Shooting Chest Pains – anxiety symptoms

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 19, 2021

Shooting chest pains anxiety symptoms description:

You experience:

  • Shooting pains in the chest.
  • A sudden sharp, stabbing, and/or shooting pains in the chest and/or heart area.
  • A pressure in the chest.
  • A fullness in the chest area.
  • Stabbing pains so strong they take your breath away.
  • Shooting pains that start in the chest and radiate to the back, shoulders, neck, head, or face.
  • A feeling like someone is stabbing you in the chest or heart.

These shooting pains chest symptoms can also present in a wide variety and/or combinations, such as just shooting pains or just pressures, as well as a combination of stabbing pains and pressures. They don’t necessarily have to occur as one or the other, but can also occur as a combination of pains and pressures.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can persistently affect one area of the chest only, can shift and affect another area or areas of the chest, and can migrate all over the chest, and can affect many areas of the chest over and over again.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may feel shooting chest pains once and a while and not that often, feel them off and on, or feel shooting chest pains all the time.

Anxiety shooting chest pains may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. They can also come in waves, where the shooting chest pains are intense one moment and ease off the next.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can occur intensely for a moment or two, then disappear the next.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can persist for a few days, then completely disappear. Or they can persist indefinitely no matter what you do.

Anxiety shooting chest pains can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

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What causes anxiety shooting chest pains?

Medical Advisory

When shooting chest pains are caused by anxiety, the body contains many muscles and muscle groups, especially in the chest, rib cage, and diaphragm areas. Muscles respond to nerve impulses. Nerve impulses cause muscles to move by contracting and releasing them. A muscle contracts (tightens) when it receives a nerve impulse, and releases (relaxes) when the nerve impulse stops.

Most of the muscles in the chest, rib cage, and diaphragm are voluntary, meaning we can move them at will. When the body’s nervous system and muscle tensions are normal, the combination of nerve impulses and muscle responses work very well. As a result, the muscles in the chest area function normally.

When the body experiences a stress response and/or is overly stressed, however, a number of conditions change, including:

  1. The body’s muscles become tighter (stress hormones cause muscles to tighten).
  2. The electrical activity in the brain increases.
  3. The nervous system behaves more involuntarily and erratic.
  4. The nerves responsible for receiving and reporting information to the brain become more sensitive and reactive (sensitivity and reactivity increase as stress hormone levels rise).

These changes can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including muscles that pulse, throb, twitch, spasm, or contract uncontrollably and involuntarily as the brain sends erratic nerve impulses to the body’s muscles, including those in the chest, ribcage, and diaphragm.

These erratic nerve impulses can cause these muscles to tighten, twitch, spasm, and even ‘lock up.’ These involuntary nerve impulses can also be sent at any time and to any degree. Consequently, a wide variety of contractions from slight to dramatic can occur, which can cause the shooting sharp and stabbing pains in the chest area.

While unsettling and even greatly painful at times, these shooting chest pains symptoms are harmless. They are just an indication of an active stress response and/or stress-response hyperstimulation.

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How to get rid of anxiety shooting chest pains?

When anxiety shooting chest pains are caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, these shooting chest pains should subside and you should return to your normal self. 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 anxiety shooting chest pains are caused by persistently elevated stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to calm down and recover…and to the point where anxiety- and stress-caused shooting chest pains subside.

As with all anxiety sensations and symptoms, returning your body and nervous system back to their normal, non-hyperstimulated health reduces and eventually eliminates anxiety- and stress-caused sensations and symptoms, including shooting chest pains. But we have to be patient as we faithfully apply our recovery strategies, since recovering from hyperstimulation can take much longer than you might expect. It’s the faithful and diligent application of our recovery strategies that produces results. Recovery is seldom quick.

If the shooting chest pains become too painful, you can talk with your doctor about taking a pain reliever or muscle relaxant to help ease these types of shooting chest pains.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety shooting chest pains symptoms (and all of the other symptoms), why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom 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 – which we call 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.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page. Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Shooting Chest Pains anxiety symptoms.


1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.”, August 2019.

3. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. "Stress-response Hyperstimulation.", Nov. 2019.

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.