What Does Anxiety Feel Like Physically
The physical symptoms of anxiety are often the first sign of an underlying problem. You may have experienced these symptoms before without realizing what they were caused by.
If you notice any new or worsening physical symptoms, talk with your doctor about what they could mean for your health.
In this article, we will explore the physical symptoms of anxiety and why they happen.
Read on to learn more about this condition that many people experience but few understand well enough!
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Why Do Physical Symptoms Happen
Physical symptoms of anxiety occur as a result of our fight or flight response, which occurs when our brain perceives a threat. During fight or flight, our bodies prepare to either flee or fight the threat by initiating certain chemical and physical processes in the nervous system.
Common physical symptoms caused by anxiety include:
- Changes in breathing, which happen because the tension in your body prevents your lungs from completely exhaling. This tension can cause your breathing to become shallower, shorter, or may even cause you to start holding your breath.
- Muscle tightness, which happens because of tension that spreads throughout your body. Muscle tightness can be felt in multiple parts of your body and may be experienced differently for different people, but muscle tightness from anxiety is commonly felt in the jaw, neck, chest, or stomach. When this muscle tightness persists because of persistent anxiety, it can turn into muscle pain, and this is why chest pain may occur because of anxiety.
- Changes in heartbeat, which may have several different causes. One main cause is shortness of breath which then causes your heart to pump more oxygen into your blood as a means of compensating.
- Cold extremities and lightheadedness may happen as the result of blood flow being pulled toward your main organs and away from your extremities. This happens because anxiety can cause your body to perceive an emergency situation.
How To Explain What Anxiety Feels Like
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America. However, many people struggle to identify how their anxiety truly makes them feel. That is because anxiety- like all mental illnesses- is complex. It affects everyone differently, and the symptoms can vary dramatically from person to person.
Furthermore, some people do not quite understand how anxiety works. They may assume you are overreacting with your feelings or symptoms. They might also believe that you can just get over how you feel through willpower.
But if you struggle with anxiety, you know that you cannot just get over your thoughts. You also know that these thoughts may not always be rational or even helpful. Let us break down how to describe what anxiety feels like.
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Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain What Does It Feel Like And How Long Does It Last
Anxiety absolutely can be associated with chest discomfort, which may manifest in different ways. Some people may feel pressure, a sense of fear in the chest, a racing heart, palpitations, irregular heartbeats, or changes in heart rate or rhythm. This is largely due to the sympathetic nervous system , which causes the bodyâs fight-or-flight response, but there are less scientific reasons also. For instance, many emotionsâsuch as loveâare perceived in the chest.
The duration of an anxiety attack really depends, but it usually lasts for minutes, not seconds and not usually hours. Itâs difficult to reassure someone their chest pain is due to anxiety without a physical exam, and occasionally without more definitive testing, like cardiac electrical tracing or longer heart monitoring.
Because chest pain has so many potential causes, only some of them originating from the heart, anxiety is usually a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning other possible causes must be considered first.
Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
Panic attacks, on the other hand, do not require a stressor. A panic attack can happen at any time and often has more severe symptoms than an anxiety attack. Panic attacks are episodes of overwhelming fear where the individual may have trouble breathing, chest pain, and feel as if they are going to have a heart attack or lose control.
The best way to begin learning how to manage these attacks is to recognize the symptoms and track any stressful circumstances that could serve as triggers. By taking the time to understand your condition and triggers better, you will be better equipped to handle these episodes. Both physical symptoms and mental symptoms can occur.
Signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack can include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Perceived loss of control
Experiencing frequent anxiety attacks can take a toll on your life. You may be wary of certain situations and be especially careful around any known triggers. This avoidance, while useful in preventing some anxiety attacks from occurring, can make going about a daily routine difficult. Certain places and situations that are ordinary chores or responsibilities may be difficult to fulfill.
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Is It A Heart Attack Or Panic Attack
Its always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health. So if you cant tell if youre having a heart attack or panic attack, seek medical attention right away.
If youre in the Gonzales, LA area, stop by Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzales to get checked out. Were open 7 days a week from 9 am to 8 pm to address your medical needs, so contact us any time.
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.7
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.
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Anxiety Chest Pains: Knowing The Signs And Symptoms
While it is normal to experience some anxiety every now and then, people living with anxiety disorders can deal with intense and frequent bouts of anxiety, excessive worry, and intense fear. Anxiety disorders can make it feel like you are never able to relax, and your feelings of anxiety or panic may significantly interfere with your ability to complete your daily tasks and activities.
