit of well-being.

Naomi Carr
Author Naomi Carr Writer

Naomi Carr is a writer with a background in English Literature from Oxford Brookes University.

Published: Mar 30th 2023, Last edited: Sep 22nd 2023

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Mar 29th 2023