Every person gets anxious at a given time in their lives. Anxiety is a normal human emotion that helps the body to run, hide or fight in case of danger. For people with anxiety and panic attacks chest pain is among the common symptoms.
Some people have frequent anxiety experiences. These people have both emotional and physical symptoms. Symptoms that are experienced in anxiety are shared among several mental disorders and other illnesses. So can anxiety cause chest pain?
Pain in the chest from anxiety is a common symptom of anxiety attacks but is also connected to heart attacks and other heart diseases. Between 20% to 78% of panic attacks present with chest pains. In self-perceived severe panic attacks, approximately 78% of patients experience chest pains.
12-16 percent of the American population experience chest pains sometime during their lives.
Chest pain in anxiety also contributes to more anxiety. This is because it is uncomfortable, frightening, and painful in addition to the fear of heart conditions.
Chest pain in people with chronic anxiety is manageable but also in some cases, you need to see a doctor.
- 1 What Is Anxiety?
- 2 Causes of Chest Pain and Anxiety
- 3 Symptoms of Anxiety Chest Pain
- 3.1 How does anxiety chest pain feel like?
- 3.2 Anxiety chest pain vs heart attack
- 3.3 Do I have angina or anxiety?
- 3.4 How to tell if you have anxiety chest pain vs. heartburn
- 3.5 What causes chest pains in anxiety?
- 3.6 How Long does Anxiety Chest Pain Last?
- 3.7 Treatment for anxiety chest pain
- 3.7.1 Psychotherapy
- 3.7.2 Medications
- 3.7.3 Home remedies
- 4 Can anxiety chest pain last all day?
- 5 What kind of anxiety makes your chest hurt?
- 6 Is anxiety harmful to your heart?
- 7 Can anxiety cause chest pain on left side?
- 8 Can anxiety cause chest pain and shortness of breath?
- 9 Does anxiety cause chest pressure?
- 10 Is Anxiety to Blame for Anxiety Chest Pain?
- 11 FAQs
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension and uncertainty usually caused by a specific situation. It can be brought on by a number of different factors, including stress, trauma, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. When anxiety becomes debilitating or causes chest pain, it’s not just your average case of anxiety. Anxiety is the feeling that something bad is going to happen and you’re powerless to stop it.
Causes of Chest Pain and Anxiety
Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety. But, when it does happen, it’s typically an indicator that you’re 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 (i.e., a feeling your heart is beating too hard or too fast).
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.
How does anxiety cause chest pain?
Chest pains, or chest tightness, can be caused by many things. Anxiety is just one trigger that can cause chest pain. When you’re feeling anxious, your muscles tense up and your heart rate increases.
This increase in muscle tension and heart pressure can cause a very strong sensation of tightness in the chest area – the same sensation you may feel when having a panic attack.
If you experience these sensations once in a while, it may not be too much of an issue. But if they happen often, it can lead to more severe complications.
Can anxiety cause chest tightness?
Yes, anxiety can cause chest tightness. Chest tightness is one of the common symptoms of anxiety which may be accompanied by breathing rapidly and difficulty in breathing. The tightness is experienced as a sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain in the chest. The chest tightness feeling may be persistent, dull aching, and thus is felt as tightness, tension, or pressure in your chest when you are having a panic attack or anxiety from any of the disorders.
The heavy or tight feeling in the chest caused by anxiety can be constant or short-lived depending on how frequently you experience anxiety symptoms. You may however need to differentiate between anxiety tightness or chest pain from chest pain that you get from a heart attack as described below.
You should always consult your doctor if you get chest pain with the following signs:
- If it spreads to your jaw, left arm, or back
- If you experience a sudden, sharp chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath. This should be a major worry if it occurs after a long period of inactivity
- If the chest pain has a sudden feeling of too much pressure, tightness, or crushing under your breastbone. You should also consult your doctor if your chest has a squeezing feeling.
Symptoms of Anxiety Chest Pain
The following are the symptoms of anxiety chest pain:
- Sharp, shooting pain in your chest
- Unusual muscle twitch or spasm in your chest
- Persistent chest aching
- Burning, numbness, or a dull ache,
- Stabbing pressure
- Chest tension or tightness
- Chest pain that worsens with activity
If you’re experiencing occasional chest pains and they’ve been accompanied by anxiety, it may be the result of an anxious response to the pain. This is known as psychosomatic chest pain. Psychosomatic pain occurs when there is no physical cause for your pain, but the anxiety you experience causes a sensation of pain in your body.
