The Betterment Project

Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain and How To Avoid It

Feeling anxious from time to time is just a natural part of life for most people. For some people, feeling anxious is frequent, and when feeling anxious becomes too frequent, or the symptoms are too extreme, anxiety can interfere with daily life. 

Typically, anxiety creates uneasy feelings and worry. On occasion, anxiety can cause physical reactions. 

Physical reactions to anxiety are atypical, and determining whether your physical reactions are anxiety or something else can be challenging. For example, anxiety can be a symptom of chest pain. When dealing with anxiety, you really don’t want or need anything else to worry about. 

To ease your concerns, it’s important that you know what anxiety is, what symptoms you may encounter, how to identify the cause for your chest pain, and what you can do to avoid anxiety and chest pain from it. 


What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a familiar feeling for all of us. It’s a sense of fear, dread, anticipation, or uneasiness that we feel in response, typically, to something that is about to happen. We experience anxiety in response to bad events, but we can experience it in response to good events in our lives too. 

“Cold feet” before a wedding is actually anxiety about a happy occasion manifesting in response to the anticipation of the “Big Day” or the uneasiness of such a long-term commitment. Many of us also experience anxiety before a test, an interview, or a difficult conversation. 

Though anxiety is a longer-lasting situation for some people, it doesn’t always have to have a cause. Anxiety can also be more frequent for some people, and with it come some uncomfortable physical responses that can be hard to distinguish from other ailments.


Signs of Anxiety 

As a common sensation in life, most of us know what anxiety feels like. Anxiety has telltale signs that you’re probably familiar with. 

Physical Signs of Anxiety

With anxiety, you have physical signs such as:

 

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Panic attacks (anxiety attack) These can result in coronary artery spasms
  • Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or Exertion 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Jaw or chest discomfort
  • Muscle tension
  • Hyperventilation
  • Aches or pains from increased tension
  • Digestive issues
  • Chills
  • Dizziness

Emotional Signs of Anxiety 

Besides the physical signs of anxiety, there are emotional signs of being aware of as well, such as:

 

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Intense fear
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Uncontrollable or excessive worrying
  • Urge to avoid triggers (example: passing on social events)
  • Increased irritability

Just like anxiety can occur more frequently for some people, the signs of anxiety may be more severe for some people. 

For some, anxiety can trigger pain in the chest. Since chest pain can signify a severe, life-threatening situation, chest pain from stress can be alarming and cause its own amount of fear and anxiety. How can you tell what kind of chest pain you’re experiencing?


What Kind of Chest Pain Is It? 

The way anxiety feels for you may be different from what someone else experiences. Even the anxiety you feel today may be different from how it makes you feel on another occasion. So, even if you’re familiar with anxiety, you can suddenly experience chest pain as a result, and that can be very alarming.
 

Experiencing new symptoms can also make the occurrence confusing, and it can make understanding what you’re feeling difficult. If you experience chest pain from anxiety, it may be different from what other people experience. 

For some people, the chest pain that accompanies anxiety can come on suddenly and unexpectedly. However, others may have gradual and more subtle chest pain or tightness. 

Some common descriptions of chest pain from anxiety are:

 

  • Sharp pain
  • Shooting pain
  • Squeezing sensation
  • Aching that persists
  • Unusual spasms or twitches in the muscles of the chest
  • A dull achy feeling or numb, burning sensation
  • A pressure that stabs the chest
  • Numbness in the chest
  • Tightness in the chest - a similar feeling to not getting enough air

If you’ve never experienced anxiety-triggered chest pain, it can be alarming and cause you to panic, which may not help if you’re experiencing anxiety already. The sensation causes some people to seek emergency medical attention because it can easily be confused with a life-threatening emergency situation.


Anxiety contributes to 30 to 40 percent of the chest pain symptoms of low-risk chest pain patients who visit the emergency department. Even without a family history to cause concern, chest pain from anxiety can be scary.

If you ever feel compelled to visit the emergency room of your local hospital for chest pain and no cause is found, be sure to follow up with your healthcare provider to consider possible reasons for your chest pain, including anxiety.

Never feel like you shouldn’t seek medical attention for chest pain. Because it is a symptom of other serious life-threatening medical emergencies, seeking a professional evaluation is a wise choice. Even if you learn that anxiety was the cause, it’s better to know and rule out other possibilities. 

If you think you experience feelings of anxiousness that could potentially be severe enough to cause chest pain, you may want to consider things you can do to lessen your feelings of anxiousness.


What Can You Do To Avoid It? 

Managing your anxiety and, subsequently, your stress levels can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety you experience. If you’re feeling anxious, here are a few steps you can take on your own to help you attempt to reduce your anxious feelings.


1. Deep Breaths 

If you’ve ever tried to help someone calm down, you’ve probably told the person to “breathe.” Why do we tell people to breathe? Think about it. Clearly, they’re breathing, but when a person is feeling anxious or panicked, their breath can become rapid along with their heart rate. Deep, focused breaths can help slow the person’s breathing down.


If you’re the one feeling anxious, you can remind yourself to slow down your breathing. To help you concentrate on your breathing, find a quiet space to be in for a few moments. Count to 10 as you inhale. Hold your inhalation in for a second or two. Finally, exhale for the same count of 10. Repeat this process until you feel your heart rate start to calm down.


2. Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes anxious feelings can be calmed by simple changes and taking better care of ourselves. Here are some simple lifestyle changes that can help soothe your tension and calm your mind:

 

  • Establish a sleep routine that gives you seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep is crucial. 
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits
  • Eat at regular intervals to avoid hunger
  • Exercise regularly to release your brain’s calming hormones
  • Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine daily to ensure proper vitamin D levels
  • Make time for relaxation on the daily

You may still need the assistance of a medical professional to manage your feelings of anxiousness, but choosing to make healthy lifestyle changes can help calm your mind and body.


3. Consider a Supplement 

If you tried medications or therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy but want an extra remedy to help you manage, a supplement could help. Our bodies respond to what we put into them. Natural ingredients often have ancient roots for their use, and as stress and anxiety have always been part of being human, there has been a desire to manage the symptoms. We may not have the same stressors as our ancestors, but we desire to calm our minds and bodies in response to our own stress.

Complete Calm De-Stress Gummies use natural ingredients to support your efforts to manage your feelings of anxiousness. These tasty treats contain a few key ingredients that could help start to soothe you in 30 to 60 minutes. 

 

Here are just a few key ingredients in these calming supplement gummies: 

 

  • Persian saffron extract - Helps to reduce feelings of anxiousness and improve your emotional health.
  • Rhodiola extract - Helps reduce mental fatigue and improve feelings of general well-being.
  • Lemon balm extract - Helps improve cognitive performance and mood.

These gummies are made for daytime use, and they work best when you take them consistently every day. The fast action can help soothe the tension you feel before your symptoms have a chance to grow out of control.


4. Reduce Caffeine Consumption

Most of us love the boost we get from caffeine. People around the world turn to caffeine to help give them energy and improve their focus. It can be easy to turn to caffeine to help you get more accomplished when you have a lot going on. However, caffeine can cause your feelings of anxiousness to be worse, including a rapid heartbeat.

Limiting caffeine consumption can help reduce the similar feelings that can occur in your chest.


Summary

When your anxiety causes pain in your chest, it can be a scary experience. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with what chest pain caused by anxiety can feel like. You should take chest pain seriously because it can indicate other serious health issues. 

Managing your anxious feelings can help you avoid chest pain and other symptoms associated with those feelings.

 

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Sources:

Anxiety | medlineplus.gov 

Anxiety disorders - Symptoms and causes | mayoclinic.org 

Anxiety Associated With Increased Risk for Emergency Department Recidivism in Patients With Low-Risk Chest Pain | ajconline.org 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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