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How To Help Anxiety Chest Pain

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What Are The Symptoms Of Panic And Anxiety Attacks

How To Heal Chest Pain Anxiety

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

Anxiety And The Development Of Heart Disease

Its my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease, says McCann. I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.

A natural reaction to a sudden heart attack can be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder:

  • Youre likely to be shocked by your near-death experience and extremely hesitant to do the things you used to do.
  • You might constantly relive the life-threatening event, and avoid the activity or place associated with the heart attack.
  • Recurring anxious thoughts may impede your ability to get regular sleep.
  • Your thoughts about what lies ahead may be extremely negative and cause a drastically foreshortened outlook of the future.

What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Palpitations And Anxiety

Symptoms of heart palpitations include:

  • Fluttering: Some people sense a flapping or fluttery feeling in the chest. Your heart may feel like its flipping.
  • Irregular heartbeat: You might feel like your heart skips a beat or beats out of rhythm. You may become aware of your heart rate speeding up and slowing down. You may also feel as if your heart pauses for a second or two.
  • Pounding: Your heart might beat forcefully or very strongly. Some people say they can feel their heart beating in their ears.

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Anxiety Chest Pains: Knowing The Signs And Symptoms


Director of Therapy

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While it is normal to experience some anxiety every now and then, people living with anxiety disorders can deal with intense and frequent bouts of anxiety, excessive worry, and intense fear. Anxiety disorders can make it feel like you are never able to relax, and your feelings of anxiety or panic may significantly interfere with your ability to complete your daily tasks and activities.

Anxiety disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms, including physical symptoms, and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your symptoms are being caused by your anxiety, or if they are being caused by another medical problem altogether.

Chest pain is one specific physical symptom of anxiety that can be particularly alarming, but there are a few ways you can tell the difference between anxiety chest pain and chest pain caused by something more serious, like a heart attack.

Want to speak 1:1 with an expert about your anxiety & depression?

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Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety. Try these tips to alleviate it.

Reviewed by:

Vivian Sun

Dr. Vivian Sun is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her medical degree from University of Maryland and psychiatry training at University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. She is board certified in general and child/adolescent psychiatry and specializes in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.

Taylor Leamey

Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness. She holds a bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Sociology and is a certified sleep coach.

An estimated 40 million adults in the US have anxiety and experience symptoms including nervousness, rapid breathing and a pounding heart, according to Mayo Clinic. Those are the typical anxiety symptoms that many people are familiar with. One lesser known symptom is chest pain.

Tightness in the chest is often a physical manifestation of panic or anxiety attacks. According to a 2018 study, 30 to 40% of visits to the emergency room for chest pain unrelated to a heart attack are due to anxiety. Here’s everything you should know about anxiety chest pain and how to tell it apart from a heart attack.

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Different Types Of Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders fall into several categories. Here are a few of them:

  • Panic disorder can be associated with cardiac disease or mistaken for heart attack. Feelings of extreme agitation and terror are often accompanied by dizziness, chest pains, stomach discomfort, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder a condition that can follow a shocking or frightening incident or sudden, life-threatening event such as a violent crime, major accident, or heart attack. A person suffering from PTSD often has trouble dealing with anything associated with the incident that caused their condition, and experiences feelings of jitteriness and detachment.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive disorder People with OCD will manage unreasonable thoughts and worries by performing the same actions over and over. For example, an individual obsessed with perceived cardiovascular symptoms that have been checked and cleared by a physician may compulsively research them or find new ones for hours on end.

Anxiety Chest Pain Treatment

You may treat anxiety chest pain with pharmacological or psychotherapeutic therapies. Depending on the severity of your anxiety, your doctor may recommend a combination of many treatments. A psychologist may be able to help you discover behavioral and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce anxiety. A psychiatrist might write you a prescription for anxiety medication.

Selective serotonin receptor inhibitors and benzodiazepines are two classes of drugs used to treat panic attacks and anxiety. These drugs are highly effective and are used to provide relief for those who suffer frequent panic attacks. While online doctors may prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety, benzodiazepines are controlled substances and cannot be prescribed online.