You may also have chronic tension-type or neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, which are both related to anxiety. The symptoms of these conditions are similar to those of psychogenic chest pain and can include sharp, shooting pain in your chest, persistent chest aching, an unusual muscle twitch or spasm in your chest, burning, numbness, or a dull ache.
Chest pains caused by anxiety can range from mild to severe. They can feel like a tightness or pressure in your chest that worsens with activity. You may also experience stabbing pressure or a stabbing feeling in the middle of your breastbone that increases when you take deep breaths.
Anxiety-induced chest pains will often last for more than 60 minutes and be accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety such as increased heart rate and difficulty breathing.
The best way to treat this type of chest pain is through psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on changing negative thoughts about one’s health into positive thoughts while teaching skills like relaxation techniques and deep breathing to handle stressful situations better.
How does anxiety chest pain feel like?
There are several anxiety symptoms. The symptoms vary from individual to individual and in different episodes of anxiety or panic attacks.
Most of the symptoms of anxiety are shared with other disorders.
Anxiety chest pain also has different manifestations in different people. It may have gradual in nature in some individuals while others experience instantaneous pain.
Anxiety chest pain exhibits itself in the following ways:
- Chest tightness or a tense chest
- A sharp, spurting pain
- Continual pain in the chest
- Abnormal muscle spasm/ twitch in the chest
- Piercing pressure
- A sweltering or blunt ache
If you experience anxiety chest pain for the first time, you may think that you are suffering from a heart attack.
Anxiety chest pain vs heart attack
There are several similarities between pain in the chest from anxiety and pain in the chest from heart conditions. Both present with an increased heart rate/ palpitations, sweating, feelings of unreality, numbness of extremities, dizziness, vertigo, trembling, and fainting.
However, there are the following differences in symptoms between the two:
- Time of development: Majorly anxiety chest pain occurs during rest while heart attacks happen often during periods where you are active.
- Sharpness: Pain in the chest from anxiety attacks in most cases feel sharper and normally lasts for 5-10 seconds as compared to heavy pressure, squeezing chest pain from heart attacks.
- Location and spread in the body: chest pain from anxiety in most instances remains localized in the chest while heart attack pain spread to other body parts like arms, jaw, and other extremities.
- Speed of development and the period they last: In most instances anxiety chest pains develop rapidly and disappear quickly. Anxiety chest pains in most instances only last for 10 minutes. Heart attacks chest pain develop more gradually with an increase in pain as time progresses.
- Shortness of breath. It is experienced in heart attacks but is rarely experienced in anxiety chest pain.
- Gender comparison: Anxiety disorders are more common in women while heart attacks are more prevalent in men. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in women is higher (23.4%) as compared to 14.3% in men. According to research men are twice as likely to have a heart attack as compared to women throughout their lifetimes.
Inconclusive studies have shown a relationship between the development of heart attacks in people diagnosed with anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder.
Do I have angina or anxiety?
Angina tends to radiate to the shoulder and neck while anxiety is found in the heart area and sharper in its onset. In addition, anxiety chest pain is often on the left side of the chest and sometimes can last for hours.
The key to telling the difference between anxiety and angina is simple: Angina will typically radiate to the neck or shoulder, while anxiety chest pain tends to be more localized in the heart area. Anxiety chest pain will also often start sharper and do not last as long as angina. These are two different types of pains that you need to know how to deal with.
If you have a sharp sensation in your chest that radiates down your arm, it may be time to see a doctor. You may have developed a cardiac stress reaction or a panic attack instead of simply experiencing anxiety chest pain! If you’re feeling spooked by this news, take comfort in knowing that most cases of this type of chest pain are harmless, and many people who experience it never develop any further symptoms related to their heart.
How to tell if you have anxiety chest pain vs. heartburn
Doctors rely on the history of symptoms to help determine which condition you have. If you’re experiencing chest pain and anxiety, it can be difficult to distinguish the two illnesses. What’s the difference?
