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How to Relieve Chest Tightness from Anxiety

Vivian Okirie, M.D.
Medically reviewed by
Vivian Okirie, M.D.
How to Relieve Chest Tightness from Anxiety

Chest tightness is arguably one of the most frightening anxiety symptoms. While anxiety causes a variety of physical manifestations, chest tightness is the one that is associated with the most alarming health conditions, including heart attacks and stroke.

It is very possible for chest tightness to be a symptom of many cardiac conditions, and experiencing chest tightness can often lead to further anxiety. Yet in some cases chest tightness is a result of anxiety, especially if you suffer from anxiety attacks frequently. 

Frightening Symptoms of Anxiety

Chest tightness is an anxiety symptom that often causes a severe amount of distress. This is often because chest tightness has a negative connotation for being linked to severe health conditions. This can be very daunting for individuals that do not know much about the physical effects of stress and anxiety in their life. 

What Causes Chest Tightness

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

By all means, do not feel as if you are bothering anyone when seeking 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 commonly can cause chest tightness and chest pain for a variety of reasons, these include:

Chest tightness occurs most often 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.

How You Can Tell if You are Suffering From Anxiety Related Chest Tightness

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. 

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

Again, 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 are one of the included groups with 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 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 resolution of anxiety, be associated with shortness of breath, etc. 

Ways to Reduce Chest Pressure

When you are experiencing chest pressure and/or tightness, the key is to try to figure out  the potential causes of chest tightness. Once deemed to be from anxiety, the next goal is to stop the causes of the symptoms. For example:

These are only temporary fixes. Remember that your chest pressure and/or tightness is often related to some type of anxiety issue or anxiety disorder. That means that the only way to prevent chest pressure from returning is to learn to manage your anxiety.

Yet before you can do that, you need to make sure that you know what type of anxiety you are suffering from and what symptoms may be the result of it.

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