Take Stock Of The Situation
Accept your feelings of anxiety, recognize them, and then work through putting them in perspective.
Are you worried about something you cant control? Are you fearful of an outcome thats unlikely? Are you dreading a situation you cant control the outcome of? Talk your way through your feelings to find the source, and then work to put them into perspective.
Is Anxiety To Blame For Anxiety Chest Pain
If youve been experiencing chest pain, it can be difficult to determine if your anxiety is the culprit. That said, identifying the cause of your chest pain is key to getting it treated.
In order to determine whether or not anxiety is to blame for your chest pain, you need to know what anxiety chest pain feels like.
What Are The Symptoms Of Panic And Anxiety Attacks
Because of the state of alert our bodies go into when panicking, its no surprise that when people describe panic attacks they say, it felt like I was dying.
Adrenaline-fueled physical responses are built into us from birth. They exist for our survival. Experiencing a panic attack means the untimely activation of these built-in responses. Here is an example of a normal, physical reaction to danger:
You just got off work, youre in the parking garage, and youre headed to your car. Its late, and theres no one else at your office. Suddenly, you hear a sound behind you. Your heart rate quickens. You feel a weight on your chest. Your muscles get tight, and you feel tension in your shoulders. Youre poised to run at the mere thought of someone sneaking up on you. The mind recognizes danger, and the body goes into a fight or flight mode. Adrenaline makes us think and act faster so that we can protect ourselves in situations just like this. This is a normal, biological response.
Panic and anxiety attacks range in severity and symptoms from person to person. The common denominator for most panic attacks is a physical reaction or response. Someone experiencing a panic attack will physically feel it in their body. Here are some of the common symptoms of panic attacks:
- Chest pain or chest tightening
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Anxiety Chest Pain: Is It Just In Your Head
Anxiety doesnt just make you feel worried or nervous. Being anxious can also cause physical symptoms. One of the more alarming symptoms can be anxiety-related chest pain. Learn why anxiety can cause chest pain, what you can do about it, and most importantly, how to tell the difference between chest pain caused by anxiety or panic and chest pain related to a heart attack.
Can An Anxiety Attack Really Feel That Bad
During an anxiety attack, adrenaline courses through your body. Everyone experiences the result of this adrenaline differently, but some symptoms are common, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, dizziness, sweating, trembling, an upset stomach and a feeling like you might die.
Unfortunately, a panic attack has symptoms that closely resemble those of a heart attack, making it hard to tell the difference between the two, says cardiologist , who practices at the UW Medicine Regional Heart Center Cardiology Clinic.
Your body is preparing you to either fight off a threat or flee to safety, and thats serious stuff, she says.
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Causes Of Chest Pain And Anxiety
Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety. But, when it does happen, its typically an indicator that youre experiencing hyperventilation or esophageal dysmotility.
A study from the University of California San Diego found that people with generalized anxiety disorder experience chest pains more often than those without the condition. And, when people do have chest pains due to anxiety, they are more likely to have recurring episodes.
Hyperventilation is a common cause of chest pain in both anxiety and heart conditions. When we hyperventilate, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. This causes the amount of carbon dioxide in our bloodstream to decrease while acidity increases.
As a result, we can feel pain in our upper abdomen as well as lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and palpitations .
Esophageal dysmotility occurs when there is an abnormal movement of food through your esophagus. It can be caused by certain mental states such as stress or excitement that cause nerve endings to stimulate muscle contractions in your stomach and esophagus area resulting in chest pain or discomfort.
Impact Of Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are episodes of intense fear and emotional distress. They usually strike suddenly and without warning. And they may last several minutes or up to an hour.
These attacks may have a discrete trigger. Sometimes, though, they occur without a known cause.
Anxiety attacks are often recurrent. They’re distressing to experience and concerning for friends and family who witness them.
When you’ve had panic attacks, it’s common to worry about having more. Attempts to avoid them can lead to extreme lifestyle changes.
You may find yourself avoiding situations or environments that have triggered previous episodes. You may also get in the habit of checking for escape routes you can take should anxiety strike.
Avoidance strategies can become extensive. At the extreme end is people who become housebound or otherwise withdraw from the world. This is called agoraphobia.