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Get A Pet Probably A Dog They Are People Too And Those Relationships Are Never Toxic

And if you cant care for a dog yourself, seek out a therapy dog, formally or informally. Its hard to overstate the therapeutic value of pets, and dogs in particular they arent called our best friends for nothing. Dont get me wrong: I am both a cat person and a dog person, and have always had trouble relating to being limited to one or the other. I was blessed with a particularly mellow cat that came with my wife, and I miss her terribly. But even as a cat lover, I have to concede that dogs, on average, are probably the better bet for battling anxiety. They are just so freakishly positive. It is infectious. Its like being around someone who is always laughing.

I have little to add, because the basics are obvious and the details have already been particularly exhaustively explored by others: How Dogs Can Help with Mental Health. Thats a deep dive into the power of human-canine relationships there.

This is Snug. Shes the lab I grew up with & she was fantastic.

Broken Heart Syndrome Diagnosis


If your doctor thinks you might have it, several tests can help figure things out:

Physical exam and history. Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Theyll want to know about any major events or stress youve had lately.

Electrocardiogram . Your doctor will do one of these to look for any problems with your hearts rhythm and structure. The results will let them know if your symptoms are from a heart attack.

Blood tests. Many of them can show damage to the heart.

Coronary angiogram. This test looks at coronary artery disease. Dye is injected in your chest and your coronary arteries to help your doctor see any blockages. People with heart attacks usually have them. Folks with broken heart symptoms typically dont.

Echocardiogram. This ultrasound shows your doctor if you have an enlarged heart or if your heart has an abnormal shape while it pumps. That last one can be a sign of broken heart syndrome.

Radionuclide perfusion imaging. A similar test to an echocardiogram, this helps show which areas of the heart muscles get blood normally through the coronary arteries. It also lets your doctor know where you could have heart damage.

Chest X-ray. This can show if you have an enlarged heart or if it has an abnormal shape. It can also help to see if lung problems are the cause of your symptoms.

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What Are The Most Common Causes Of Noncardiac Chest Pain

Noncardiac chest pain is most commonly related to a problem with your esophagus, the swallowing tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. There are several different esophageal disorders that can cause noncardiac chest pain, including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease . Otherwise known as chronic acid reflux, this is the most common cause of noncardiac chest pain, accounting for 50% to 60% of cases.
  • Esophageal muscle spasms. Abnormal contractions or squeezing of your esophagus.
  • Achalasia. This is a rare disorder in which your lower esophageal sphincter doesnt relax and open to allow food into your stomach, causing food to back up into your esophagus.
  • Esophageal hypersensitivity. This is a sensory disorder in which the muscles, nerves and receptors of your esophageal wall are overly sensitive. People with this condition experience normal tension, pressure changes, and acid contents as painful.
  • Inflammation of the esophagus. This can result from an immune response to infection or food allergies or from peptic ulcer disease.
  • Abnormal esophageal tissue. This creates constrictions, such as rings and webs.

When healthcare providers cant determine the cause but have ruled out other possible factors, they diagnose functional chest pain of presumed esophageal origin.

How You Can Tell If You Are Suffering From Anxiety

The easiest way to determine if you are suffering from anxiety-induced chest tightness is by ruling out any cardiac or lung-related disease. Only a physician can rule these out completely.

A few signs can be helpful in determining if your chest tightness is cardiac-related. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. So, when in doubt, please visit your primary care physician. Generally, the following is more likely to be true of anxiety-related chest tightness and/or pressure:

  • It is less likely to radiate towards the back, arms, or shoulders.
  • It is more likely to occur with other anxiety symptoms.
  • It tends to last for less than 10 minutes.

Again, having chest pain that abides by these suggestions does not rule out any cardiac or pulmonary causes. Also, women, diabetics, and the elderly often present with chest pain that is atypical of traditional cardiac chest tightness. So, if you belong to one of these groups and have new-onset chest pressure and/or tightness, it is best to see a physician first.

Anxiety attacks have a peak time, and that tends to be when the chest pressure is at its worst. Cardiac chest pressure, on the other hand, is more likely to last longer than 15 minutes, radiate, not be relieved with the resolution of anxiety, and be associated with shortness of breath etc.