Anxiety disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms, including physical symptoms, and it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your symptoms are being caused by your anxiety, or if they are being caused by another medical problem altogether.
Chest pain is one specific physical symptom of anxiety that can be particularly alarming, but there are a few ways you can tell the difference between anxiety chest pain and chest pain caused by something more serious, like a heart attack.
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.
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Why Does Anxiety Lead To Chest Tightness
Several processes act together to create different symptoms of anxiety, including chest tightness . One involves hormones.
If you sense a threat or fear, that triggers a release of adrenaline hormone, explains Dr. Cazabon. Your heart rate goes up, blood pressure can go up. Your vascular vessels can tighten a little bit. The chest muscles can also tighten and can give you the feeling of something squeezing, he says. The stress hormone cortisol also plays a role.
Common Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders
Here are some of the most common anxiety symptoms:
1. Nonstop worrying
When you are worrying disproportionately high in response to normal situations, it may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.
The worrying must be intrusive, obsessive, and occur on most days for at least six months.
Usually, people under 65 are the highest risk group for generalized anxiety disorder. This is true especially in those of lower socioeconomic status.
Excessive worrying is a trademark of generalized anxiety disorder.
If you are anxious, your body will experience a cascade of effects. You might experience a racing heart, sweaty palms, and dry mouth.
Your body moves blood from your digestive system and into your muscles in preparation for fight or flight. You become increasingly irritable and agitated.
Fatigue may follow an anxiety attack. The fatigue may be caused by other factors, like insomnia, or hormonal effects. It may also be a sign of depression.
4. Lack of focus
Many people report difficulty focusing when dealing with anxiety. In a study with children and teens, they found that 66% of them had a hard time concentrating.
Being tense is a frequent symptom of anxiety. It’s possible that muscle tension also causes more anxiety as well.
People with anxiety report feeling on edge. In a study with children with anxiety disorder, it found that 3/4 of the subjects reported restlessness as the main symptom.
7. Difficulty sleeping
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Other Possible Causes Of Physical Chest Pain
Other possible causes of physical chest pain can be:
Reducing And Managing Anxiety Chest Pain
If you’re experiencing new or frequent panic attacks or persistent anxiety-related chest pain, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Together, you can create a treatment plan that suits your lifestyle and reduces your symptoms.
In the meantime, there are a few methods you can try at home to reduce your symptoms, including:
Practice mindfulness: When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious, pause. Step back from the task at hand and take a deep breath. Take note of your surroundings and remind yourself that you are okay. You are safe.
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Heres How And When To Get Professional Help
Now for a bright side: Its totally possible to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Therapy is often a crucial part of treatment, especially methods like cognitive behavioral therapy, to help you retrain your brains anxious thoughts. Medications like antianxiety drugs may help too, as can lifestyle changes, including joining a support group or picking up some stress-management techniques. The best course of treatment is different for everyone and will depend on your specific symptoms. For many people, a blend of techniques will work best.
Speaking of professional help, you might find yourself wondering when to know its time to seek some for your physical symptoms of anxiety. Honestly, theres no clear-cut answer, but a good rule of thumb is if these symptoms are getting in the way of your life, you might want to consider seeing someone. Even if they dont feel super disruptive, it cant hurt to check with your doctor or make an appointment with a therapist. Because, hey, you could always feel better.
If youre feeling ready to take a step toward professional help, this guide to finding an affordable therapist is a solid place to start.
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Know The Difference: Anxiety Symptoms Vs Heart Conditions
As mentioned above, anxiety-related chest pain is frequently mistaken for a heart attack or other heart condition. But there are key differences between the two. For example, anxiety-related chest pain usually occurs while you’re not engaged in any physical activity. You may experience anxiety chest pain while working out, for example, but it usually occurs while you’re sitting down or lying in bed.
In contrast, those with a heart condition have chest pain while physically exerting themselves. For example, the symptoms may flare up while you’re running, jogging, or lifting something heavy. Chest pain isn’t the only indicator of something more immediately threatening, like a heart attack. Sometimes, patients have heart attacks without feeling any chest pain ³. Instead, the key indicators of a heart attack include:
Tightness or shooting pain in your jaw, left arm, or other parts of your body
Squeezing or heavy pressure in your chest
Nausea that occurs with chest pain
Shortness of breath and a rapid heart rate
If you are unsure whether you’re experiencing anxiety or a heart attack, seek treatment immediately. It’s much better to leave the ER with peace of mind than to let a heart attack go untreated. You should be especially careful if you’re at an increased risk of having a heart attack due to your age, family history, or lifestyle.
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