Anxiety attacks aren’t just intense fright, though. They can cause physical symptoms including:
- Abdominal cramping
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Ways To Reduce Chest Pressure
When you are experiencing chest pressure and/or tightness, the key is to try to figure out the potential causes. Once you deem anxiety to be the cause of the symptom, the next goal is to stop it. See the following examples:
- Hyperventilation: Try to get your breathing under control by taking slower, deeper breaths and not trying to over-breathe or breathe too fast. When youre experiencing hyperventilation, you may feel as though youre not getting enough air, but hyperventilation occurs when you have expelled more CO2 than you make. So breathing more slowly helps to rebuild those CO2 levels.
- Bloating/Heartburn: If you can potentially reduce/prevent any gas, do so. You may also want to consider taking an antacid or drinking water, which may help with bloating or heartburn. Heartburn can be improved by eating more slowly, decreasing the amounts of spicy foods you consume, and staying upright for at least 30 minutes after eating. Also, avoid heartburn-inducing foods like peppermint, chocolate, coffee or caffeinated beverages, tomatoes, alcohol, and citrus fruits
- Muscle Strain: Be mindful of lifting or carrying items that are too heavy. Make sure to stretch and warm up your muscles before doing any strenuous activities.
These are only temporary fixes. Remember that your chest pressure and/or tightness is often related to some type of anxiety issue or anxiety disorder. That means that the only way to prevent the chest pressure from returning is to learn to manage your anxiety.
Chest Pain Caused By Anxiety Or Panic Attacks
Is it a heart attack or anxiety?
But chest pain can be caused by myriad conditions that have nothing to do with the heart. One common cause is an anxiety attack.
This article lays out the impact of anxiety attacks, how they cause chest pain, and what to expect when you see your healthcare provider with anxiety-related chest pain.
Verywell / Laura Porter
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Treatment Studies In Patients With Pd And Chest Pain
These interventions are likely to be beneficial for patients experiencing chest pain as a part of their panic attacks, although such treatments are not well studied in this specific population. Two preliminary studies of benzodiazepines in patients with PD and chest pain have shown promise. In an open-label, flexible-dose trial, Beitman and associates110 administered alprazolam for 8 weeks to 10 cardiology patients with chest pain, normal coronary arteries, and PD. Alprazolam decreased the rate of both chest pain and panic attacks significantly in this population, as 7 of 8 participants who completed the trial had 50% or greater reduction in their panic attack frequency. The patients also had significant improvements on measures of anxiety and depression as well as in Clinical Global Impressions scale scores, suggesting that this intervention not only reduced symptoms but also improved quality of life.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Chest Tightness
When youre faced with stress, fear, or a challenge that causes anxiety, this activates the flight-or-fight response, which ultimately helps the body prepare to face the danger or protect itself from that danger.
Part of the fight-or-flight response involves tensing the muscles, which can cause feelings of stiffness or tightness in different parts of the body.
When your body is subjected to stress, it also produces higher levels of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
Its suggested that during times of panic,¹ you can experience an increased heart rate, which may cause chest tightness however, the conclusions from research arent clear.
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What Kind Of Anxiety Makes Your Chest Hurt
The type of anxiety that mostly causes chest pain are panic attacks or heightened reaction anxiety. Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety.
You may have chest pain when youre experiencing a panic attack, or when your anxiety gets heightened to a level that it becomes difficult to cope with. That type of chest pain will usually be more intense, and you may experience other symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
Panic attacks, also known as acute stress responses or hyperventilation, are intense and sudden episodes of fear that occur when the body feels threatened. This response is triggered by an overactive fight-or-flight response.
Everyone experiences a little bit of anxiety from time to time, but sufferers of anxiety disorders experience these feelings frequently and in situations where theyre not warranted. The same goes for chest pain. Sometimes its a sign of something more serious, but most of the time its nothing to worry about at all.
What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Attack
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.2
Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Learn more about risk factors for heart disease and heart attack.
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How Do Heart Attack Symptoms Differ In Women
The classic symptoms of heart attack in men are a heavy central chest ache and squeezing and tightness that can radiate into the jaw or the left arm. Women may experience similar symptoms not only in the chest area but in between the shoulder blades. They can also feel generalized upper back or neck discomfort, says Weeks.
How Anxiety Causes Chest Pain
When youre anxious, your brain sends a surge of adrenaline and cortisol through your body. These hormones immediately trigger a rapid rise in your heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, many people experience chest pain and sweating, or have a hard time breathing.
The sudden boost of adrenaline can narrow the arteries in your heart and attach to cells inside the heart. This condition, called stress cardiomyopathy, mimics a heart attack, from symptoms all the way down to changes in your hearts electrical activity.