Anxiety chest pain is generally more frequent than heartburn. It also usually lasts longer than heartburn. Anxiety chest pain may be accompanied by a burning sensation, while heartburn is more likely to cause an acid taste in your mouth. Chest discomfort due to anxiety is often worse when lying down or at night, while heartburn would happen more often during activity.
So how do you know if you have anxiety chest pain? If it has all the same signs as heartburn and you don’t have any other risk factors for anxiety, then it could be that you have just developed bad habits from stress or another mental illness. But if your anxiety chest pain does not go away, or gets worse once you start living a healthier lifestyle, then it could be attributed to anxiety instead.
What causes chest pains in anxiety?
During anxiety moments, the brain produces chemicals that influence the fight-or-flight response to the stimuli. This response is both physical and psychological changes.
The fight-or-flight response includes physical responses like tense muscles, an increase in heart rate, and sweating among others. The pain in the chest from anxiety may be caused by mechanisms in either the cardiac system
or not related to the cardiac system.
The body in people without chronic anxiety can recuperate fully within 30 minutes. However, in people with anxiety disorders, full recuperation does not take place.
The lack of recuperation makes the muscles hypersensitive leading to muscle tension. When the chest muscles are consistently tense, they become painful.
In addition to the chest muscles tension, the heart rate increases during anxiety. With anxiety disorders, the heart rate may become stronger. In addition, there are coronary artery spasms associated with increased anxiety, more resistance of small blood vessels in the heart, blood pressure increases and because the heart is pumping faster there is an increase in oxygen demand.
Other non-cardiac mechanisms that can cause chest pain in anxiety include low carbon dioxide levels in the blood due to hyperventilation and irregular contractions in the esophagus. Low carbon dioxide levels (respiratory alkalosis) in the body results in the following symptoms:
- Having hand shivers.
- Twitching of the muscles.
- Nausea and in some instances vomiting.
- Numbness in the extremities and face.
- Protracted muscle contractions (tetany)
Combining the cardiac and non-cardiac mechanisms may cause unfamiliar pain in the chest.
How Long does Anxiety Chest Pain Last?
The anxiety chest pain in most instances lasts for approximately 10 minutes. This is in people without regular anxiety attacks.
In people with regular anxiety attacks like panic attacks, anxiety can cause chest pain every day. Due to the frequency of chest pain in people with regular anxiety attacks, some people may feel like they have anxiety chest pain/ tightness for days.
Other symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks can last for longer, sometimes up to an hour. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks include:
- Panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems
- Irritability and inability to stay calm and still (restlessness)
- Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling feet or hands
- Shortness of breath and anxiety chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Tense muscles and getting fatigued easily
- Dizziness, or faintness
- Feeling of detachment
Anxiety chest attacks are seen in fast onset panic attacks whereas in slow-developing panic attacks only 10% of patients experience anxiety chest pains.
Treatment for anxiety chest pain
Chest pain caused by anxiety can be treated by preventing anxiety attacks or curing the anxiety attacks when they occur. You should seek medical attention when you experience chest pain during anxiety.
There are 3 major ways of treating anxiety disorders:
- Medication and home remedies/practices to cope with anxiety disorders.
Psychotherapy is also referred to as talk therapy where one is given skills to recognize and diffuse anxiety disorders thoughts and behaviors early or to prevent them.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) including transdiagnostic treatment of emotional disorders has proven to be very effective in treating anxiety disorders.
The approach is a collaborative one between the mental disorders specialist and the patient that is done in several sessions. They help in the prevention, reduction, or management of anxiety symptoms without the use of medication.
- Anxiolytics and antidepressants like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and benzodiazepines among others.
These drugs are primarily used for depression. Most of them target neurotransmitters involved in stress.
They are used as anxiolytics because of the side effects of antidepressants. They are used as mood stabilizers for people with anxiety in an ‘off label’ way.
Other medications include first-generation antihistamines and GABA.
Using medications for chest pains caused by anxiety should be guided by a doctor. This is because a doctor will be able to advise on the best drug for anxiety chest pains, their side effects, contraindications, and adverse reactions.
There are several practices that can help with anxiety disorders. These life hacks improve the quality of life by preventing or relieving the symptoms of anxiety.
