Chest tightness is arguably one of the most frightening anxiety symptoms. While anxiety causes a number of different physical sensations, chest tightness is the one that is associated with the most "scary" health conditions, including heart attack and stroke.
It's possible for chest tightness to be the result of some sort of heart condition, and experiencing that chest tightness will often lead to anxiety. Yet in many cases, especially if you suffer from anxiety attacks, your chest tightness is often going to be the result of anxiety.
Are You Experiencing Chest Tightness From Anxiety?
Chest tightness is a common symptom of anxiety and panic attacks, often due to the way you breathe both before and during a panic attack. Generally that chest tightness comes with other symptoms that can mimic a heart attack, which is why many people are hospitalized every year thinking they're suffering from heart trouble.
To find out more about what symptoms you have may be the result of anxiety, take my free 7 minute anxiety test.
Frightening Symptoms of Anxiety
Chest tightness is an anxiety symptom that often causes a severe amount of distress. That's because chest tightness has so many negative associations, especially for those that are unaware about some of the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
For those that haven't done so yet, start by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test I developed it specifically to give people new to anxiety an idea of how anxiety may affect you.
What Causes Chest Tightness
There's no limit to the ways that stress and anxiety can affect your body. It's still always a good idea to visit a doctor to have them rule out heart health issues, because of course this is the main concern. There's no harm and it will allow you to worry less about the health of your heart.
Yet rest assured that anxiety commonly causes chest tightness and chest pain for a variety of reasons, these include:
- Hyperventilation This is easily the most common cause of chest tightness. Hyperventilation may be due to rapid breathing as a response to an anxiety attack or because you are trying to take deeper breaths than your body needs due to health anxiety. Hyperventilation causes a squeezing sensation around or near the heart.
- Bloating/Gas Anxiety and stress have a profound effect on digestion, because the stress from anxiety puts pressure on your gut. That pressure can lead to bloating, and many people find that bloating causes a type of tightness/chest pain that can be severely uncomfortable.
- Over-sensitization In some cases, it's possible that the tightness is nothing more than a bit of muscle strain, a small bit of lung pain, or something otherwise normal. Yet some anxiety conditions have a tendency to cause over-sensitization, which means that the person experiences it much worse than it would be felt objectively.
Chest tightness occurs most often either right before or during an anxiety attack. It may also occur with no anxiety at all, in what's known as a limited symptom panic attack.
Rest assured that chest discomfort caused by anxiety is completely harmless.
How You Can Tell if You're Suffering From Anxiety Chest Tightness
The easiest way to tell if you're suffering from anxiety related chest tightness rather than cardiac chest tightness is by ruling out heart and lung related diseases. Only a doctor can rule these out completely.
Yet there are a few signs that can be useful. By no means are these all inclusive, however, and it's possible to feel traditionally cardiac chest pressure symptoms caused by anxiety and vice versa. Generally, however, the following is true of anxiety related chest pressure:
- It's less likely to radiate around the back and the arm.
- It's more likely to occur with other anxiety symptoms.
- It tends to last only 10 or so minutes.
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 and pain from the chest pressure tends to radiate.
Ways to Reduce Chest Pressure
When you're experiencing chest pressure, the key is to try to fight the potential causes of pressure. For example:
- Hyperventilation - Try to get your breathing under control, taking slower breaths and not trying to "over-breathe" by taking breaths that are too deep.
- Bloating If you can potentially let out any gas, try to do so. You may also want to consider taking an antacid or drinking water, which may help with bloating.
- Over-sensitization Distraction is the only way to control over-sensitization. Go for a walk and see if you distract yourself by calling someone, trying to do math problems in your head, or some other type of exercise.
These are only temporary fixes. Remember that your chest pressure is often related to some type of anxiety issue or anxiety disorder. That means that the only way to prevent chest pressure from coming back is to learn to control your anxiety.
Yet before you can do that, you need to make sure that you know what type of anxiety you're suffering from and what symptoms may be the result of that anxiety.
I've helped thousands of people in the past deal with their anxiety symptoms, including chest pressure, but before we can begin I tell them they have to take the anxiety test I developed. It's free, it takes just 7 minutes, and it's the best way to get an idea of how your anxiety truly affects you so that you can see the next steps for treatment.
If you haven't yet, take the anxiety test now.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Jul 03, 2018.