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Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



Chest pain is usually an alarming sign. It is often associated with heart issues, such as heart attacks. However, chest pain can be caused by several other conditions, including anxiety and panic attacks. Anxiety attacks can present with not just emotional or mental but also physical symptoms, including chest pain.

The prevalence of anxiety and chest pain is higher than imagined. According to a study [1*] , 25% of people who came to the emergency room with chest pain appeared to have a panic disorder. A 2019 study [2*] placed the incidence of chest pain in people with anxiety attacks at 28.5%.

Because of the perceived risk of heart attack and the fact that the chest area houses vital organs like the lungs and heart, it is understandable to be worried when you experience unexplained chest pain. However, the worry often exacerbates the anxiety problem. Understanding why you have chest pains during anxiety attacks and how to recognize the symptoms will put you in a better position to cope with the problem and see effective ways to relieve the symptoms.

The symptoms of anxiety can be managed. Consult with MEDvidi professionals to get the best treatment for anxiety.

How Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

The first point to explore is how can anxiety cause chest pain? The answer is down to the brain and body’s mechanism to protect you. Anxiety is a normal way your body responds to a perceived stressor, whether real or imagined. In this state, the body’s stress hormones get you in a flight-or-fight mode to prepare to battle or run away from the perceived threat. Your body prepares you by initiating several responses, including increased heart rate, which triggers an increased release of hormones, i.e., adrenaline and noradrenaline, higher blood pressure, and increased breathing rate.

Most of these processes can be the causes of chest pain. Some of the triggers for chest pain during anxiety include:

  • Increased heart rate. The high heart rate causes a feeling of pounding in the chest. It also causes coronary artery spasms and heart palpitations resulting in varying forms of pain.
  • Increased blood pressure. High blood pressure can heighten the demand for oxygen in the heart, placing an extra strain on the small blood vessels because the blood flow increases, causing pain.
  • Muscle tension. Stress often manifests itself through tensing muscles, which can result in the tightening of muscles in the chest.
  • Hyperventilation. This often happens due to shortness of breath, which can affect the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. Low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood result in tingling and lightheadedness.

How Long Does Anxiety Chest Pain Last?

Chest pain from stress, in general, lasts between 10 to 30 minutes, and those who experience the fight-or-flight response infrequently should have all symptoms cleared within half an hour. Those who experience it more frequently may find the symptoms last longer as the body cannot recover as quickly.

Some patients may notice soreness in the chest area after the anxiety attack. It could last for about a couple of hours. If your symptoms persist or become more concerning, you should see your doctor for further evaluation and guidance on managing or treating them.

How to Tell If Anxiety Is Causing Chest Pain

Anxiety symptoms differ from person to person, and even the same person may have different anxiety symptoms on different days. The same happens with chest pains from anxiety, as patients experience it differently. The common descriptions of chest pains include:

  • Stabbing chest pressure
  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • Chest tension or tightness
  • Constant dull ache
  • A burning sensation
  • Muscle twitching and spasms
  • Numbness in certain areas around the chest

Chest pain may happen gradually or occur all at once. It is, however, more common for chest pain to occur during anxiety or panic attacks that happen suddenly and for the patient to already be feeling anxious before the pain happens. Therefore, watching for other anxiety symptoms can tell if you have chest tightness anxiety. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling numb
  • Sweating on the feet and hands
  • Changes in the body temperature
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trembling

Do you experience unpleasant symptoms? Get professional advice and a personalized treatment plan at MEDvidi.

How to Relieve Chest Tightness from Anxiety

The approach to relieving chest pain from anxiety is to treat or manage this condition. There are a number of tips to use along with certain lifestyle changes which will help bring your anxiety under control and thus relieve chest pains.

Deep Breathing

Taking focused deep breaths is an excellent way to calm your mind and body. There are several exercises you can use. One of the most effective ones is deep diaphragmatic breathing. It helps slow your breathing and heart rate, reducing anxiety and even stopping the onset of an attack.

How Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?

Practice Relaxation Exercises and Meditation

Meditation and other techniques like journaling and visualizing help calm your mind and brain and slow down anxious thoughts. Visualization and meditation also help you handle stressful situations you cannot avoid. Numerous apps can help you through these exercises, many of which are free, so if you need help to get started, you can find one that meets your needs.

Exercise Regularly

Being physically active has shown excellent results in reducing anxiety, and regular physical activity will help prevent anxiety, reducing the risk of chest pains. Further regular exercise can help distract you from ruminations, decrease muscle tension, and increase serotonin levels—it is sometimes called an anti-anxiety neurochemical.

Sleep issues can be the symptoms of insomnia and other mental health conditions. Get help today!

Get Sufficient Sleep

Sleep may not seem like something you would want to do during an anxiety attack, but in general, having enough of it can help prevent anxiety incidences. Lack of sleep is linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Ideally, you should sleep 7-9 hours to maintain optimum performance and good health.

Limit or Stop the Use of Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol

These substances may appear to have a relaxing effect, but various research [3*] states that they worsen anxiety attacks. You may start by taking note of how your anxiety behaves once you start to gradually limit the intake.

Get Medical Assistance

You should consider seeing a medical doctor and a therapist if you have chronic or severe anxiety attacks and chest pains. The doctor has to evaluate that other physical factors or medical conditions do not cause chest pains. The therapist will help you work with various coping techniques; if these do not work, then suitable medication will be prescribed.

In Conclusion

If you experience chest pain accompanied by anxiety symptoms, then it is highly likely caused by anxiety or panic attacks. The tips above will help you find relief. Lifestyle changes and, in chronic cases, medication will help you cope better with anxiety and prevent chest pain. However, if the symptoms are extreme, unusual, or not accompanied by anxiety symptoms, you should get a doctor’s attention immediately. Contact MEDvidi today to consult an expert and get a personalized treatment plan.


+3 sources
  1. Panic Disorder and Chest Pain: Mechanisms, Morbidity, and Management. (2002)
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  2. The prevalence of panic disorder and its related factor in hospitalized patients with chest pain and normal angiography. (2019)
    Source link
  3. Caffeine Intake and Mental Health in College Students. (2021)
    Source link
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed


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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.