Why Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Anxiety is the bodys response to a real or perceived stressor, and anxiety and panic attacks can produce a number of physical symptoms in addition to mental turmoil.
When youre anxious, your body enters whats typically referred to as a fight or flight state, preparing to help you battle against something that could hurt you.
Your body does this in many ways, including increasing your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure, and by triggering the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Many of these fight or flight responses can cause chest pain. Common causes for chest pain include:
- Muscle tension: This is typically a result of stress and can manifest itself as tightness in the muscles in the chest.
- Increased heart rate: This can lead to feelings of pounding in the chest, heart palpitations, and coronary artery spasms.
- Hyperventilation: This is a result of shortness of breath, and can cause changes to the level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
- Increased blood pressure: This can increase oxygen demand in the heart and put a strain on the smaller blood vessels due to increased blood flow.
Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders
The risk factors for the different types of anxiety disorders can vary. For example, GAD and phobias are more common in women, but social anxiety affects men and women equally. There are some general risk factors for all types of anxiety disorders, including
- Certain personality traits, such as being shy or withdrawn when you are in new situations or meeting new people
- Traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood
- Family history of anxiety or other mental disorders
- Some physical health conditions, such as thyroid problems or arrhythmia
Complications Of Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is treatable and you can make a full recovery. But it’s best to get medical help as soon as you can.
If you do not get medical help, panic disorder can escalate and become very difficult to cope with.
Having panic disorder may affect your ability to drive. The law requires you to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency about a medical condition that could impact your driving ability.
Visit GOV.UK for further information about driving with a disability or health condition.
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Tips To Manage Your Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attack causes are varied and there are things you can do to manage your anxiety attacks.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that we all experience at one time or another. Its what we feel when were confronted with a challenging situation, and it helps us stay alert and focused. However, for some people, anxiety can become so intense that it interferes with their daily lives. So, here are some tips to manage your anxiety attacks:
The Best Treatment For Anxiety Facing Your Fears
We know that anxiety disorders are maintained by avoidance. For example, if you are afraid of dogs, you avoid them. While this keeps you safe in the moment, it also feeds your fear because it takes away any opportunities you may have to learn more about dogsthat while some bite, others are cuddly, empathic, and silly.
If you are experiencing anxiety that has been prolonged, causes you significant distress, or impairs your ability to function, it may be time to seek help. The good news is that effective treatment is available in a variety of forms.
Although there are different ways to approach anxiety treatment, we know that exposure therapy has proven to be incredibly helpful. At the heart of the approach is tackling problematic avoidance and increasing willingness to experience discomfort.
Sometimes medications are used to augment exposure-based treatment for anxiety. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other antidepressants may be useful here to help individuals better engage in exposure-based work.
Newer treatments, like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, meditation, and acceptance-based approaches, like acceptance and commitment therapy, have also been shown to be effective.
Finally, maintaining healthy behaviors, such as regular physical exercise, good sleep hygiene, and avoiding the use of alcohol or caffeine, can also be helpful.
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Example : A Concerning Level Of Anxiety
The second example describes an individual experiencing worry and depending on the level of distress and functional impairment caused, may indicate that treatment for anxiety might be helpful.
Worry is a mental activity that, somewhat counterintuitively, functions as an anxiety avoidance strategy, though its one that doesnt work very well. Its hard to simply stop worrying.
Typically, when individuals find themselves stuck in a worry cycle, learning acceptance and mindfulness skills from acceptance-based behavior therapy can be useful.
What Are The Causes Of An Anxiety Attack
It can be helpful to understand what is causing your anxiety to spike, because once you know whats causing an anxiety attack, you can work on addressing that, in the hope that it will stop you from continuing to have anxiety attacks.
Usually anxiety attacks have more than one causeoften, several factors are at play at once. For example, an anxiety attack might come on when you havent slept well for a few nights in a row, youve drunk more caffeine than usual, and your workload has piled up at the same time.
In other words, often anxiety attacks come on because of a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.
Often, certain situations in life and life stressors are a cause of anxiety attacks. These may include:
- An upsetting health diagnosis
- Life transitions and identity crises
Additionally, certain people seem to have an increased propensity toward anxiety and anxiety attacks. Some factors that may make you more susceptible include:
- Genetics, as anxiety tends to run in families
- Chemical imbalances, ongoing stress can change our hormonal and neurological make-up
- A history of trauma, or PTSD
Finally, there are certain risk factors that may make you more likely to experience an anxiety attack at some point in your life:
What Are Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or anxiety that can cause physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Panic attacks are often triggered by stressful situations, such as public speaking or flying on an airplane. However, they can also occur without any obvious trigger.
