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.
Recommended Reading: Whatâs The Best Medicine For Anxiety
Is My Chest Pain Being Caused By Anxiety Or A Heart Attack
Symptoms like chest tightness and pain, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeat can be common symptoms of anxiety, but these symptoms also overlap with indicators of something more serious: a heart attack.
So, how can you tell the difference, and how will you know if you actually need to call your doctor?
A heart attack occurs when part of your heart is not receiving enough blood, typically because an artery has become blocked.
Common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pressure and pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sense of impending doom
Evidently, many of these symptoms are also common symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, but there are some main differences:
- Pain location: If you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack, your chest pain will typically stay in that location. With a heart attack, however, the pain can radiate to other areas of the body, like your arms, shoulders, and back.
- What your chest pain feels like: If you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack, the chest pain will often feel sharp and stabbing, or the discomfort may be difficult to describe. With a heart attack, the pain tends to be a squeezing feeling, feeling like there is a weight on your chest, an aching or burning sensation, and chest pressure.
Anxiety is a treatable problem, and research shows that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management can help reduce anxiety symptoms and help people feel better long-term.
Can Anxiety Cause A Weird Feeling In Your Chest
Anxiety can cause a number of physical symptoms, including a heavy feeling in the chest. Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes a person to feel worried, apprehensive, and tense. It can also cause many physical symptoms. Experiencing anxiety can lead to a heavy or tight feeling in the chest.
Recommended Reading: What Happens When You Get An Anxiety Attack
How Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Both panic attacks and anxiety attacks can cause chest pain. These attacks are similar, although an anxiety attack can be less intense.
Anxiety attacks usually relate to a specific trigger in someones life, whereas a panic attack can happen without an obvious trigger.
In both cases, the symptoms occur due to stress hormones that trigger a persons fight-or-flight response. This also causes other symptoms, such as difficulty breathing.
People who have frequent anxiety or panic attacks may have an anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
To diagnose these conditions, a doctor needs to check that a persons symptoms match those outlined in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.
Researchers do not know exactly what causes anxiety disorders, but it is likely a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Chest pain due to anxiety or panic attacks can usually feel like a sharp, stabbing sensation that starts suddenly, even if a person is inactive. However, they may be feeling stressed or anxious already before the chest pain begins.
Common accompanying symptoms of an anxiety or panic attack include:
805,000 people in the U.S. every year, only 24% of individuals with chest pain who come in to see a doctor receive a heart problem diagnosis.
Nevertheless, having chest pain can be alarming, as it is still likely it could be due to a heart attack.
Anxiety Chest Pain Treatment
You may treat anxiety chest pain with pharmacological or psychotherapeutic therapies. Depending on the severity of your anxiety, your doctor may recommend a combination of many treatments. A psychologist may be able to help you discover behavioral and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce anxiety. A psychiatrist might write you a prescription for anxiety medication.
Selective serotonin receptor inhibitors and benzodiazepines are two classes of drugs used to treat panic attacks and anxiety. These drugs are highly effective and are used to provide relief for those who suffer frequent panic attacks. While online doctors may prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety, benzodiazepines are controlled substances and cannot be prescribed online.
You May Like: Is Biting Your Nails A Sign Of Anxiety
Chest Pain In Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety-related chest pain can be severe and frightening. The pain is often sharp, fleeting, or a sudden catch that interrupts a breath.
You’re most likely feeling chest wall pain caused by intense muscle contractions. They can leave your chest hurting for hours or days after the attack.
The fear you have during an attack can magnify this kind of chest pain.
Chest pain often sends people having anxiety attacks to the emergency room. While you may be embarrassed if this happens to you, seeking medical help for chest pain is always the right choice.
How Long Can Heart Palpitations Last From Anxiety
Heart palpitations from anxiety usually go away within a few minutes. They tend to start suddenly and end quickly.
