Those with anxiety are prone to worry, and one of the most consistent worries is the idea that they have a heart health problem. Because the heart is the key to life, those with anxiety often focus on the way their heart feels and convince themselves that they have a heart health issue whenever they start experiencing any symptoms that resemble what you might expect from heart disease.
We're taught at a young age that chest pressure is the surest sign of a heart attack. That's why so many people end up at the doctor, having their heart checked for disease. But chest pressure is very often caused by anxiety, and unfortunately the more you worry about your heart health, the more likely you experience chest pressure that causes you to worry more.
Is Your Chest Pressure Anxiety?
If you have severe anxiety, no doctor is going to be able to 100% convince you that you have a healthy heart. Take our free 7 minute anxiety test to analyze your anxiety severity and see your anxiety score.
Doctor First - Anxiety Treatment Second
You will need to come to terms with the idea that you have anxiety, and not a heart problem. But you should also never leave your heart issues up to chance. Always visit a doctor and get clearance about your heart's health before moving forward, because even if the chest pressure is from anxiety, it's important to know how healthy your heart is.
But once heart problems have been ruled out, you need to make sure that you understand that anxiety genuinely does cause chest pressure and even chest pain. Take my free 7 minute anxiety symptoms test to learn more about your anxiety.
The Feeling of Chest Pressure
Few people are taught that chest pressure can be caused by anxiety, but in reality it's one of the main symptoms of anxiety attacks. Not everyone experiences pressure. Some people experience chest pains (both sharp and dull). Others experience this feeling as though their heart is being squeezed. All of these are their own type of pressure.
Causes of Chest Pressure From Anxiety
Anxiety causes a person's body to "over-breathe," either by breathing too quickly or breathing in more deeply than the body requires. Also known as hyperventilation, this type of breathing forces out carbon dioxide from your bloodstream. You essentially have too much oxygen, even though it often feels as though you don't have enough (likely causing you to breathe even deeper).
Carbon dioxide is important for your body and your blood stream. When you hyperventilate, your blood becomes alkaline and your blood vessels constrict. Blood vessel constriction makes it harder for blood to move throughout your body and puts pressure on your heart, often causing your heart to beat faster to compensate. This is where most chest pressure comes from.
In addition, hyperventilation causes air to build up in the body, leading to bloating. This may also cause feelings of chest pressure.
Over-Attention to the Heart Increases Hyperventilation Risk
Chest pressure is more common in those that pay too much attention to the way their heart "feels." Often when you focus too much on your heart, you become sensitive to its beats, and you try to take deeper breaths to make sure it is working properly. These deeper breaths end up leading to hyperventilation and chest pressure.
That's why it's so important to first visit a doctor, and then do whatever it takes to help yourself come to terms with the idea that your heart is fine. The more you focus on it because of fear that something is wrong, the more you're likely to have chest pressure and other symptoms, and the more those fears will feel justified.
Gas and Normal Chest Pressure
In addition, several issues that lead to minor chest pressure may end up causing anxiety attacks in those that have become over-sensitive. When you're bloating or suffering from acid reflux, you may feel as though there is excess pressure in your heart, when in reality nothing is wrong. This is a common problem in those with anxiety disorders, and something that you can only control if you accept that your heart is in good health.
How to Relieve Some of the Chest Pressure
When the chest pressure is caused by bloating due to hyperventilation, burping can often relieve some of the discomfort. You can try shifting positions to see if that makes it easier for you to belch, or open your throat a little and try your best to push one out.
Those that feel as though their heart is being squeezed need to reduce the effects of hyperventilation. In order to do that you need to fight your instinct to breathe deeper. Instead, you need to breathe slower, and even hold your breath for a second or two at its peak so that carbon dioxide has a chance to develop in your blood stream.
After the chest pressure has dissolved, you'll need to make sure that you're taking steps to prevent anxiety, and ultimately prevent hyperventilation and panic attacks.
Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test I've used it to help thousands of people overcome their anxiety. It looks at your symptoms, compares them to other anxiety sufferers, and provides you with information on understanding your anxiety.
Freeman, Leisa J., and P. G. Nixon. Chest pain and the hyperventilation syndrome--some aetiological considerations. Postgraduate medical journal 61.721 (1985): 957.
Agostoni, E. M. I. L. I. O., and Piero Mognoni. Deformation of the chest wall during breathing efforts. Journal of applied physiology 21.6 (1966): 1827-1832.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.