Panic attacks usually last for a few minutes, but the feeling of terror and dread can last much longer. Many people experience recurrent panic attacks, which can lead to a diagnosis of panic disorder. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurring and unexpected panic attacks.
Getting Help For A Panic Disorder
You should be aware that in certain situations panic attacks may be unavoidable. A healthy combination of daily exercise and a balanced diet helps lessen the likelihood of a panic attack. Avoiding caffeinated beverages and taking herbal remedies may also help reduce stress and decrease the symptoms. It is important to find help on treating panic disorder for you or your loved one.
Recovering from panic disorder is difficult, if not impossible, without outside help. You can call us at to discuss panic disorder treatment options. In the meantime, you can start by creating an action plan to alleviate your anxiety, fear and panic attacks.
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How Can I Prevent Panic Attacks
Your healthcare provider can help you identify triggers that bring on panic attacks. During psychotherapy, you learn strategies to manage triggering events and prevent an attack. You can also take these actions to lower your odds of having a panic attack:
- Cut back on caffeine.
- Talk to your doctor before taking herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications. Certain substances can increase anxiety.
Environmental Causes Of Anxiety Disorders
We have spent a lot of time on CalmClinic discussing the biological and genetic components of anxiety. But for most people, anxiety is going to be largely environmental. For some, it may be difficult to find the cause at all, because not all anxiety is as simple as pointing to a specific moment.
Even if you have a genetic predisposition to anxiety , your environment is going to play a key role in whether you develop an anxiety disorder. Most believe that environment plays a triggering role in anxiety disorders, and in some cases may cause anxiety disorders by themselves.
In this case, environment includes everything that is not genetic – every experience you have, every place you go, and everything youve been taught.
According to a study of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins , monozygotic twins – who both share the same DNA – were twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders than fraternal twins, but in each of these cases their genetics did not guarantee an anxiety disorder, which indicates that environment still plays a role.
Its also strongly believed that people can develop anxiety disorders from the environment alone. This is supported by the idea that anxiety can be treated without any medicine or surgery, indicating that a great deal of mental health is forged by life experiences.
Common environmental causes of anxiety include:
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Medications Can Trigger An Anxiety Attack
Certain medications have some ugly side effects and can cause anxiety symptoms or an anxiety attack. Prescription medications to watch out for include thyroid drugs and asthma drugs, while over-the-counter decongestants have been known to cause anxiety symptoms in some people. If you suddenly stop taking certain medications sometimes used to treat anxiety, such as benzodiazepines, withdrawal may cause added anxiety.
Anxiety Chest Pain Symptoms
Anxiety chest pain can feel different to different people. Symptoms in the chest area can be described as:
- Sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain
- Persistent, dull aching
- Twitching or spasms
These uncomfortable feelings can come on gradually, or all at once.
It is more typical, however, for chest pain to present itself during panic or anxiety attacks that come on quickly, and for the sufferer to already feel anxious before the chest pain starts.
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The Causes Of Anxiety
The true cause of anxiety is being a human being, gifted with the capacity to imagine a future. As a mental state of apprehension about what might, or might not, lie ahead, anxiety reflects uncertainty about future circumstances, whether regarding ones own health, job, or love life, or climate change or a downturn in the economy. It can be triggered by events in the real worldan upcoming doctors visit, relationship conflict, a rent increaseor generated wholly internally, through thoughts of real or imagined threats .
Occasional bouts of anxiety are entirely normal and one of the unavoidable costs of being alive anxiety alerts us to danger, compels our attention, and urges us to make necessary preparations to protect ourselves. But sometimes worries intensify or persist, endlessly caroming through the brain without engaging problem-solving mechanisms, or overwhelming them, and impairing the ability to function. Many factors can contribute to prolonged ruminationworry, the cognitive component of anxiety over uncertain outcomes.