If you have recurring heart palpitations from anxiety, your healthcare provider might diagnose an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder means excessive anxiety affects your everyday activities, such as going to work or school or meeting friends.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S. They affect almost 1 in 5 people at some point.
Don’t Miss: How To Deal With Anxiety And Obsessive Thoughts
Gas And Normal Chest Pressure
Of course, there could be other things contributing to an anxious persons chest pressure and pain . One of the most common is gas . When a person is bloated or suffering from acid reflux, they may experience a excess pressure on the heart. This chest pressure can often be mistaken for a more serious heart problem.
Tachycardia Can Cause Anxiety
Abnormal heart rhythms of more than 100 beats per minute that come from the upper heart chambers are called supraventricular tachycardias . These can occur in healthy hearts as well as in people whove had prior heart injuries or problems. In most people, SVTs are random events not triggered by exercise or other activities. SVTs cause symptoms of heart palpitations, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and, at times, they may cause you to pass out. The mind responds and can cause further symptoms of anxiety and panic.
Most of the time, I encounter people whove had anxiety for a few years and for whom medications havent worked which prompted their doctors to look for additional potential causes.
Read Also: How To Know If You Have Stress Or Anxiety
What Is The Outlook For A Tight Chest
Chest tightness isnt a symptom to take lightly. If you experience chest tightness with other concerning symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Chest tightness could be a symptom of a serious health condition, like a heart attack.
If your chest tightness is the result of anxiety, you should discuss the symptoms with your doctor. Anxiety should be treated early to keep it from getting worse. Your doctor can help you implement a plan thatll reduce anxiety and chest tightness. This may include lifestyle adjustments that help you manage the anxiety from home.
Quick Read Angina Or Anxiety
- Many people go to the emergency room with chest pain that feels like a heart attack but is instead anxiety.
- Its unlikely that a young person without risk factors is having a heart attack, but you should still go to the emergency room if you experience symptoms.
Picture this: Your heart is racing. It feels like its not just beating in your chest but in your throat and neck. Its beating so hard that its impossible to think of anything else.
You feel short of breath, but short of breath doesnt quite describe it. Its more like youre smothering or choking. And when you think about it, swallowing is difficult, too.
On top of this, you are sweating and shaking uncontrollably. And you are dizzy to the point of needing to throw up.
Your chest gets tighter and tighter. You feel a sense of impending doom. Youre worried that you may be having a heart attack. What else could it be?
Recommended Reading: What’s The Best Way To Get Rid Of Anxiety
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!
Recommended Reading: Is Anxiety Considered A Disability
Chest Pain Caused By Anxiety Or Panic Attacks
Is it a heart attack or anxiety?
Chest pain is always alarming. Most of us associate it with cardiac conditions such as angina or myocardial infarction .
But chest pain can be caused by myriad conditions that have nothing to do with the heart. One common cause is an anxiety attack.
This article lays out the impact of anxiety attacks, how they cause chest pain, and what to expect when you see your healthcare provider with anxiety-related chest pain.
Verywell / Laura Porter
Read Also: Can Anxiety Cause Right Bundle Branch Block
Ask Them To Seek Professional Help
If the anxiety is severe, interfering with life activities, or causing problems, ask them to seek professional help.
You can encourage them to make an appointment with a mental health professional.
If they resist, remind them it is only an appointment and not a commitment to a long-term treatment plan.
You can also offer to help them explore their options and help them find a provider.
How Does Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Anxiety is an emotional reaction that often causes your body to respond with the fight, flight, or freeze response. This response may also temporarily change how you breathe.
Most often, your fight, flight, or freeze response can lead to hyperventilation when youre breathing too quickly and this can increase chest pain.
As many as 1 in 10 people who seek medical care report hyperventilating.
Hyperventilating can cause chest pain because rapid breathing leads to lower carbon dioxide levels in your blood. When this happens, you may also feel lightheaded or tingling in your fingers and toes.
But while anxiety-induced chest pain can be uncomfortable, it isnt harmful or dangerous.
