Anxiety and Chest Pain: Are They Linked?

Anxiety and Chest Pain: Are They Linked?

Experiencing chest pain can be quite alarming, and a significant number of people rush to the emergency department out of fear. Surprisingly, nearly half of them find out that their heart is not the issue. In many of these cases, anxiety is identified as the cause of the discomfort.

Anxiety and chest pain are closely linked, but this doesn’t imply you can always chalk it up to anxiety. If there's a potential for a heart condition or a heart attack, delaying medical help can be life-threatening.

If you fear you might be having a heart attack, dial 911 immediately. Otherwise, the professionals at Gulf West Medical Associates in Port Richey, Florida can conduct office diagnostics to swiftly determine if you're dealing with heart disease.

Let's explore how anxiety triggers chest pain and whether it's possible to distinguish between anxiety and heart-related symptoms.

A deeper look at anxiety

Anxiety is your body's instinctive response to danger, whether the threat is imminent or anticipated. Whenever you feel anxious, your brain instinctively releases hormones that activate the fight-or-flight response.

Whether you're held up in traffic, anxious about a job interview, or confronting a hazardous situation, your brain's innate reaction energizes your body to confront the danger or swiftly respond and evade the situation.

How anxiety leads to chest pain

When you're anxious, your brain dispatches a rush of adrenaline and cortisol through your body. These hormones instantly trigger a steep increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Consequently, many people experience chest pain and sweating, or struggle with breathing.

The abrupt rush of adrenaline can constrict the arteries in your heart and attach to cells inside the heart. This condition, known as stress cardiomyopathy, mirrors a heart attack, from symptoms to alterations in your heart’s electrical activity.

Although stress cardiomyopathy typically heals within days or weeks, it could lead to weakened heart muscles, congestive heart failure, and irregular heart rhythms.

People with anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder don't see their adrenaline and cortisol levels normalize. Persistently elevated hormone levels could provoke a panic attack and elevate your risk of heart disease.

Distinguishing symptoms of anxiety vs. cardiac chest pain

Differentiating between chest pain caused by anxiety and pain resulting from an underlying heart condition can be challenging. Besides chest pain, both may lead to:

No two issues are exactly alike, so you may experience varying symptoms. Nonetheless, the following two characteristics generally hold true and might help you identify the cause of your chest pain:

Pain location

Chest pain due to a heart attack typically disseminates throughout your chest and extends to your jaw, shoulders, and arms. In contrast, chest pain from anxiety is usually confined to your chest.

Pain patterns

Chest pain arising from a heart attack initiates slowly and intensifies gradually, while anxiety-induced chest pain occurs suddenly and gradually eases. Many people observe that chest pain related to anxiety subsides within about 10 minutes. However, other symptoms associated with anxiety can persist up to an hour after the pain subsides.

Don’t delay if you have any concerns about chest pain or other heart-related symptoms. Contact our office in Port Richey, Florida to schedule a visit with us at Gulf West Medical Associates.

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