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Do Genes Cause Anxiety
No one has ever identified an anxiety gene, and it is unlikely that one will ever emerge anxiety proves to be a complex condition that arises through many pathways. Some studies estimate that the heritability of generalized anxiety is no more than 30 percent. As with the transmission of depression-prone styles of thinking, families lastingly shape their children by many means. For example, the adults may display and, by the power of repeated example, silently pass on to their children skills for coping with the kinds of emotionally disruptive experiences that can trigger anxietyor they may become disorganized and unable to function by such experiences. Nevertheless, studies indicate that genes lay a foundation for anxiety primarily by contributing to the personality trait of neuroticism, characterized by volatility of the negative emotion system. It is observable in the readiness to perceive the negative aspects of challenging situations and to react to them with negative emotions.
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Other Links Between Anxiety And The Brain
Another interesting relationship between anxiety and the brain is that long term anxiety may damage the brain in a way that could cause further anxiety. Researchers have found that when you leave your anxiety disorder untreated, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, hippocampus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex all appear to decrease in size. The longer the anxiety goes untreated, the smaller and weaker they appear to be.
What’s interesting is that not only do these changes affect anxiety symptoms they also create anxious thoughts. Those with anxiety may feel their thoughts are completely natural, when in reality the brain contributes to that type of negative thinking.
Differences In How They Start
Anxiety can be a to a specific worry, fear, or stress. It tends to develop gradually, and a person is usually worried or concerned at the outset. It can be mild, moderate or severe.
A panic attack can happen without warning and can give people a feeling of being out of control. A panic attack may occur whether a person feels calm or anxious, and even during sleep. There may be no obvious cause, and the level of fear is out of proportion to the trigger.
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Public Events Or Performances
Public speaking, talking in front of your boss, performing in a competition, or even just reading aloud is a common trigger of anxiety. If your job or hobbies require this, your doctor or therapist can work with you to learn ways to be more comfortable in these settings.
Also, positive reinforcements from friends and colleagues can help you feel more comfortable and confident.
Are There Risk Factors For Anxiety
There are multiple factors that create vulnerability to anxiety under stressful circumstances. On a purely psychological level is the ability to manage negative emotions. People lacking emotion regulation skills are at heightened risk of both anxiety and depression. Having a history of adverse life experiences during childhood, such as intense maltreatment or bouts of serious illness, also predisposes people to anxiety. It doesnt change the makeup of genes but it can permanently alter their level of activity so that that the brain is constantly on the lookout for and perceiving potential threats. Perhaps the strongest risk factor for anxiety is having the personality trait of neuroticism. It denotes the degree to which the negative affect system is readily activated. People high in trait neuroticism are dispositionally inclined to find experiences distressing and to worry.
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How To Recognise A Panic Disorder
When panic attacks are repeated or persistent, its a sign that someone may have a panic disorder. The symptoms of a panic disorder are:
- experiencing at least 4 physical symptoms and
- worrying for at least 1 month about having more attacks or
- worrying about what the attacks mean or
- exhibiting a significant change in behaviour related to the attacks.
Can Stress Bring On Anxiety
Anxiety and stress are intimately related anxiety is a reaction to stress. Anxiety is the name we give to the internal sensations of warning generated by the bodys reaction to a mental or physical threat. The sensations are set in motion by the stress response system, whose job is to alert us to and protect us from danger. Without waiting for us to make a conscious assessment of any danger, it swiftly sends out chemical warning signals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to various organs. The physical discomfort of anxiety is like a bodyguard its job is to protect us by jolting us into action. But it can persist and, by altering the function of neural circuits in the brain, overwhelm the ability to exert rational control.
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Join Groups And Make Friends With Similar People
Our courses are filled with like-minded people. Most people have anxiety in some shape or form – whether thats social anxiety, public speaking anxiety or lacking in confidence. Our groups leave courses having made friends with peers in similar situations. They find these new connections to be extremely supportive, giving them a network that they can confide in, trust, and get advice whenever they need it.
There are plenty of groups out there for people living with anxiety and panic attacks. It might seem daunting at first to attend them, but the opportunity to interact with people who can understand you is invaluable. You never know, you could meet a life-long friend!
If youd like to find out more about our training, head over to our courses page.
Eat A Good Diet With Plenty Of Fruit And Vegetables
Forget eating to stay slim, you should eat to keep your body and mind healthy.
A good, balanced diet filled with lots of fruit, vegetables and natural foods really will make you feel and think better. Processed foods that are high in refined sugars, have been proven to be harmful to the brain. They trigger inflammation and oxidative stress – which can worsen your moods, and even lead to depression.
So make sure you prioritise what you’re putting into your body and have a healthy diet, as it’s highly likely to lessen your feelings of anxiety.