Chest Pains during anxiety & panic attacks

Anxiety chest pain explained

Anxiety and panic attacks sufferers everywhere are often rushed to hospital or visit the doctor with chest pains which seem to eminate from the region around the heart. But what is at work beneath the surface? What leads people to believe that they are ill?

The chest forms a large proportion of the body and within it above and around all the organs are muscles, blood vessels and nerves which can produce pain and discomfort. The anxiety response is designed to keep us safe and despite some of the symptoms of high anxiety ‘feeling’ horrendous and frightening, they are not the sign of illness or injury. Did you see the emphasis put on the word FEELING in that last sentence.

The word feeling conjures up many thoughts, mostly to do with emotions, but the emotions all produce physical ‘feeling’s so that we get a true experience of that emotion. Imagine how happiness would be without laughing or sadness without crying… the emotions depend on physical responses otherwise we wouldn’t know how we are ‘feeling’.

Chest pains are no exception. They are a part of the the physical manifestation of the emotion of fear brought about by the anxiety response. OK, they’re not particularly useful symptoms but they are symptoms nontheless and also completely harmless.

So what causes these chest pains?

Our medical advisers make it clear, most of the pain symptoms that anxiety sufferers experience are due to muscle tension which constricts blood vessels and nerves in the body and where muscles are dense, such as in the chest and across the shoulders and back, most pain occurs. This pain can also refer to the head, face, arms and legs.

The term ‘face ache’ was used in old English to describe someone with anxiety. This expression comes from the referred pain often experienced by anxiety sufferers in the face that results from muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.

In addition to muscle tension, anxiety chest pains can be caused by gastrointestinal issues which arise as the anxiety response slows down digestion and diverts fluid from the digestive tract to the blood stream in order to transport oxygen to the muscles during the anxiety response. Acidity rises in the stomach causing indigestion which can cause chest pain. Trapped wind in the digestive tract can also cause pain.

During high anxiety sufferers can experience hyperventilation during which the muscles around the lungs and in fact, anywhere throughout the body can cramp and spasm.

None of these physical changes can cause harm to a sufferer but add these to the, already hightened, levels of anxiety and it is easy to see why chest pain during anxiety can acsue teh sufferer to feel threatened, frightened and concerned.

What are the some of the main symptoms experienced?

  • Racing heart
  • Palpitations
  • Missed heart beats
  • Pain or spasms
  • Breathlessness
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness and/or faintness
  • Tingling in limbs, hands and feet
  • Heaviness in arms
  • Tight muscles in neck and shoulders
  • Chest pains
  • Looking pale or blushing
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Disturbing thoughts – aggressive, sexual, perverse, morbid
  • PLUS the typical symptoms of high anxiety and panic attacks

As a society, we are conditioned to believe that chest pains are the sign of serious illness and it doesn’t help your situation when loved ones appear to be overly concerned when you say that you have pain. This often serves to highten your fear and fuel the undelying anxiety at the core of your condition.

Anxiety disorders can cause a wide range of physical sensations, discomfort and pain but in the 14 years we have been helping tens of thousands of sufferers, to our knowledge, not one person has come to any harm from chest pains or from any other anxiety symptom.

You can expect SOME pain during high anxiety!

A psychophysiologist once told us that a panic attack and constant high anxiety is similar in phsyical exertion to running a marathon. It is easy to see that, with the heightened state of anxious arousal which affects both the body and mind, the muscle pains and other symptoms would be EXPECTED during physical exercise and it is because these happen during a relative lack of physical exertion that we focus on them so intensely and perceive it as something negative instead of what it really IS.

At a programme he ran recently, Charles Linden said:

“If I had listened to every single symtom and thought I had each day, I would have had to lock myself in a dark room and applied every morsal of my intellect to try to focus on what they were saying to me. It was like trying to catch every raindrop that fell from the sky. The mind and body conspire to create every pain, flutter, sensation and thought experienced during high anxiety and there is NOTHING your can do to think your way out of it. Conscious thought doesn’t come into it. If it were that simple, the thousands I spent on CBT would have been well spent. I totaly understand my physiology and psyche now. I know what causes high anxiety and I know hwo to cure it. When mum rushed me to hospital with anxiety chest pains, I thought my last day had arrived but six hours later, sat at home, I felt stupid for wasting the doctors’ time. There were truths I had to face… I had anxiety disorder… I suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia… there was nothing else to do but find a way to recover.”Charles Linden Linden Recovery Founder

So how do you cure anxiety related chest pain?

The solution is simple. You remove the anxiety at its core and all of the asociated symptoms melt away because they aren’t symptoms, they are physical experiences of the emotion of fear and without fear, they cannot exist.