Anxiety may be best known for its mental symptoms, but it's often the physical symptoms that cause the most distress.
One of the most frightening anxiety symptoms is chest pain. That's because chest pain is associated with serious heart problems, leading many to worry about their own health. Yet it is common for chest pain to actually be a symptom of anxiety.
In this article, we'll look at the way anxiety can cause chest pain, how to tell the difference between anxiety chest pain and a heart problem, and ways to calm yourself when you experience this type of pain.
Is My Chest Pain Anxiety?
We have specifically designed a test on this website to answer these questions, as symptoms rarely come alone.
Not only will it answer if your chest pain is caused by anxiety, but it will also give you pointers on how to heal it.
Please click here and take the test to learn more.
What you experience has a lot to do with the type of anxiety and how you react to it.
Anxiety and Unusual Physical Symptoms
Rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, dizziness - these are the traditional symptoms of anxiety. But the vast majority of anxiety suffers experience their own unique physical symptoms, including:
- Leg tingling.
- Feeling of losing control.
- Neck weakness
- And, of course, chest pain.
What you experience has a lot to do with your type of anxiety and the way you react to it. I developed a 7 minute anxiety test a while back that will help. This test is designed specifically to prove a graphical understanding of your anxiety and what it takes to treat it. Click here to take the free test now.
What Causes Chest Pain
It's always as good idea to visit a doctor at least once and rule out any potential heart health issues. Anxiety causes chest pain, but an important factor in reducing the stress of that chest pain is making sure you're confident your heart is in good health. Visiting a doctor is never a bad thing.
Still, often those living with anxiety and panic attacks will experience chest pain caused by any number of different factors. Some of these include:
- Hyperventilation- Those with panic attacks and anxiety are prone to hyperventilation, or breathing in too much oxygen. It's often due to rapid muscle contractions and excess air in the lungs. Hyperventilation contracts blood vessels and causes considerable chest pain.
- Bloating Anxiety, in general, tends to cause excess gas or bloating. Hyperventilation disorder can contribute to this as well. Bloating can cause an increased amount of pressure on the lungs, which in turn leads to chest pain.
- Psychosomatic Most people don't like to believe the idea that the problem is in their head, but those with extreme anxiety and panic attacks that are worried about their health may feel genuine pain even though no cause of pain is present, simply because their mind convinces their body there is pain.
Because chest pain often occurs during anxiety attacks and with other anxiety symptoms, it can be extremely frightening. Nevertheless, often this chest pain is completely harmless.
How to Tell the Difference Between Anxiety Chest Pain and Cardiac Chest Pain
There's no guaranteed method of knowing whether or not chest pain is caused by anxiety or by a heart problem. But generally the two differ in their overall experience:
Anxiety Chest Pain:
- Tends to be sharper.
- Is usually more localized to a specific area.
- Closer to the middle of the chest, although not necessarily.
Cardiac Chest Pain
- Tends to radiate all around the shoulder and possibly the jaw.
- Tends to be a duller pain, like the heart is being crushed.
- Lasts longer than 10 minutes or more.
There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both can feel like the heart is being squeezed, and both can make it harder to breathe (or come as a result of it being harder to breath). It's not easy to tell the difference, but the differences are there.
How to Reduce Anxiety and Chest Pain
The best way to control chest pain is with prevention, by reducing your overall anxiety symptoms. The less you experience anxiety, the less risk you'll have for chest pain.
If you're currently experiencing anxiety and chest pain, the best thing to do is the following:
- Control Your Breathing Recall that this type of chest pain is often caused by hyperventilation, and even if you're not hyperventilating, getting your breathing under control is a great way to calm the nerves. Take slow, controlled breaths using deep breathing techniques that take at least 15 seconds and you'll quickly see a difference.
- Control Your Thoughts One of the reasons I recommend going to a doctor first is because understanding that your chest pain is anxiety related reduces the severity of the experience. If you know that your heart is in good health, don't let your thoughts spiral out of control. Otherwise you may make the chest pain worse.
- Control Your Environment Chest pain caused by thoughts or anxieties is often made worse when you sit and focus on the experience. See if you can give yourself a healthy coping distraction, and much of the chest pain will fade away.
If it's caused by gas, trying to let out some of the gas can also help.
Otherwise general anxiety control techniques are the most important strategy for reducing the experience of chest pain.
Did you know that your anxiety can lead to more than just chest pain?
It's possible to experience rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, and a feeling like your health is in serious jeopardy, all as a result of anxiety. It's also possible to experience a great deal of anxiety because of health related problems.
Anxiety really can cause chest pain. In general, anxiety and stress prevention is the best way to prevent future pain in the chest, because the pain itself is usually an indication that you suffer from too much anxiety.
Learning to Control Your Anxiety
I've helped thousands of people overcome their anxiety and their chest pain, but it's very difficult without a better understanding of the way you experience anxiety. I strongly recommend you take the free anxiety test available on our website. It's 100% free, and it'll give you a better idea of how you're dealing with anxiety and the next steps for treatment.
If you're ready, take the anxiety test now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.