Acid Reflux vs. Panic Attack: Symptom Support

Acid Reflux vs. Panic Attack: Symptom Support

Published on Friday, May 12, 2023 by Deanna Salles-Freeman

You feel it coming on -- shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and rapid heartbeat. 

You may wonder what’s happening and possibly start having thoughts that spiral. Acid reflux and panic attacks are two different conditions that can have similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. However, the underlying causes of these two conditions are distinct, and treatment options differ as well.

One key difference between acid reflux and panic attacks is the timing of symptoms. 

Acid reflux symptoms typically occur after eating or lying down, while panic attacks can occur at any time. Additionally, acid reflux symptoms tend to be relieved by antacids or by changing positions, while panic attacks may require a different approach to treatment. In either case, it is important to seek medical attention to receive a proper diagnosis. Your doctor can conduct a physical examination and order tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.


The treatment for acid reflux may include lifestyle changes and medications to reduce acid production in the stomach. For panic attacks, treatment options may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), sometimes medications, and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness meditation. It is also important to identify and address any underlying stressors or triggers that may be contributing to your panic attacks. 

"At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life.

I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged."

~Patch Adams

Immediate Approach to Panic Attack

In addition to medical treatment, there are several things you can do to manage panic attacks on your own. These include:

  1. Deep breathing techniques: Your body naturally accesses your parasympathetic nervous system, or rest and digest mode, while holding and exhaling. Start by exhaling completely with a whoosh sound. Take in a slow, deep breath through your nose while concentrating on filling your belly and counting to four. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Exhale from your mouth with an audible whoosh or moan for 8 seconds. Repeat until you begin to calm down. This technique is called 4-7-8 breathing
  2. Relaxation techniques: Engage in activities that help you relax, such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation. In my articles on the Mind-Body Connection and my Top-Rated Apps for Self-Care, I included resources and apps that can help you get started on various techniques. Practice gratitude and don’t forget to tap into some fun.
  3. Essential oils: Pure essential oils may help settle the nervous system. They have also been shown to ground you. Oils work with frequencies, which is a fascinating and emerging field of research. Another fun fact is that our olfactory system is the only one of our five senses linked to our limbic area of the brain, the seat of emotion and memory. This is why scents take us immediately back to a time and place, conjuring up memories. Some good oils to use for calming are lavender, rose, or citrus oils. For grounding, use wood oils such as palo santo or sandalwood. Be sure your oils are pure and third-party tested. Use them according to the label instructions or consult an aromatherapist. 
  4. Maintain your health: Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help support overall health and reduce stress levels. Get good sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to help regulate your mood and reduce stress levels. Regular exercise also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. 

Open Mindset

While symptoms can be similar, a panic attack is quite different from acid reflux. Sharing openly with loved ones about what you are experiencing allows them to be a support. Practice the techniques above with them. Let them know your symptoms so that they know what signs to look for. Having someone breathing with you, grounding you with touch and oils, and on your team when it comes to health and relaxation can make all the difference in the world. 

I see you, and YOU are beautiful!


  1. Barati, F., Nasiri, A., Akbari, N., & Sharifzadeh, G. (2016). The Effect of Aromatherapy on Anxiety in Patients. Nephro-Urology Monthly, 8(5).
  2. Fletcher, J. (2019, February 12). 4-7-8 breathing: How it works, benefits, and uses.
  3. Lv, X. N., Liu, Z. J., Zhang, H. J., & Tzeng, C. M. (2013). Aromatherapy and the central nerve system (CNS): therapeutic mechanism and its associated genes. Current Drug Targets, 14(8), 872–879.
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 4). Panic attacks and panic disorder - symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic. 


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