Some of the tips include:
Being negative about the moods and expectations of improving health is a common symptom of most anxiety disorders. Trying to be positive is also hard in case of anxiety is also quite difficult.
However, one can become positive by painting a picture in your brain of the serene and peaceful picture of the place that calms you can be of much help.
In addition, being proud of yourself can help you to become positive. That is by not beating yourself up when you don’t become the best.
Deep breathing in case of anxiety chest pain can be of much help to relieve the anxiety. The deep breaths calm the body and brain. Deep breathing can be accompanied by counting to 10 to help focus the body on something else.
Accept that stress is temporary and may not be as bad as you imagine
Nobody in the world has control over everything that he faces. As a person suffering from anxiety, the stressful situation will most definitely pass.
The stressful situation as said in most phrases ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. The stressful situation may not be as bad as your brain registers and after the ordeal, you will come out stronger.
Anxiety can be quite stressful when you are not doing anything. To get relief from anxious moments, try and be active. Activity helps to distract your brain from stressful situations.
If you have work to do, be engrossed in the work and if you do not have work to do, volunteer where possible.
Exercise, sleep, and diet
Being proactive about the things that contribute to good health can help in relieving anxiety.
Exercise helps in the regulation of brain chemicals and also enables you to sleep. Anaerobic exercises also help in blood flow and thus enable the muscles to remain healthy.
Good sleep every night helps to balance the brain chemicals and the rest enables rejuvenation of the body too.
A balanced meal every day helps to provide the body with all the required nutrients for growth, repair, energy, and rejuvenation.
Minimize the use of caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and other drugs
The three commonly abused substances are some of the main contributors to anxiety disorders. The three should be taken in moderation or avoided completely in the case of drugs.
Caffeine and smoking may increase the heart rate even more increasing the pain caused by anxiety.
Practice relaxation techniques
During stressful times, it is good to learn how to relax and calm your body and brain. To relax, you can practice yoga, meditation, get a massage or listen to your favorite music.
There are also some relaxation apps that can guide you on how to relax.
Can anxiety chest pain last all day?
It’s important to note that anxiety chest pain typically lasts around 10 minutes or more, but it can last up to an hour. You may experience chest pain for a day or two after your trigger is gone. And if you have other symptoms of anxiety, like heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, chest pain may be worse.
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 you’re 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.
Is anxiety harmful to your heart?
And yes, anxiety can be harmful to your heart. Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) can interfere with normal heart function and increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest in some cases. Factors that can contribute to this include high blood pressure, diabetes, and some types of anxiety disorders. One of the most worrying thoughts for those who suffer from chest pains is whether or not it’s dangerous.
Can anxiety cause chest pain on left side?
Yes, during anxiety especially panic attacks, you can get a sharp or stabbing pain that makes it momentarily harder to breathe on the left side of your chest. Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety, and it can come in many different forms.
Some people are only anxious when they experience chest pain, and others experience it with every bout of anxiety. Chest pains can also differ in severity.
You might feel pain that ranges from a dull ache to a sharp sensation or stabbing pain that makes it momentarily harder to breathe. The location of your chest pains can also vary. You may notice the pain on the left side of your chest, or you could feel it in other areas like your stomach, throat, or jawbone.
Can anxiety cause chest pain and shortness of breath?
Yes, Chest pain and shortness of breath are two of the most common respiratory symptoms anxiety can cause. This is because when you experience anxiety, your nervous system signals your body to release chemicals that constrict your blood vessels and make you breathe harder. That’s why people with anxiety often experience chest pain and shortness of breath, which can lead to a panic attack.
How do you get rid of shortness of breath from anxiety?
A simple deep breathing exercise can help when you have shortness of breath from anxiety. You can do it as follows:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and make sure you’re not in an area with any distractions
- Place one hand on your chest and the other at the top of your stomach, just below your rib cage
- Breathe deeply from your diaphragm so that it pushes your stomach out when you inhale
- Close your mouth and breathe deeply through your nose for about 5 minutes, or until you feel calmer
Does anxiety cause chest pressure?
Chest pain, or chest discomfort, can be a symptom of anxiety. This is common among people who have anxiety. It’s also possible for some people to experience more severe symptoms of chest pressure when they have anxiety. Chest pressure is often caused by the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which causes contractions in your muscles. This can make you feel as if your heart is beating harder than usual and cause you to experience chest pain.
