How To Relieve Chest Pain From Anxiety
By Sarah Fader
Updated January 01, 2019
Reviewer Tanya Harell
Anxiety, whether chronic or acute, can give a person a variety of symptoms like irritability, intense fear, or shortness of breath. Chest pain from anxiety is a common symptom, particularly during anxiety or panic attacks. Whether you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or if you infrequently experience anxiety, chest pain can be frightening. There are ways to alleviate chest pains when they are occurring and before they happen.
What Causes Chest Pain from Anxiety?
First, how does anxiety cause chest pain? When someone experiences intense anxiety (usually an anxiety attack), they often hyperventilate. This causes a rapid intake of oxygen and the expansion and contraction of blood vessels in your lungs. Additionally, anxiety causes your body to jump into fight-or-flight mode.
The fight or flight response causes your muscles to tighten and adrenaline to be pumped through your body, which can ultimately cause pain in your chest. Given that these symptoms resemble an actual medical emergency and heart problems, it is important to identify if these symptoms have ever occurred before. Your medical doctor can help you determine if your chest pains are caused by anxiety or by a heart condition.
How Do I Prevent Chest Pain During an Anxiety Attack?
It may take several minutes for your body to return to normal after experiencing an anxiety attack. This is an uncomfortably long time to experience chest pain, so having some tricks will help you to be ready the next time you experience an anxiety attack. This doesn't have to mean learning how to shut down your attack, but if you are able to release some tension in your muscles or lessen the attack somewhat, the chest pain may be alleviated.
The overall goal for you should be to figure out how to calm yourself down. This may include engaging in deep breathing, repeating a calming mantra, or immediately removing yourself from a potentially threatening situation. Maybe shutting off one of your senses will be helpful for you (like closing your eyes). This will likely require some trial and error to determine what works best for you, but be sure to take note of which strategies help.
How Do I Prevent Chest Pain in the Long Term?
It is better to never experience chest pain than to have to deal with it when it happens. This requires forethought in tackling the reasons you are experiencing anxiety and creating a plan when anxiety strikes. For some people, chest pains from anxiety are made worse because of diet. Eating the right food and avoiding the wrong foods (like caffeine and alcohol) can help to relieve anxiety, but may also help to reduce the chance that you will experience chest pain as a symptom. Dedicating part of your day to relaxing meditation and exercise has also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Although these tips might help, there is no better substitute than speaking with a licensed mental health professional. Today, there are many opportunities to speak with someone online who can help. Speaking to a licensed mental health professional will allow you to immediately get started on relieving your symptoms of anxiety and reducing the frequency of chest pain associated with anxiety attacks.