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What Does Chest Pain From Anxiety Feel Like

Anxiety-induced chest pain can feel different for everyone. Some people have consistent symptoms and others have them sporadically. The symptom can gradually occur or begin suddenly, depending on the person. Chest pain brought on by anxiety has been described as a tightness in the chest that accompanies a rush of bad feelings or dread. Most people have a hard time distinguishing anxiety chest pain from a heart attack.

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Anxiety Chest Pain Vs Heart Attack Chest Pain

Chest Pain Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Chest pain is a concerning symptom, and its usually best to seek emergency medical attention if youre experiencing it. Even if the chest pain cause is anxiety, its better to know than to risk missing valuable time if youre having a heart attack.

People describe chest pain in a number of ways when theyre having a heart attack. Some examples include:

  • chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body, such as down your arms or up to your jaw
  • chest pain that worsens with exertion
  • nausea along with chest pain
  • pressure in the chest, as if someone has put something heavy on your chest
  • rapid heart rate
  • shortness of breath
  • squeezing sensation in the chest

An estimated 30 percent of patients who are having a heart attack dont have chest pain, according to 2020 research . Some people report symptoms like back pain and fatigue as part of their heart attack symptoms.

While doctors know there is a connection between anxiety and chest pain, you still shouldnt ignore your symptoms and seek medical attention.

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Focus On Your Breathing

Calming breathing exercises can help neutralize the shortness of breath or increased heart rate symptoms associated with anxiety. Focusing on breathing can help you end the stress response. You should expect it to take a few minutes of intentional breathing to feel relief. You can use breathing exercises and techniques anywhere, as often as needed.

Common breathing exercises for anxiety:

  • 4-7-8 breath: This simple yet effective breathing technique can reduce stress. To perform 4-7-8, inhale for four counts, hold the breath for seven counts and exhale for eight counts.
  • The box breath: Box breath is used to slow your breathing. Start by exhaling fully, inhale four counts, hold for another four counts, then exhale for another four counts. Repeat the process three to four times.
  • Belly breathing: Also known as diaphragm breathing, bellying breathing offers a deep sense of relaxation. To practice, place your left hand over your heart and then your right hand over your belly. Inhale slowly and feel your belly expand. Then exhale slowly and feel your belly contract.

Chest Pain Caused By Anxiety Or Panic Attacks

Is it a heart attack or anxiety?

Chest pain is always alarming. Most of us associate it with cardiac conditions such as angina or myocardial infarction .

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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Learn How To Address Your Symptoms

If you have anxiety and chest pain, medically-reviewed strategies like the ones above might help, but there is no better substitute for speaking with a licensed mental health professional. Working with a counselor will allow you to immediately get started on relieving your symptoms and reducing the frequency of any related pain, especially in the chest. Therapy has been shown to reduce certain symptoms of anxiety, especially those who struggle with GAD, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.

If you struggle with anxiety and stress, read reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues below.

What Causes Chest Tightness

How to Relax Through Anxiety Chest Pain

There is no exact explanation of what causes chest tightness in anxiety sufferers. Nevertheless, it is advised to seek a primary care provider immediately for any sudden or worsening chest pain in order to rule out possible cardiac disease.

Do not by any means feel as if you are bothering anyone when you seek help for chest pain. Once serious health conditions are ruled out, you can begin to tackle your anxiety-induced chest pain.

Rest assured that anxiety can commonly cause chest tightness and chest pain for a variety of reasons. These include:

Chest tightness most often occurs right before or during an anxiety attack. It may also present spontaneously with no anxiety at all in what is known as a limited-symptom panic attack.

Rest assured that chest discomfort caused by anxiety is usually harmless.

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Can You Mistake Other Types Of Heart Palpitations For Anxiety Heart Palpitations

If heart palpitations dont go away within a few minutes or happen frequently, they may not be related to anxiety. Less commonly, heart palpitations result from a health condition or disorder, including:

  • Lifestyle, including your alcohol and caffeine intake, as both can cause palpitations.
  • Medical history.

Your provider may suggest a blood test to check for anemia or low potassium. Theyll also look for a thyroid problem or other health issues that could cause heart palpitations.

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