Treating A Tight Chest
Your doctor will conduct tests to determine the cause of your chest tightness. If the tests for a heart attack come back negative, your symptoms may be caused by anxiety.
You should discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine when to seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest tightness again. It may be possible to link your chest tightness to other symptoms thatll help you identify anxiety versus a cardiac event.
Relief For Chest Pain Caused By A Panic Attack
During a panic attack, the following strategies can help you to manage the symptoms:
- Focus on controlling your breathing breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose for three seconds, hold for two seconds and breathe out for three seconds. You may want to close your eyes to help you focus. By concentrating on your body and your breathing, you can break the panic cycle, calm your hyperventilation and reduce your chest pain
- Remind yourself that this moment will pass panic attacks can be incredibly frightening to experience. There are occasions where some may experience anxiety chest pain all day, but when you are having a panic attack, try to repeat a positive phrase such as: I know this is a panic attack and I know it will pass. This can serve as a reminder that the moment will disappear just as it appeared. Recognising the transience of a panic attack can help to lessen the worry caused by the symptoms, helping the panic attack to subside
- Refocus when you feel a panic attack start to pass, begin to focus on your surroundings rather than on the experience. Think carefully about what you can see, hear, taste, smell and touch. You may also want to hone in on a particular object, and think carefully about its shape, colour and size
There are also preventative measures you can take to avoid panic attacks, which include the following:
How To Stop Palpitations From Causing Anxiety
Nearly everyone faces an anxiety-provoking situation at some point. Maybe youre about to meet your future mother-in-law, or you have a performance evaluation at work. Whatever it is, there are some ways to help calm that fight-or-flight response and slow your heart rate:
- Start with breathing: When your heart speeds up, your breathing will, too. But you can hijack this process by taking control of your breath. Take slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do this at least 10 times, preferably for several minutes.
- Focus your mind: When your heart is racing, your mind might follow. Try focusing on an image, phrase or sound that makes you feel peaceful. Keep taking your slow, deep breaths as you meditate on this one thing. Tip: Do this even when youre not stressed to help with everyday well-being.
- Take a walk: If you can, go for a short walk. Down the hall is good, but outdoors in nature is even better. Dont make it too fast, or your heart wont have a chance to slow down.
- Hydrate: Dehydration can make palpitations worse. Have a glass of water or if youve been exercising heavily, try a sports drink with electrolytes. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can trigger more anxiety and palpitations.
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Difference Between Chest Pain And Heart
As previously stated, not all chest pain is related to the heart, so how can you tell the difference? While most heart and chest pain occur in the area behind the breastbone, cardiac pain may also radiate down your arms, back, shoulders, and neck. Chest pain related to the heart is also described differently. While those experiencing GERD describe their pain as sharp, cardiac related chest pains are said to feel deep, heavy, squashing, and tight.
Cardiac pain may also cause other symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, numbness in the left arm or shoulder, and lightheadedness. In contrast, chest pain associated with acid reflux or GERD may cause difficulty swallowing, frequent belching, burning in your throat, chest, or stomach, and a sour taste in your mouth.
What Anxiety Chest Pain Feels Like
Anxiety symptoms are rarely the same from person to person. Some days, symptoms arent even the same for the same person. Anxiety presents itself in a variety of ways, and that makes detecting or understanding symptoms difficult.
Chest pain associated with anxiety feels different for each person. Some people may experience chest pain on a gradual basis. For others, the pain may be sudden and unexpected. Anxiety chest pain can be described as:
- sharp, shooting pain
- an unusual muscle twitch or spasm in your chest
- burning, numbness, or a dull ache
- stabbing pressure
- chest tension or tightness
If you dont have a history of chest pain with anxiety, you may be alarmed. Many people assume theyre having a heart attack and go to the hospitals emergency department for treatment.
An estimated 25 to 50 percent of patients who come to the emergency department with low risk chest pain experience moderate to severe anxiety, according to 2018 research.
