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Everyone has times when something’s bothering them and they don’t feel ‘at ease’ as a result of it. For most of those people that’s not really a big problem. For others, however, what’s bothering them is causing serious physiological upset and making it difficult for them to function normally. This is something of a definition for anxiety, and those who have it will be very familiar with the symptoms of the condition; a racing heart, mental distress and inability to focus, jittery hands, and overall irritability and physical uneasiness.
Anxiety chest pain is one of the manifestations of these symptoms, but fortunately it can be managed quite easily if you know what to do.
It should be noted that anxiety chest pain is most often a sub-symptom of a panic attack. Not everyone who has an anxiety disorder or is prone to anxiety will suffer from panic attacks along with it, but many do. In fact, there’s a segment of the mental health profession that prefers to identify panic disorder as its own disorder, but to also place it under the umbrella of anxiety disorders.
Whether or not this is accurate isn’t really the point here, and instead we’ll focus on the realities of chest pain anxiety. More to the point, if it’s anxiety causing chest pain, why is that exactly and what’s the connection between the two.
It’s important to not jump to conclusions and assume that your chest pain is a heart attack in progress. It’s very likely not, and it’s a fact that much of the time chest pain has no relation to the function of the heart at all. When it comes to anxiety chest pain, it’s helpful to know that it also often comes with other symptoms, including:
So now that we’ve established that anxiety chest pain usually comes as part of a panic attack within a person’s anxiety response, let’s now move to look at why this happens. The first cause of chest pain anxiety is hyperventilation. Hyperventilation occurs when you are breathing in too much oxygen due to rapid muscle contractions and excess air in the lungs. This ‘over breathing’ can be a natural response to extreme anxiety, and it results in blood vessels contracting and causing considerable chest pain.
When anxiety is causing chest pain, it may well be more directly related to the person hyperventilating.
Another cause can be bloating. The body can react to stressors in many different ways, and for some people their anxiety triggers the body to produce excess gas in the intestinal tract. When this happens, the individual becomes bloated and bloating can lead to increased pressure being exerted on the lungs. It is then that the person begins to experience chest pain anxiety.
The last cause of anxiety chest pain that we’ll look at here is a person’s imagination. Now some of you may be wondering exactly what we mean by that, and we’ll introduce the term psychosomatic. It means a physical ailment that is aggravated or entirely caused by the person’s thoughts about it. In these instances a person’s anxiety may be leading them to think they are experiencing chest pain, and then reacting as if they are actually experiencing it.
Cardiac chest pain is of course going to be the one you do want to be concerned about, but it’s interesting to note that cardiac chest pain tends to be less pronounced that anxiety chest pain. Chest pain from anxiety tends to be sharper, and is usually more localized to a specific area. In addition, it is also more centrally located in the middle of the chest most of the time, although not always.
Oppositely, cardiac chest pain more often radiates all around the shoulder and even into the jaw. Plus, it tends to be a duller pain when it’s being caused by actual operational problems with the heart. The last telltale sign that your chest pain is not anxiety chest pain and is something much more concerning and serious is having it last 10 minutes or more.
Both anxiety chest pain and cardiac chest pain can share these symptoms:
Chest pain anxiety is more accurately anxiety accompanied by chest pain for any number of reasons. Fortunately, generalized and situational anxiety can be treated effectively with medications. Buspar (Buspirone) is one of the most commonly prescribed ones, and it’s a very effect antianxiety agent. Some standard antidepressant medications are also effective for relieving anxiety, and Paxil (Paroxetine) and Lexapro (Escitalopram) most notably among them.
It’s also a fortunate reality that anxiety can be lessened with a number of self-therapeutic approaches. For starters, using some of the fundamental approaches in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) are very effective for addressing the causes of anxiety at their root. In addition, many have also found that thought field therapy (TFT), or ‘tapping’ as it is also known as, is also very effective at reducing the severity of anxiety attacks if used properly.
Another good suggestion for people suffering from anxiety is to have one or two really good friends who know you well enough to know the extent to which you’re prone to severe anxiety attacks and / or anxiety chest pain. Have an understood agreement that you can meet with or call these friends anytime you’re having an anxiety attack or anxiety chest pain and that you can speak with them as long as you need to until the severity of it has subsided and you’re back to feeling more like your normal self.
If they’re in fact good friends, they’ll very likely be happily willing to do that for you!