All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 27 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Chest pains anxiety symptoms

What can chest pains anxiety symptoms feel like?

Chest pains anxiety symptoms can feel like a tightness, pressure, pain, shooting pains, stabbing pain, muscle tension, burning, numbness, an uneasiness, or a fullness in the chest area (which includes the diaphragm—a sheet of internal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage).

Chest pains anxiety symptoms can be located in one, a few, or many spots in the chest area, or may move all over the chest area. Chest pains can radiate to the left shoulder, right shoulder (or both), into the breasts, and/or can be felt in the back and stomach areas.

Chest pains can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently. They can be experienced as sharp, stabbing, piercing, and dull, or as persistent tightness, pressure, fullness, or numbness. Any variation and combination are common.

Chest pains anxiety symptoms are commonly misconstrued as heart problems or the signs of a heart attack.

Medical Advisory
Because there are many medical conditions that can cause anxiety and anxiety-like sensations and symptoms, including this chest pains, we recommend that all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor. If your doctor concludes that your anxiety chest pains are solely stress related (including anxiety-caused stress), you can be confident that there isn't another medical reason for them. Generally, most doctors can easily tell the difference between stress- and anxiety-caused sensations and symptoms, including anxiety chest pains, from those caused by other medical conditions.

If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, however, you may want to seek a second and even third opinion. But if all three opinions concur, you can be assured that stress (including the stress that being overly anxious can cause) is the cause of your anxiety chest pains, and not some other medical or biological problem.

What causes chest pains anxiety symptoms?

Behaving in an anxious manner causes the body to release stress hormones into the bloodstream. Stress hormones cause a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body that prepare it for action when we’re in danger. These changes are commonly referred to as the Stress Response (also known as the Emergency Response or the “flight or fight” response).

One of the actions of stress hormones is to cause muscles to contract and tighten. They do this in an attempt to protect the body from harm. Since there are many muscles and groups of muscles in the chest and rib cage areas, these muscles can experience tightening, too. As our anxiousness increases, the body experiences more stress responses and to greater degrees. This can lead to pronounced muscle tension and pain, including the muscles in the chest and ribcage areas.

To aggravate this situation, many anxious personalities fear they are having a heart problem, which can cause more stress responses and a further increase in chest pains anxiety as well as other stress and anxiety related symptoms similar to that of a heart attack, such as profuse sweating, light-headedness, and numbness in the arms, feet or face. These increased symptoms may reinforce your belief that you are having a heart attack, causing even more fear, symptoms, and even panic.

Moreover, stomach and digestive symptoms (pain, shooting pains, radiating pains, pressure, fullness, discomfort) also can be felt in the chest area and may be perceived as heart related, as well. Stomach and digestive symptoms are also common for stress and anxiety.

When you combine all of these factors, it’s plain to see why so many anxious personalities end up in the emergency room each year due to these types of chest pains anxiety symptoms.

How can I eliminate anxiety chest pains?

When chest pains anxiety symptoms are caused by an active stress response (triggered by being anxious, nervous, apprehensive), calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response, which will bring an end to the stress response changes. As your body recovers from the stress response changes, these chest pains anxiety symptoms should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When chest pains anxiety symptoms are caused by persistently elevated stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where these chest pain symptoms subside. We talk more about this scenario in the Recovery Support area of our website.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered from being anxious and stressed, these chest pains anxiety symptoms completely disappear. Therefore, anxiety chest pains needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about anxiety chest pains. Again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, these chest pains anxiety symptoms completely disappear.

For a more detailed explanation about this anxiety caused chest pains symptoms (and all of the other symptoms), why anxiety chest pains can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and chest pains symptoms elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - we call these core causes the underlying factors of anxiety - a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.


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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated September 10, 2017.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including chest pains anxiety symptoms.