If you visit a hospital emergency room and the doctors dont find a specific cause for your chest pain, consider consulting with your doctor about other possible causes, including anxiety.
How Stress Puts Your Body Into Overdrive
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress internal or external.
In the face of a perceived threat, our brain releases adrenaline and cortisol to kick-start the “fight or flight” response, says Eileen Stech, psychologist and PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales.
“That adrenaline brings on a whole cascade of changes where really everything in our body either down-regulates or up-regulates to try and survive,” Ms Stech said.
That means our heart and breathing rates increase , our muscles become tense, and blood flow is diverted away our abdominal organs to our brain.
Our fight or flight response help us effectively deal with threats. But in some cases, it’s triggered inappropriately.
Anxiety Chest Pain Vs Heart Attack Chest Pain
Chest pain is a concerning symptom, and its usually best to seek emergency medical attention if youre experiencing it. Even if the chest pain cause is anxiety, its better to know than to risk missing valuable time if youre having a heart attack.
People describe chest pain in a number of ways when theyre having a heart attack. Some examples include:
- chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body, such as down your arms or up to your jaw
- chest pain that worsens with exertion
- nausea along with chest pain
- pressure in the chest, as if someone has put something heavy on your chest
- rapid heart rate
- shortness of breath
- squeezing sensation in the chest
An estimated 30 percent of patients who are having a heart attack dont have chest pain, according to 2020 research . Some people report symptoms like back pain and fatigue as part of their heart attack symptoms.
While doctors know there is a connection between anxiety and chest pain, you still shouldnt ignore your symptoms and seek medical attention.
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Other Causes Of Chest Pain
Chest pain may also be caused by issues with the structures in the chest. Muscle tenderness may be causing the pain you are experiencing, as well as common heartburn. You could also be experiencing a pulmonary embolism, which happens when a blood clot blocks an artery in the lung and can cause shortness of breath, sharp chest pains, and a cough that brings up pink mucus.
How Do You Tell The Difference
It can be challenging to distinguish between angina and an anxiety attack, especially because emotional distress can also increase the amount of oxygen the heart requires and trigger angina. Angina can occur at rest or with exertion , so its very difficult to distinguish the two based on symptoms alone.
Experience can also help differentiate them. If youve been diagnosed with either angina or a panic disorder before, you may recognize the discomfort as fitting your diagnosis or what triggers your symptoms.
In the case of chest pain, you should seek medical help right away. Your doctor will run several tests, including an electrocardiogram and a blood test called troponin, to look for signs of heart damage. These tests are the most definitive ways to distinguish the two conditions.
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Many People With Anxiety Disorders Understand That Their Thoughts Are Irrational But They Still Cant Stop Them
This is by far one of the most difficult aspects associated with battling anxiety.
Its a cycle. When you get anxious, you tend to have this pervasive thinking about some worry or some problem and you feel bad about it. Then you feel like youve failed, and you move to depression.
You try to correct these thoughts and feelings but anxiety is a tough beast to tame. It is a silent monster, sabotaging your mind and no matter how hard you fight, it does not let go.
Can I Stop Heart Palpitations And Anxiety
You may not be able to totally prevent heart palpitations caused by anxiety. But you can lower how often they happen and how severe they are.
First, pay attention to your triggers, such as performing in public, getting on a plane or making a phone call. Then you can make a plan to lessen your anxiety around these situations. Relaxation techniques, medication and therapy can all help to prevent future episodes.
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Am I Having A Heart Attack
Its always better to be safe rather than sorry when your heart is involved. But chances are that your terrible feelings are not those of a heart attack, but of a panic attack instead.
Approximately one quarter of patients who go to the emergency room for treatment of chest pain have panic disorder, says psychiatrist Many of these patients are young women, among whom panic disorders are more common and heart disease is rare.