Though stress cardiomyopathy usually heals within a few days or weeks, it may lead to weak heart muscles, congestive heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Levels of adrenaline and cortisol dont return to normal in people with anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronically high hormone levels may trigger a panic attack and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
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Getting Support And Treatment For Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be incredibly frightening and cause you to worry about if and when another will happen again, causing a vicious cycle.
At Priory, we can help you to learn strategies so that you are able to better manage your panic attacks and reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is an evidence based treatment available at Priory, where you learn how to identify and reframe your panic attack triggers and anxiety-inducing thought patterns.
Mindfulness sessions are also useful for learning how to identify and move past unpleasant thoughts and sensations without allowing panic to take over. During sessions at Priory, you can also receive relaxation training to understand deep breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.
Exposure treatment may also be used after sessions in relaxation, cognitive reframing and mindfulness. During this time, you have the opportunity to practise the strategies you have learnt, and recognise that you can cope in challenging scenarios.
Certain medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , or other medications, may be recommended or prescribed if necessary to further support in the management of your panic attacks.
If you think you are having a medical emergency, please seek immediate support.
Whats The Difference Between Anxiety Chest Pain And A Heart Attack
Chest pain from anxiety can sometimes be confused with other problems, like a heart attack.
In comparison with anxiety chest pain, pain from a heart attack will worsen with activity and last longer , says Dr Saloojee.
Heart attack chest pain often feels like a squeezing, heavy or intense pressure on the chest. It can spread to other parts of the body, like the arms, shoulders, back and jaw. You may also experience sweating, nausea, coughing or wheezing.
Over time, you might start to recognise when chest pain is due to anxiety. But if youre ever worried that your chest pain is something more serious, seek medical help.
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How Long Do Panic Attacks Last
Panic attacks are generally brief, lasting less than 10 minutes, although some of the symptoms may last longer. An isolated panic attack, while extremely unpleasant, is not uncommon or life-threatening.
Panic attacks can be a symptom of other anxiety disorders, and people whoâve had one panic attack are at greater risk for another compared to those whoâve never had one. Panic attacks and panic disorder are not the same thing. When the attacks happen repeatedly and you worry about having more episodes, you may have panic disorder.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden attack of overwhelming fear or anxiety. Panic attacks are not life-threatening, but they interfere with your quality of life and mental well-being.
People who have regular or frequent panic attacks may have a panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder. But an isolated panic attack can happen to anyone, even without a panic disorder diagnosis.
- Feeling of squeezing or, says Dr. Miller, like an elephant sitting on your chest.
- Achy or burning sensation, like heartburn.
Panic attacks often cause:
- Sharp or stabbing pain .
- Heart racing or chest discomfort thats hard to describe.
Heart attacks tend to happen after physical strain or exertion a sign not found in panic attacks. A heart attack might happen after shoveling snow or walking up a long flight of stairs, Dr. Miller says. But you wouldnt have a panic attack after exercise unless there was an emotional stress trigger with it.
But what if the symptoms hit you at night? Both panic attacks and heart attacks can wake you from sleep. But theres a key difference: People who have nighttime, or nocturnal, panic attacks usually have daytime panic attacks, too.
So if you wake up with chest pain or other symptoms, and you dont have a history of panic attacks, that might be a sign of a heart attack.
How long it lasts
Panic attack symptoms last a few minutes or up to an hour. Then, the symptoms disappear, and you feel better. But a heart attack wont let up.
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Recognizing A Heart Attack
Causes Of A Burning Sensation
One of the most common reasons for burning pain is damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. This system is made up of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system .
The CNS is the primary command center and includes the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists of the nerves that branch out from the brain and spine, connecting the rest of the body to the CNS. There are several different types of nerve and spine conditions that may cause burning pain as a symptom.
Accidents, injuries, and traumas are other possible causes of burning sensations.
- Frostbite occurs when skin and the tissue under it freeze. Before numbness sets in, frostbite produces a burning sensation.
- Stings and bites from insects or animals that are venomous, such as snakes, produce a burning sensation at the affected area.
- Whiplash is an injury that occurs when someones head moves back and forth very suddenly with great force. The injury is most common after a car accident. It can cause a burning pain and stiffness in the neck.
Certain nutritional deficiencies can also include burning pain as a symptom.
- Beriberi is a deficiency in thiamine, or vitamin B-1.
- Hypoparathyroidism is a rare disease characterized by an underproduction of parathyroid hormone, a hormone produced by glands in the neck. This can lead to a calcium deficiency.
- Megaloblastic anemia may be related to a vitamin B-12 or folic acid deficiency.
- Pernicious anemia causes a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
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