An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. have anxiety and experience symptoms including nervousness, rapid breathing, and racing heart. These are the typical symptoms of anxiety that many people are familiar with. One of the lesser known symptoms is chest pain.
Chest tightness is often a physical manifestation of panic or anxiety attacks. According to a 2018 study, 30 to 40% of emergency room visits for non-heart attack chest pain are due to anxiety. Here’s everything you should know about anxiety chest pain and how to differentiate it from a heart attack.
Why does anxiety cause chest tightness?
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. When we experience fear, our autonomic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response is activated to protect us. This response involves changes in both the brain and the body. Our brains are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, physical changes include sweating, shortness of breath or muscle tension. As your muscles tighten and your heart rate increases, you may begin to hyperventilate, contributing to chest pain.
What does anxiety chest pain feel like?
Chest pain is a common symptom of panic attacks. Chest tightness caused by anxiety can manifest itself in several ways. For some, the onset of chest discomfort may be gradual, while others may feel it very quickly.
Common descriptions of anxiety chest pain includes:
- Tension or tension in the chest
- Sharp, stabbing or shooting pains
- Persistent chest pain
- Numbness or dull pain in the chest
- Muscle twitching or spasms
If you haven’t experienced chest tightness from anxiety, it can be an alarming experience. For many, the symptoms seem very similar to a heart attack. Although they are similar, there are significant differences between them.
What is the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack?
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish anxiety chest pain from other types of chest pain, especially if you are prone to heart attacks or other heart conditions. Heart attacks are the result of a blockage of a coronary artery.
The most significant and identifiable difference between chest tightness from anxiety and a heart attack is the location of the pain. Most often, pain and tension due to anxiety is located in the chest, while pain from a heart attack travels to other parts of the body – for example, down the arm or into the shoulder. How you experience chest pain also varies. Anxiety chest pain tends to be sharper, while heart attack chest pain has been described as a strong pressure or tension. Another important difference is when these attacks occur – heart attacks are more likely to occur during exercise, while panic attacks often occur during rest.
If you are experiencing chest pain, it is best to seek medical attention, even if it is associated with anxiety. It’s better to know and deal with your anxiety than to risk it being something more serious that goes untreated.
What is the difference between anxiety and a panic attack?
The terms panic attack and anxiety are often used interchangeably, even though they are two very different experiences, especially when discussing chest pain.usually does not usually lead to chest pain in most people. Panic and anxiety attacks are more severe and can be debilitating when they occur. Chest tightness is one of the most common symptoms of a panic attack or panic disorder.
Another distinction to make is between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. However, anxiety and panic attacks are similarthey are generally less intense and triggered by a specific trigger. Panic attacks can occur with seemingly no source. Panic attacks can last from 5 to 20 minutes. The duration and frequency will depend on the severity of your panic disorder.
How to get rid of chest pressure from anxiety
Getting rid of chest pain can be difficult at this time. However, these simple tactics can help you regain control of the situation.
Recognize what’s going on
When you, it is important to recognize that they are happening and accept them – it will help you get through what you are experiencing. Recognition can also help you determine what decisions to make about a given situation. If you realize you are overstimulated, you can remove yourself from the situation to manage the symptoms.
Concentrate on your breathing
Calming breathing exercises can help neutralize shortness of breath or symptoms of increased heart rate associated with anxiety. Focusing on your breathing can help. You should expect it to take several minutes of intentional breathing to feel relief. You can use breathing exercises and techniques anywhere, as often as needed.
- 4-7-8 breath: This simple but effective breathing technique can reduce stress. To do the 4-7-8, inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight.
- Breath from the box: Box breath is used to slow down breathing. Start with a full exhalation, inhale four times, hold for another four, then exhale for another four. Repeat the process three to four times.
- Belly breathing: Abdominal breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, offers a deep sense of relaxation. To practice, place your left hand on your heart and then your right hand on your stomach. Breathe in slowly and feel your belly expand. Then slowly exhale and feel your stomach tighten.
Use the 3-3-3 technique
Sometimes you are able to catch the anxiety symptoms that are creeping up. You can use the 3-3-3 anxiety technique to reduce physical symptoms. Using this technique can help you feel more grounded and in control. It’s a simple and effective way to distract yourself from triggers that can cause anxiety and redirect your attention.
Here’s how to use the 3-3-3 rule:
1. Name three things you can see around you. Focus on what they are and notice identifying features such as their color and texture.
2. Next, name three things you hear. Are they high or loud?
3. Finally, choose three body parts to move.
Short-term techniques to help you manage anxiety symptoms in the moment are essential. However, it does not treat the underlying cause of your anxiety. When anxiety attacks or chest pain from anxiety symptoms become a regular occurrence, it’s time to talk to a doctor.and will be able to help identify triggers and equip you with adequate coping methods. Coping techniques can help you feel more confident and in control of the situation, which can reduce symptoms. CBT uses several techniques to identify and reprogram negative thoughts and behaviors that trigger anxiety.
CBT is an effective treatment for the following conditions:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Prolonged grief disorder
Too long; didn’t he read?
Chest tightness can be alarming, especially if you’ve never experienced it. Immediate techniques like deep breathing and the 3-3-3 rule can help, but they won’t solve the problem. If the source of your chest tightness is anxiety or panic attacks, it’s best to treat the underlying cause of what’s causing you anxiety.
You should see a doctor immediately if:
- Chest pressure lasts longer than 10 minutes.
- The pain starts radiating from the chest and into the arms.
- You will begin to develop other physical symptoms.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding health conditions or health goals.