Chest pain is a symptom that can accompany panic attacks. But panic disorder is often unrecognized and untreated among young women with chest pain.
What Else Can Cause Your Chest To Feel Tight
Causes of chest tightness run the gamut from the relatively benign like indigestion to a gallbladder attack to a potentially life-threatening heart attack or a pulmonary embolism , says Dr. Cazabon. Thats why its such a tricky diagnosis to make.
Why is chest tightness associated with so many ailments? The chest and upper abdomen are integrated from one nerve, explains Dr. Cazabon. The vagus nerve travels from the brain all the way to the gastrointestinal tract, but it just registers nonspecific pain. You need to know more of the story to zero in on a reason.
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How To Hang On: Coping During A Pandemic
A poll conducted in mid-April 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56% of adults reported that worry and stress because of the pandemic has had a negative effect on their mental health.
Respondents reported adverse effects such as trouble sleeping, poor appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty in controlling their temper, or increasing alcohol/drug use, and worsening chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. This is up from 45% reporting that stress over coronavirus had negatively affected their mental health in a KFF poll conducted in late March 2020.9
Right now everybody has increased anxiety, whether youre healthy as a horse, whether you have a psychiatric illness, or not, says Dr. McCann.
Telemedicine can help by connecting people with their doctors, and video meeting apps provide a means to keep up a social life as we remain in our homes. More on how to access telemedicine.
Dr. McCann also suggests exercising together with friends via video chat to support social interaction, while Dr. Bhatia recommends practicing mindfulness to ease stress.
Symptoms that are related to anxiety/panic can improve with mindfulness-based breathing exercises, says Dr. Bhatia.10 More on this technique from Dr. Bhatia.
Anxiety Chest Pain: Is It Just In Your Head
Anxiety doesnt just make you feel worried or nervous. Being anxious can also cause physical symptoms. One of the more alarming symptoms can be anxiety-related chest pain. Learn why anxiety can cause chest pain, what you can do about it, and most importantly, how to tell the difference between chest pain caused by anxiety or panic and chest pain related to a heart attack.
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What Are Heart Palpitations
When youre resting, you usually dont feel your heart beating, says Dr. Bibawy. When you can feel your heartbeat, youre having palpitations. Sometimes theyre expected, like after exercising. But other times, palpitations hit without warning.
You might feel palpitations in your chest, neck or throat, and they feel like your heart is:
Getting A Clear Picture Of Heart Rhythm And Rate
Cardiac health and anxiety are interrelated. Each can affect the other. The best way to get a clear picture of heart rhythm and rate is to monitor the heart for a period of time. This can be done with a heart monitor. A heart monitor is a small device that records heart rhythm day and night or during active symptoms. Capturing heart rhythm over several days or weeks, a doctor can accurately determine which comes first, anxiety or abnormal beats.
Do you have questions about cardiac symptoms? Contact Premier Cardiology Consultants at 516-437-5600 for assistance.
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When It Is Panic Disorder: Treatment Options
When the cause of chest pain has been determined to be psychiatric rather than cardiac in nature, patients and their doctors can discuss treatment. It is important to know that panic attacks can occur with any type of anxiety disorder–there are 5 in all:8
A person must have recurring panic attacks and be fearful of having another to the point where it interferes with their everyday life in order to be diagnosed with panic disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 2% to 3% of US adults are diagnosed with panic disorder in a given year. Anxiety disorders affect women more than men.8
Dr. McCann says that it is possible for a person with no history of anxiety to develop panic disorder because of the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.
A person can develop panic disorder for the first time in the setting of COVID-19, she explains. However, there are specific criteria that must be met for it to be characterized as PD. In particular, symptoms need to be present for at least 1 month. People need to change their behaviors in maladaptive ways .
Both Dr. McCann and Dr. Bhatia emphasize that, even with a diagnosis of panic disorder, its possible for a patient to have cardiac or medical chest pain that should not be ignored.
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