Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : March 20, 2023

We all feel worried and nervous from time to time. Feeling nervous in a challenging or new situation is normal. Many symptoms can come along with this worry. Some experience severe symptoms. Sudden chest pain is one of them. While the intensity of this chest pain is different for people with anxiety. The pain may feel like a heart attack to them. In this article, we understand more about anxiety. We try to answer the question of whether anxiety causes chest pain. We also look at ways to relieve this chest pain.


Chapter 1:

Anxiety and Its Symptoms

Anxiety is our body’s general response to stress. When we are unsure of what’s to come, we can feel worried. It is a persistent fear of the future. While it is normal to feel anxious in life, it is a disorder when a person’s daily life is affected by anxiety. For example, it can stop a person from interacting outside. This is because it occurs on regular basis. A person may feel that the anxiety is always with them. They may show the signs more often and often these signs become a source of distress too. Here are some common symptoms of this disorder.
  • Feeling nervous, tense, or restless.
  • Worrying about an upcoming event.
  • Continuously thinking of past events where the person feels they have done something wrong.
  • Heavy breathing or breathlessness.
  • Sweating from palms, armpits, or joints. Sweating in general.
  • The person can have an increased heart rate.
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing at work.
  • The person can have trouble sleeping.
  • Additionally, some people can have stomach issues.
  • The person may not be able to control their thoughts.
  • Small triggers can increase the present worry.

Chapter 2:

What Are Panic Attacks?

These are referred to as conditions where a person feels intense fear or worry. This spans for about ten to fifteen minutes. The triggers are usually unknown. The symptoms include extreme fear, shakiness, or sweat. Additionally, there are symptoms such as chest pain that mimic a heart attack. Since they feel like a heart attack, you may worry more and this can intensify the symptoms. In the future, even the thought of a panic attack can trigger you and make you panic even more.

Additionally, when people have these symptoms in public, they feel ashamed. They may fear that such attacks will again happen in public. The difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack is that a panic attack can occur without any obvious trigger whereas there is some kind of trigger behind an anxiety attack.

Chapter 3:

Anxiety Chest Pain

We all experience chest pain at least once in our lifetime. There can be many causes of chest pain. It is said that one of the common symptoms of worst episodes of anxiety disorder or panic attack is chest pain. This pain is often misunderstood as a heartattack. Both panic attacks and worry are characterized by pain in the chest.

When a person experiences anxiety, a stress hormone called cortisol is released. This generates a fight-or-flight response. In this case, a person becomes breathless due to activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Since there is a lot of pressure on the lungs to supply oxygen, a person may experience chest pain. In this case, a person may feel that they are experiencing a heart attack. This can make the person even more anxious.

Chapter 4:

What Does Anxiety Chest Pain Feel Like?

This feels like a sharp, sudden, and pointed sensation in the chest region. Usually, our breathing becomes heavy when we engage in some kind of strenuous activity. In case of anxiety, a person feels this throbbing pain even when they are inactive. There is mostly underlying stress or an open trigger that leads to such a condition. In some cases, the person is aware of these triggers, in some cases, they are not.

A person experiencing chest pain related to anxiety can have other accompanying symptoms like rising or falling in the body temperature, nausea, dizziness, or numbness in any part of the body. The person may feel out of control in anxiety caused by chest pain.

Anxiety chest pain is different from a heart attack in many ways. Although both show similar symptoms and feel very similar, there are remarkable differences. The causes of a heart attack include a blockage in the coronary artery. This usually occurs when one is active. It is not just a stress-related condition but is also largely due to lifestyle issues. In the case of chest pain caused by anxiety, the stress hormone is the major reason. The pain in this case is sharp and throbbing. In case of a heart attack, the pain can feel like heavy pressure and gradual.

A person experiencing anxiety-induced chest pain can have underlying psychological concerns such as negative core beliefs about something, phobia, or a mental health disorder. In the case of a heart attack, the triggers are very much physical in nature such as high blood pressure or rigorous exercise.

Chapter 5:

Remedies for Anxiety Chest Pain

The first line of treatment when one is experiencing chest pain should be to seek medical help. This is because it is very difficult to differentiate chest pain from heart attack initially. A slight delay can cause severe damage. Psychotherapy such as CBT can help with anxiety and panic disorders. The help a person in correcting the negative core beliefs and thoughts. The therapist helps a person to identify and avoid triggers. In later stages, exposure therapies are used to treat phobias and specific anxieties. This helps the person overcome their excessive fear. In addition to this, a person can take the following measures in case of chest pain due to worry.
Identifying the Triggers
To identify the triggers, the person can maintain a journal that includes all the details of the event. For instance what they were doing before the chest pain started. What was the time of the day, who was around them, or even what they were thinking? These chest pains usually last for fifteen minutes, therefore a person can keep a diary close to them to record all these details. This can help the person connect the dots. It also helps in identifying negative thought patterns if any.
Relaxation Techniques
There are many techniques that are useful. For instance deep breathing. Usually, a panic attack or anxiety episode lasts for a few minutes. If we train ourselves to divert our focus to something else, we can escape these symptoms. The idea is to delay the response caused by anxiety. Exercises such as imagery, counting backward, or even closing your eyes and feeling the rhythm of your heart and abdomen can help in reducing chest pain.
Understand anxiety
Remember, a panic attack or worry episode is like a wave in the ocean. It starts at one point, rises up to a height, and then falls down into the same ocean eventually. In life, this can be compared to the highs and lows that we so often experience. Our aim should be to learn how to surf the waves. Once we learn that, the crashing waves cannot destroy us. The idea is to remember that anxiety is never permanent. It is a solvable problem.
Lifestyle changes
While it is common to hear that anxiety is all in the head, a few lifestyle changes can help you deal with stress. Everyday habits can ensure that your window of tolerance is wide enough to tolerate challenges in life. Exercise regularly in order to stay fit. This gives you enough energy to meet the daily demands of life. Drink lots of water to keep the bodily systems running fine. Meditate daily or engage in yoga to beat the stress. Get enough sleep and avoiding food that contains sugar to stay fit. This helps to reduce stress and worries.
End Note
Anxiety can certainly cause chest pain and it can be a problem if it keeps occurring again and again. This can lead to problems like avoiding social gatherings or being afraid to step out. In the case of social anxiety, people who experience chest pain can even tremble in from of others. Therefore it is important to address it. If you or your loved ones is suffering from social anxiety, do check out Epsychonline. The website offers courses that are self-help and created by experts. For instance the course named DBT for Social anxiety can hep people suffering from fear of social situations. There are several articles that deal with various aspects of worry. Do check them out.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount