The physical symptoms of anxiety are different for everyone but it’s not uncommon for those suffering from anxiety to experience chest pains, including tightening of the chest.
This is obviously very distressing to experience due to the connotations of chest problems in other diseases. Of course, it goes without saying that if you’re concerned about chest pains or tightening around the chest area that the best course of action is always to go and visit your GP. They’re the experts, they’ll be able to assist you.
Why Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain?
Honestly, there isn’t a clear scientific answer for this particular anxiety symptom. Unlike other symptoms that can be traced back to neurochemical imbalances or fight, flight or freeze responses, chest pain is something of a mystery.
This is not to say that it’s not something that can be very scary and very real in the moment. Chest pain often builds and due to the negative connotations, causes further stress and worry, that can lead to an anxiety attack.
It’s important to recognise that chest pains caused by anxiety rarely appear as a solo symptom. They build with some of the usual suspects including increased breathing, which in turn has an effect on the cardiovascular system. These two symptoms are equally concerning in the moment, so they stress us out even more. That’s when our survival mechanism in our caveman brain kicks in and our amygdala releases more adrenaline and cortisol.
This neurochemical cocktail heightens our anxiety-driven symptoms and sends our body into flight, fight or freeze mode. It’s from this point that we begin to get increasingly panicked and our brain gets tricked into thinking the survival concern is real, rather than our brain overreacting to what is often a benign symptom. By reinforcing this false belief, it takes our body much longer to calm itself down to homeostasis.
So, once this symptom, and it’s accompanying pals, get going, it can feel very scary to experience, but it’s important to recognise that this too shall pass. It’s all about how you react.
How Can I Stop Chest Pains?
As with many symptoms of anxiety, the solution comes with calming the body. So, this means taking deep breaths to prevent hyperventilation and prevent further symptoms of anxiety turning up and snowballing into an anxiety attack.
Some other techniques that you can utilise are:
- Try drinking some water and allow yourself to focus on the present moment until your body begins to relax.
- Ground yourself in a safe space and count backwards from 10.
- Physically rub the pads of your finger against each other to bring yourself into the present moment and focus on something else.
How to tell if your chest pains are anxiety-related
Chest pains can be worrying and are symptoms of many different conditions with different severities. It can be difficult to distinguish if your chest pain is anxiety related or indicative of a larger issue.
However, chest pain that is related to anxiety tends to appear alongside other anxiety symptoms such as increased breathing, tingling, sweaty palms, tightened muscles and tends to disappear within about 10 minutes.
Of course, if you are concerned about your chest pains, please consult your doctor. They should be able to tell you if the type of pain you’re experiencing is likely to be anxiety-driven or something else.