Chest pressure can also be caused by stomach acid that rises into your throat. Anxiety can cause an increase in stomach acid, which may cause you to experience nausea and other symptoms of heartburn. If your chest pain goes away with a little bit of rest and relaxation, it’s likely just anxiety-related chest pressure. But if your chest pain doesn’t go away or gets worse, it might be something more serious.
Is Anxiety to Blame for Anxiety Chest Pain?
If you’ve 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.
Heartburn and Anxiety Chest Pain
The most common cause of chest pain that people experience is heartburn. This type of pain often occurs in the upper stomach area and may feel like a burning sensation in the throat. The feeling may even extend into the back and shoulders at times. Typically, when someone has heartburn, they will also experience some degree of nausea and vomiting as well.
Anxiety chest pain also causes similar sensations as heartburn, including:
- Burning sensations in the throat
- Excessive swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
It is good to know some of the symptoms of anxiety including chest pains. This will go a long way in knowing that it is chest pain caused by anxiety and not a heart attack.
Anxiety chest pains can be treated. Can be done using the common anxiety disorders treatment methods like psychotherapy, medications, and home remedies.
In anxiety chest pains, it is also good to see a doctor get an evaluation of whether you have an anxiety disorder or even a heart attack.
What is anxiety chest pain?
Anxiety chest pain is an unpleasant sensation in the chest, which can be mild or severe depending on the degree of anxiety. In some cases, anxiety causes a sensation of chest pain, also known as chest discomfort. This type of chest pain is usually minor and goes away on its own. But for someone prone to anxiety, it can be more severe, leading to a number of health problems.
Chest pain can be caused by heartburn, so how do you tell the difference? One way to tell the difference between heartburn and anxiety chest pain is whether or not you have other symptoms at the same time. If you have nausea and vomiting at the same time as your chest pain, it’s likely that your chest pain is due to heartburn. Anxiety doesn’t cause nausea and vomiting unless it’s a form of a panic attack. However, if you experience tightness in your throat with your chest pain, then it could be anxiety-related.
What part of your chest hurts with anxiety?
If you feel chest pain when you experience anxiety, it will likely be in the muscles of your intercostal chest wall. This type of pain is often related to muscle spasms or strains. The pain may be sharp and shooting, but not necessarily constant.
However, heartburn (the other type of chest discomfort) will result in burning and sometimes a feeling of pressure on the left side of your chest. Heartburn is usually caused by stomach acid that travels up through the esophagus into the throat and mouth due to digestive disorders or certain medications. The sensation can also be described as a burning feeling in the abdomen or chest area. Some people might also experience nausea or vomiting because of how quickly acid rises from the stomach into the throat, causing emotional discomfort as well as physical discomfort.
Can you have chest pain from anxiety every day?
One of the most common questions people have about anxiety chest pain is whether or not they can experience chest pain every day. If you are constantly anxious, you may experience chest discomfort every day. When you’re under chronic stress, it can cause long-term damage to your body. This means that your heart and other organs might not work as well as they should. So, if you’re experiencing anxiety chest pain on a daily basis, it might be time to see a medical professional.
Can anxiety cause chest tightness for days?
Chest tightness is a common symptom of an anxiety attack. The intense muscle contractions can leave your chest hurting for hours or days after the attack. In general, though, chest pain should only be painful while the attack is happening. If your chest pain lasts for more than a few minutes after the anxiety attack, it could be something else entirely.
Can chest tightness last for days?
Chest tightness is a common symptom of stress-related health complications, including anxiety. It can be caused by anything from heartburn to asthma. Chest tightness is often characterized by a feeling of tightness in the chest that can last for days. This type of pain may arise and subside every few minutes or over several days.
Anxiety chest pain, on the other hand, is generally more severe. You might experience anxiety chest pain if you have general anxiety disorder or panic disorder. Anxiety chest pain typically lasts longer than a few minutes and may not subside at all the way that chest tightness does.
Another symptom to look out for is difficulty breathing. Some people might experience anxiety chest pain as a result of an anxiety attack (which also may cause difficulty breathing). If this sounds like you, it’s time to see your doctor