Panic Attack Or Heart Attack
The symptoms of a panic attack can overlap the symptoms of a heart attack, clinically termed myocardial infarction , making it difficult for a person to know which one may be occurring.6 People often go to the emergency room with chest pain believing they have a heart issue, but research shows that roughly 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest pain do not have a cardiac cause of the pain.
How does a panic attack feel different from a heart attack?
Unfortunately, says Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, They can feel identical. People often are short of breath, feel dizzy, and can feel crushing chest pain. Somebody who is perfectly healthy, with great lungs, undergoing a panic attack can feel really, really short of breath. And then, of course, those symptoms feed on the panic so it builds exponentially to this enormous crescendo.
Dr. McCann explains that because of the many different ways that people experience symptoms of heart attacks and panic attacks, theres no way to know the cause of those symptoms on your own.
There are a variety of symptoms that people who are having myocardial infarctions experience or dont experience, so certainly if someone came in with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would undergo a full workup for an MI, no question, she says.
Chest Tightness And Other Symptoms Of Anxiety
Chest tightness is just one of many possible ways anxiety can manifest. The classic anxiety symptoms are thoughts or fear of death, inability to sleep, inability to concentrate, says Pedro Cazabon, MD, system medical director of primary care at Ochsner Health. You may also experience muscle aches, body aches, not being able to relax, shortness of breath, feeling tired and irritable, trouble sleeping, rapid breathing, sweating or trembling, even gastrointestinal upset.
Theres a real physiological change when we have a stress response, says Brittany LeMonda, PhD, senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Its really not necessarily an emotion experience, its a physical experience.
Could My Chest Pain Be Because Of The Coronavirus
Chest pain is a rare symptom of COVID-19 and usually does not occur as the sole symptom. For instance, if your chest pain was due to COVID-19, you would most likely have accompanying signs of upper respiratory infection such as coughing and phlegm. And, the pain would not be due to a panic attack, says Dr. McCann. But again, because of the wide range of symptoms that people experience with COVID-19, theres no way to know without getting checked by a healthcare provider.
The CDC lists common COVID-19 symptoms as: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.³
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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.
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:
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How To Relieve Chest Tightness And Anxiety
But if youre certain your symptoms are from anxiety, the remedy can be deceptively simple. At the top of the list: Shifting your breathing from short, shallow breaths to longer, deeper ones, perhaps through mindfulness or meditation. That can help you get more oxygen which can calm your lungs and help your chest not feel as tight, says Dr. Gaynes.
If something specific is stressing you out, talk to yourself using some cognitive-behavioral techniques to relax. For instance, how likely is a doomsday scenario youre imagining likely to happen? Would it be the end of the world if it did? CBT can also help you unlearn anxiousness that has an outside trigger.
Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Yes. Many people who experience anxiety also experience chest pain, especially during anxiety or panic attacks.
Though it can be frightening and painful, anxiety sufferers can take some comfort in knowing that theres a reason for this uncomfortable symptom: Its your brain and body trying to protect you from a real or perceived stressor.
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What Else Should I Know About Panic Disorder
People with panic disorder may be extremely anxious and fearful, since they are unable to predict when the next episode will occur. Panic disorder is fairly common and affects about 6 million adults in the U.S. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the condition, and its symptoms usually begin in early adulthood.
It is not clear what causes panic disorder. In many people who have the biological vulnerability to panic attacks, they may develop in association with major life changes and major lifestyle stressors. There is also some evidence that suggests that the tendency to develop panic disorder may run in families. People who suffer from panic disorder are also more likely than others to suffer from depression, attempt suicide, or to abuse alcohol or drugs.
Fortunately, panic disorder is a treatable condition. Psychotherapy and medications have both been used, either singly or in combination, for successful treatment of panic disorder. If medication is necessary, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, certain antidepressants or sometimes certain anticonvulsant drugs that also have anti-anxiety properties, or a class of heart medications known as beta-blockers to help prevent or control the episodes in panic disorder.
When To See A Doctor
Even if you suffer from anxiety, chest pain shouldnt be ignored.
If you are experiencing persistent chest pain, seek medical advice to pinpoint the cause and rule out a heart problem, like coronary artery disease.
It may just be anxiety-related chest pain, but its always better to be sure. Both anxiety-related chest pain and heart conditions are treatable with the proper healthcare.
If anxiety and its symptoms are impacting your quality of life, a therapist and/or doctor can suggest therapy or prescribe medication to help get your anxiety under control.
This medical care can be life-changing by helping get symptomsincluding chest painto subside.
Stress and anxiety are among the most under-reported and under-treated diseases in America. Nearly 20% of adults in the US suffer from mental health illness and fewer than half receive treatment. Our mission is to increase access to treatment for those suffering in silence.
