Feeling anxious is a normal part of life. Giving a presentation, meeting someone new, or cramming to meet a deadline are all common examples of stressors that can make us feel overwhelmed and mentally strained.
But anxiety can show itself in a number of ways, and depending on its severity, these symptoms often present themselves as physiological symptoms. Chest pain is a common physical symptom of anxiety that is reported by many.
However, can anxiety really be a root cause of chest pain? What other ways might anxiety and stress present themselves in the body, and what can be done about it?
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the body’s natural responses to stressful stimuli. While everyone feels scared, worried, or concerned at times, anxiety might be more persistent. If feelings of dread are extreme, persist for longer than six months, or are interfering with everyday functioning, it might be an anxiety disorder.
That might sound scary, but anxiety disorders are much more abundant than you might think! In fact, they are the most common group of mental health conditions, affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
Anxiety can look different to everyone, but it might be:
- Feeling restless or on-edge.
- Feeling tired often.
- Being irritable or having difficulty concentrating.
- Muscle tension or trouble sleeping.
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
Because anxiety can have physiological responses, it’s possible that these symptoms might lead to secondary issues if left untreated.
How Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?
Because anxiety presents itself in so many different ways, it can be difficult to determine if pressure in your chest is related to anxiety or something else. It can be alarming and scary, so the main rule of thumb is that if you feel a genuine concern for your health and safety, be sure to seek medical help right away.
With this is mind, anxiety can cause chest pain. This happens because when you’re anxious, your body sets off an immediate stress response that includes both mental and physical changes. Your heart rate increases, you may become more angry or tense, and you can even start sweating.
This is known as the fight or flight response, an innate survival tactic in which your body prepares to run away from danger or combat it head-on. Experiencing this phenomenon infrequently can usually allow your body to recover within a half hour.
But if you frequently feel this sensation, your body might be unable to recover as easily even if there’s no threats present. When this occurs, your heart rate remains at an increased level and muscles in your chest may tighten. This is where chest pains associated with anxiety will stem from.
What Does Anxiety Chest Pain Feel Like?
Again, chest pain associated with anxiety can differ from person to person. Some people might experience it on a gradual basis, while others might feel tension suddenly and unexpectedly.
But for the most part, people with anxiety chest pain report feeling:
- An unusual twitch or spasm in the chest.
- Persistent aching in the chest near the heart.
- Pressure, burning, or tingling.
The reason that this psychophysiological response to anxiety can be so worrisome for many people is because it often feels similar to a heart-attack. This is especially true for people who don’t have a history of anxiety disorders in their family.
Anxiety Chest Pain vs. Heart Attack Chest Pain
The main difference between anxiety chest pain and pain caused by a heart attack is that the latter is normally caused by exertion. Heart attack onset might cause chest pressure upon movement, like getting out of a chair or walking down the stairs. Anxiety chest pain often occurs while the body is at rest.
Heart attacks are usually accompanied by a shortness of breath or shooting pains in other areas of the body. With anxiety, it’s usually a sharp, stabbing pain that lasts for a few seconds without being accompanied by other physical responses.
Feeling cardiac pain as a byproduct of anxiety could put you in an endless loop. Pain in that area of the body is scary, and it can lead to more stress. In turn, that stress might cause you to feel chest pain.
This is why it’s important to identify the root cause and look at remedies for treatment.
How To Relieve Anxiety Chest Pain
If you suffer from chronic anxiety, you may need to manually get your body out of its natural fight or flight response. While these might not work every time, these are great places to start and often have a ton of success.
Deep Breathing Exercises
When your body has a response to stress, your increased heart rate often leads to quick, short breaths. Your breathing and heart rate are directly related, so if you can get one under control, the other one might follow.
Focus on your breath, taking them deeply and slowly. Inhale for about ten seconds through your nose, then exhale through your mouth for another 10. Do this until you start to feel your heart rate decrease. Place your hand over your chest if you need to so you can physically feel your heart beating.
You could also try practicing deep breathing exercises in tandem with meditation or yoga. These are calming activities that can restore balance to your mood and alleviate symptoms of stress. Since these both require you to focus on your breath, they can provide a number of benefits at one time.
Having an increased heart rate while the body is at rest isn’t healthy, as it could lead to heart problems later down the line. But you can turn your increased heart rate into something positive by engaging in cardio exercise.
By doing this, your heart rate is increasing in order to provide more oxygen to your body. Since this serves a very real and healthy purpose, you’re converting the harmful stress response into a beneficial exercise regimen.
Going for a walk, taking a quick jog, or riding a bike can help to bring your body up to speed with itself. And then, when you return, your heart rate may naturally decrease as you cool down, alleviating some of the chest pain.
Regardless, cardio exercise can help relieve some aggression that your anxiety might be causing, which can be helpful no matter what!
Gain a New Perspective
When you start to feel scared, nervous, or worried, it’s important to accept those feelings. They’re valid, normal, and you’re allowed to feel them. Once you recognize your feelings, start to put them into perspective.
Are your emotions aimed at something you can control? Is the thought irrational and unlikely to ever happen? Do you have evidence that this thought is true? Answer these questions and orient yourself so that you are thinking clearly and observing the situation objectively. Nine times out of ten you’ll realize that there was nothing to worry about in the first place, even if it takes a few minutes to get there mentally.
Medications and Supplements
If anxiety is severe, a doctor might prescribe medication that can reduce anxiety at a biochemical level. If you think this is something that would work well for you, never be afraid to discuss your mental health with a physician or psychiatrist.
There are also over the counter remedies that are useful for relieving feelings of restlessness and tension, and can promote relaxation and calm. Consider trying CBD for soothing tension and restoring balance to your mood. CBD has anti-anxiety properties that make it perfect for getting a little balance back.
If you feel that you might have an anxiety disorder and your chest pains won’t go away no matter what, it is always a good idea to speak to a medical and/or mental health professional about your feelings. Seeing a licensed professional will allow you to fully understand the root of your anxiety and work towards stomping out problems before they ever start.
Therapy in conjunction with other at-home remedies can be your best bet at preventing anxiety chest pains from ever happening again. It will bring you peace of mind and peace of chest!
Even though anxiety chest pain can feel alarming and scary, it’s often a normal effect of the body’s response to stress and can be managed with a few techniques you can do anytime, anywhere.
When you feel scared or nervous, your body enters a fight or flight response which can increase your heart rate and tighten your muscles. This can lead to tension and painful sensations in your chest.
Anxiety can feel scary, but there are so many ways to alleviate anxiety and its symptoms, such as deep breathing, dietary supplements, and therapy. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s always a reason to smile.
Let Smile ease your worried mind. Our CBD oils and gummies contain 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a naturally-occurring amino acid that produces serotonin that can boost your mood. Now that’s something to Smile about!