ZocdocAnswersCan my panic attacks cause long-term damage to my heart?

Question

Can my panic attacks cause long-term damage to my heart?

My panic attacks have become more regular and I am worried about the damage they could due to my heart. While some people just think I am being paranoid or have a phobia, I can feel real physical pain during my panic attacks. I don't really want to become addicted to anti-depressants. I have noticed that my panic attacks are lasting longer. Could these panic attacks damage my heart?

Answer

Panic attacks per se do not cause long term damage to the heart, but you should discuss your concern with your primary care physician. In other words panic attacks have not been directly found to be a cause of any type of heart disease. However people that have significant anxiety and panic attacks might be more susceptible to experiencing higher levels of stress and perhaps higher blood pressures. Having an overall higher stress level is associated with increased risk of heart disease as does having a high blood pressure. However, we do not treat panic attacks specifically to protect the heart. We treat them because they are detrimental to other aspects of your life. The physical pain you are feeling in your chest are probably the palpitations that one feels when a panic attack comes on. This discomfort is not likely to represent true damage to the heart, but rather just the reaction your heart has to the adrenergic surge that occurs during an attack. Please schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can discuss all the treatment options for your panic attacks. This should be addressed soon as your symptoms seem to be getting worse. You should not have to be worried about being addicted to anti-depressants as most of these medications are not habit forming.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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