Anxiety And The Development Of Heart Disease
Its my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease, says McCann. I believe that a really careful look at anxiety would reveal the ways it can severely impact heart disease, both as a contributing factor and as an obstacle in recovery.
A natural reaction to a sudden heart attack can be similar to post-traumatic stress disorder:
- Youre likely to be shocked by your near-death experience and extremely hesitant to do the things you used to do.
- You might constantly relive the life-threatening event, and avoid the activity or place associated with the heart attack.
- Recurring anxious thoughts may impede your ability to get regular sleep.
- Your thoughts about what lies ahead may be extremely negative and cause a drastically foreshortened outlook of the future.
How Can You Tell If Your Chest Pain Is Caused By Anxiety Or Panic Attacks
Symptoms may vary from person to person and you should always consult your doctor for concerns about your heart, but there are some key differences in chest pain caused to anxiety versus chest pain caused by heart problems:
- Chest pain due to anxiety only stays in the chest area while pain due to heart issues spreads from the chest to other parts such as jaws, shoulders, and arms, etc.
- Heart-related chest pain develops when youre engaged in some activity while chest pain due to stress develops when youre at rest.
- Chest pain due to anxiety might feel like a sharp pain but pain due to heart problems often feels like squeezing and heavy pressure in your chest.
- Pain due to anxiety fades away after a few minutes such as 10-20 minutes, on the other hand, if your pain starts slowly and gradually keeps increasing with time, it could indicate a heart issue.
- If youre feeling out of control in some situation, anxious, feel numbness and sweating in your hands and feet and eventually feel chest pain, then this is mostly due to anxiety but if youre feeling normal and you start experiencing chest aches then it might be a heart-related issue.
Heart Attack First Heart Failure Second
One out of every four people who suffer a heart attack will eventually develop heart failure, according to a new study from a research team led by Dr. Johannes Gho, a cardiology resident at the University Medical Center Utrecht, in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The research was presented at the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure.
Using data from 24,745 adults who experienced their first heart attack between 1998 and 2010, researchers found just under 25 percent of those patients had developed heart failure within four years.
Overall, researchers found for every 10 years in age a patient was, their risk of heart failure increased by 45 percent. Those in lower socioeconomic brackets also had a 27 percent higher risk factor for heart failure following a heart attack.
Some co-existing health conditions greatly increased a persons risk of heart failure, namely atrial fibrillation and diabetes.
Identifying these prognostic factors in heart attack patients could help us predict their risk of developing heart failure and allow us to give treatments to reduce that risk, Dr. Gho said in a press release.
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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.
End The Stress Response
When this symptom is 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, this anxiety symptom 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 shouldnt be a cause for concern.
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How A Heart Attack And Anxiety Occurs
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply has been cut short or blocked and the heart cant get enough oxygen. If the blood flow is not restored, that section of the heart will begin to die. Plaque buildup in the arteries and blood vessels can cause the blockage.
A heart attack is a medical emergency so go to the nearest emergency room when you notice any of the warning signs.
Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, occurs when you have a fear that something bad is going to happen. Anxiety is a non-medical situation, but it can cause muscle tension.
Anxiety attacks have been linked to stress. The irony is, although it cant cause a heart attack, stress plays a role in coronary artery disease development. Plus, people with heart attacks may also experience anxiety.
Take note anxiety and panic attacks are different, though they are usually used interchangeably. In most cases, anxiety relates to a specific event or situation. Panic attack, on the other hand, can happen without a trigger. Furthermore, panic attacks are severe than anxiety symptoms.
What Causes Sharp Pain In The Heart
Chest pain isnt always as bad as you might think. A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that less than 6% of people who go to the emergency room for chest pain actually have a life-threatening problem.
That doesnt mean you should ignore the pain, of course. It could signal something serious.
So whats going on inside your ribcage? Dr. Legha points to some of the common causes of sharp chest pain.
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Is It A Heart Attack Or Anxiety
It makes sense to respond to pain especially when you dont know its source with anxiety or worry. But if that pain is caused by anxiety in the first place, your natural response can spiral into an anxiety attack.
One reason you might respond to chest pain with anxiety is if you think, What if Im having a heart attack?
Knowing the difference between anxiety symptoms and heart attack symptoms can help you feel more at ease when having chest pain. And chances are, naming this pain could help you reduce it quickly.
When youre in the midst of a high-anxiety moment, your body is more likely to be experiencing:
- higher blood pressure
- more oxygen to the heart
- heart palpitations
Causes Of Chest Pain With Anxiety
Anxiety causes a physiological response in the body. Stress hormones rise and activity of the autonomic nervous system increases as part of the fight or flight response. This can increase the heart rate and blood pressure, depth and rate of breathing, secretion of gastric acid and gastrointestinal motility, as well as other effects. These physiological responses may result in chest pain. Alternatively the pain may be psychogenic.