You can start controlling your stress and anxiety and get access to the treatment you need with K Health. Starting at $19/month get prescriptions for mental health medications plus unlimited doctor visits through the K Health app. Start your free assessment here.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Heart Palpitations And Anxiety
Many people have heart palpitations caused by situational anxiety. You can use relaxation strategies to successfully manage this anxiety. These strategies can slow down your heart rate in the moment.
If you have heart palpitations caused by chronic anxiety disorders, there is hope. You can also manage your anxiety with proper treatment. A good team of healthcare providers can help you build a coping strategy.
If you suspect another health condition is causing palpitations with or without anxiety talk to your provider about treatment. To relieve your symptoms, your provider will treat the cause. You may also benefit from anxiety-relieving therapies.
How Do I Relieve Chest Pain Felt During A Panic Attack
When someone has a panic attack, chest pain is a common and frightening symptom. It can be so severe, and accompanied by palpitations, difficulty breathing and other physical symptoms of panic attacks, that it makes a person feel as though they are having a heart attack where they worry that they are going to die. Often, it is stress that causes the chest pain.
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To Relieve Anxiety Talk Out Loud To Yourself
Give yourself permission to have an anxiety attack by saying the words out loud. Remind yourself that the attack will end, and it wont kill you or cause you to faint.
Carbonell says that understanding the physiology of fainting and reminding yourself of it is important. People faint when their blood pressure drops. A anxiety attack can make you feel like youre going to faint, but you wont because your blood pressure doesn’t drop during an attack. Remind yourself out loud of truths like these to counter your fears.
Chest Pain And Panic Disorder
This review extends the results from a systematic review previously reported.16 Briefly, potential studies were identified via a computerized search of MEDLINE and PsycINFO databases and review of bibliographies. MeSH headings used included panic disorder with chest pain, panic disorder with coronary disease or cardiovascular disorders or heart disorders, and panic disorder with cholesterol or essential hypertension or tobacco smoking. The diagnosis of panic disorder in eligible studies was based on DSM criteria, and studies must have used objective criteria for coronary artery disease and risk factors. Only case-control and cohort studies were included. Using the same search and selection strategies, new studies were sought.
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How To Manage Anxiety
Anxiety might not be comfortable, but it is a common and sometimes useful response.
While its impossible to avoid anxiety completely , you can become more aware of how its affecting you in order to manage it when its overwhelming.
You might already have methods for relieving anxiety-induced chest pain in the moment. If youre looking for more ideas, you can try:
- engaging in slow, deep breathing by counting to 10
- taking a 5-minute break from anything thats currently causing anxiety, if possible
- getting up to walk around, stretch, or raise your arms above your head to give yourself more room to breathe
Therapy and medication can also be effective for managing anxiety disorders.
Heart Attack Chest Pain
So what are heart attack symptoms?
A heart attack is when the blood flow or blood supply that feeds the heart itself is blocked. Heart attack symptoms include :
- Chest pain that continues to get worse with exertion
- Chest pain that radiates to your arms or jaw
- Heavy pressure in the chest area and a squeezing sensation
- Fast heart rate and shortness of breath
Some people feel exhausted or say they have back pain, and close to 30% of people having a heart attack dont even report chest pain .
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Consequences Of Chest Pain In Panic Disorder
One reason that people with chest pain associated with panic disorder often seek medical care is the distress that accompanies the pain. Patients with panic disorder are sensitive to physiologic cues.17 As a group, those with panic attacks are more concerned about pain, are more convinced that they have a disease, and are more phobic about disease and death than controls. In addition, they more often use blaming, avoidance, and wishful thinking as coping strategies.63 Those with fear as part of their attacks have more panic symptoms with a more recent onset.64 Panic patients are selectively attentive to heart rate and electrocardiograms.65 The significance is that cardiopulmonary fear is the best predictor of the intensity of the cardiac complaints in patients with noncardiac chest pain.66 Even when panic disorder and CAD coexist, the distress perceived by patients with chest pain is typically due to the panic disorder.67 On the other hand, highly anxious patients with panic disorder exhibit increased muscular activity in the chest wall following carbon dioxide inhalation, which predicts frightening cognitions.40 Thus, it is not surprising that people with chest pain due to panic attacks readily seek care for their pain.
Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Tightness In Chest
Many people suffer from tightness in the chest and difficulties in breathing. These are often a result or indication of other diseases. Read on to find out the causes, symptoms, and best home remedies for getting rid of tightness in chest:
More on Angina This is a kind of pain that comes from the heart. Like every other muscle in the body, the heart needs a good amount of blood supply. When the coronary arteries get narrowed, it reduces the blood supply to the heart muscles which results in pain. The chest pain that is caused due to this particular condition at times feels like an ache spread all across the front side of your chest region as and when you are under some kind of physical exertion. Angina pain often automatically eases up when you rest for a while. It is also important to note that this kind of pain can also be felt in your arms, neck, jaw, or your stomach.
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