Also Check: What Vitamins Should I Take For Anxiety
What Is Anxiety Chest Pain And Why Is It So Common
Is your chest tightness anxiety, or is it something more? Research shows that anxiety is a contributing factor for about 30% to 40% of people who experience low-risk chest pain and go to the ER.
Even just the thought of chest pain can make us, well, anxious. Feeling anxiety in chest regions, however, is a fairly common symptom of anxiety. Its the association of chest pain with heart related conditions or, in the worst cases, a heart attack, that makes any type of chest pain seem frightening.
Knowing the difference between anxiety-driven chest pain, and when it could be something more, is important. To do that, you need to understand how anxiety chest pain usually feels.
Anxiety Chest Pain Home Remedies
Home remedies for anxiety chest pain involve lifestyle changes that may help reduce your anxiety and its many symptoms.
- Stay Active:Regular exercise is great for you! In addition, physical exercise has been consistently proven to help reduce stress levels.
- Stop Drinking: Alcohol is a natural sedative and may help calm the nerves. However, reliance on alcohol is an unhealthy and dangerous habit that fails to treat the root of your anxiety.
- Stop Smoking: Like drinking, smoking is often turned to during stressful times. However, smoking is a quick fix on a problem that requires comprehensive smoking cessation treatment. Like drinking, smoking when stressed may increase your anxiety in the long term.
- Stop Drinking Caffeine: Caffeine can cause nervousness and jitters, and may also lead to panic attacks.
- Get Some Sleep: Sleep is a critical tool for preserving your mental and physical health. Without good sleep, you will not be able to function properly throughout the day.
- Eat Healthily: Low blood sugar levels, dehydration, or chemicals in processed foods can cause mood changes. A healthy diet will improve your physical and mental state.
- Deep Breathing: Deep breathing is a common strategy used to help people come down from a panic attack or high stress levels.
Also Check: Is It My Heart Or Anxiety
How To Reduce Anxiety And Chest Pain
The best way to manage chest pain is with prevention and by reducing your overall anxiety symptoms. The less you experience anxiety, the less risk you’ll have for chest pain.
If you’re currently experiencing anxiety and chest pain, the best things to do are the following:
- Control Your Breathing Recall that this type of chest pain is often caused by hyperventilation, and even if you’re not hyperventilating, getting your breathing under control is a great way to calm the nerves. Take slow, controlled breaths using deep breathing techniques that take at least 15 seconds and you’ll quickly see a difference. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, breathing deep from your diaphragm rather than shallow from your chest.
- Control Your Thoughts One of the reasons I recommend going to a doctor first is because understanding that your chest pain is anxiety related reduces the severity of the experience. If you know that your heart is in good health, don’t let your thoughts spiral out of control because that may make the chest pain worse.
- Control Your Environment Chest pain caused by thoughts or anxiety is often made worse when you sit and focus on the experience. See if you can give yourself a healthy coping distraction, and much of the chest pain will fade away. Some suggestions for this include changing your location , listen to relaxing or happy music, talk on the phone with a trusted friend, or use grounding techniques to focus on the present.
What Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are characterized by prolonged or recurring feelings of anxiety that impair your daily life. In some cases, these feelings are so severe that they may cause you to avoid any situation that can produce them. There are various types of anxiety disorders such as:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Sweating when its not hot
- Avoiding certain situations that cause anxiety
Oftentimes when people feel extremely anxious, they may feel like they are having a panic attack. However, if youve never had a panic attack before, it can be tough to determine what is happening. While feelings of extreme anxiety and panic attacks are very similar, there are a few key distinctions to help you determine if you are having a panic attack. The first thing to know is that panic attacks come on suddenly and can cause you to feel extremely distressed in only a matter of minutes. Panic attacks are also classified as experiencing four or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
Recommended Reading: Do Energy Drinks Cause Anxiety
Read Also: Does Anxiety Cause You To Pee A Lot
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.
Also Check: How Does Meditation Help Anxiety