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Learn How To Address Your Symptoms
If you have anxiety and pain, medically-reviewed strategies like the ones above might help, but there is no better substitute for speaking with a licensed mental health professional. Working with a counselor will allow you to immediately get started on relieving your symptoms and reducing the frequency of any related pain. Therapy has been shown to reduce certain symptoms of anxiety, especially those who struggle with GAD, panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.
If you struggle with anxiety and stress, read reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues below.
How To Treat Anxiety Chest Pain
Fortunately, if you have pain in your chest from anxiety, there are a number of treatment options you can try. First and foremost, in-person or online therapy can be extremely helpful in learning how to manage your anxiety and alleviate your symptoms.
A therapist can use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help you restructure the thought processes that may be leading to your anxiety and contributing to your chest pain. Many people find this route of treatment preferable if theyre hoping to avoid medication.
However, you should know that anxiety medicationis another effective form of treatment for many people. However, therapy and medication arent the only two ways you can handle chest tightness anxiety.
You can also try:
Anxiety disorder symptoms can be challenging enough, even without chest pain. Additionally, t can become so much worse when you have the fear that chest pain often brings on. To eliminate the possibility that something more is going on, you should see a doctor or healthcare provider to be evaluated any time you have chest tightness anxiety, heart palpitations, or any other type of chest pain. This can rule out any other conditions if youre still unsure.
If you need help managing your anxiety, reach out to Talkspace today. Our licensed therapists are specialized in anxiety in teens and adults so you can get the treatment you need.
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Frightening Symptoms Of Anxiety
Chest tightness is an anxiety symptom that often causes a severe amount of distress. That is because chest tightness has a negative connotation that links it to severe health conditions. This can be very daunting for individuals who do not know much about the physical effects of stress and anxiety in their lives.
Functional Morbidity With Chest Pain And Normal Coronary Arteries
A number of researchers have also examined functional disability and persistence of symptoms in patients with chest pain and normal coronary arteries, of whom approximately 40% have PD. Ockene and coworkers followed 37 patients with chest pain and normal coronary arteries for 6 to 37 months. At follow-up, 70% of such patients had continued chest pain, 51% reported being unable to work due to their symptoms, and 47% had their usual daily activities limited by chest pain despite normal angiograms. Similarly, Lavey and Winkle followed 45 patients with chest pain and normal coronary arteries for a mean of 3.5 years after their normal angiogram. Fully 82% of the patients continued to see physicians for cardiac complaints, and, of the patients whose activities had been limited by symptoms, 79% continued to have functional limitations to the same or greater degree. Finally, a larger study following 1977 chest pain patients without significant coronary artery disease for a mean of 6 years found that 70% of such patients continued to have chest pain over this period, and fully half reported being unable to exert themselves as a result of their symptoms.
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Other Causes Of Chest Pain
In addition to angina or anxiety, there are other conditions that can cause chest pain. These include:
- Narrowing of the hearts aortic valve
- Blockage in a lung artery
- Tearing of a major artery
- Heart muscle disease
- Inflammation in the tissues that surround the heart
- Inflammation of the tissue separating your lungs from your chest wall
Diagnosing And Treating Anxiety
Its important to differentiate normal anxiety from the more severe type. Does the anxiety interfere with your family life or keep you from being productive in your professional life? Does it restrict you from engaging in the activities you like? If the answer is yes, then its the kind of anxiety that may require some degree of therapy or medical attention.
Depending on the duration, severity, and type of anxiety, treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. A common and effective method of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves three main components:
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Anxiety And Heart Disease
The association between anxiety and heart disease has not been as fully studied as the relationship between depression and heart disease.
When To See A Doctor
Whenever you experience excruciating chest pain, its best to see a doctor immediately. You want to rule out heart problems like coronary artery disease, which can potentially be fatal and dangerous. Coronary artery disease occurs when blood clots form on one or multiple heart vessels, therefore reducing blood flow and oxygen to the body. The heart will beat faster to compensate, therefore resulting in severe pain.
Doctors can use a variety of diagnostic exams to find the underlying causes so they can treat it immediately. However, if cardiac problems are eliminated, then its most likely an anxiety attack. When this is the case, your doctor can prescribe you the proper medication and refer you to a psychologist to initiate cognitive behavior therapy.
Since chest pain from coronary artery disease and anxiety attacks are very similar, it can be very tough to differentiate. Luckily, there are online clinics, such as GuruMD, that can give you access to an online healthcare provider. The doctor can initiate an examination through a video to provide you with a basic idea of whats going on. That way, you wont have to spend hours at urgent care.
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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.