Can I Get Chest Pain From Anxiety?

Updated August 18, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Anxiety can spring up from many different sources in our lives, and it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. While some people’s symptoms may be limited to the emotional or psychological effects of anxiety, many people also experience physical symptoms. Some of the common physical symptoms of anxiety are tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. While these symptoms can also point to more significant health problems like coronary heart disease or a heart attack, if you’re a young and generally healthy person, it’s more likely a result of an anxiety attack. In this article, we’ll be exploring how chest pain and anxiety are linked and discussing tools for managing each.

Different Coping Strategies Can Help You Feel Less Anxious

Can I Get Chest Pain From Anxiety?

Within the United States alone, around 31.1% of adults experience different types of anxiety disorders at some point in their lives. While there can be various causes and factors that contribute to chest pain or angina, anxiety is among them. The reasons for chest pain caused by anxiety can differ and include: 

  • Cardiac reasons for anxiety-induced chest pain are caused directly by the functioning of the heart organ. This means that the heart muscle is contracting and straining, and you feel the pain in your chest due to the heart’s strain. This tight contraction is often caused by hyperventilation, which is fast and shallow breathing that doesn’t bring enough oxygen into the lungs. This could be a typical physical response to an anxiety attack.
  • Non-cardiac reasons for anxiety-induced chest pain usually originate in the musculoskeletal system or esophagus. This means that even though you feel the chest pain near your heart, the pain itself is actually caused by muscles near the throat or along the intercostal chest contracting. These contractions are also often caused by hyperventilation. This is a precise instance of chest pain caused by anxiety. While an anxiety disorder can cause cardiac and non-cardiac chest pain, it can be important to note that hyperventilation also often plays a role. Being mindful of hyperventilation can be an effective way to predict future episodes of anxiety-induced chest pain.

Anxiety-Induced Chest Pain Vs. Heart Attack

If you’re prone to anxiety-induced chest pain, it can be crucial to know the difference between anxiety attack symptoms and heart attack symptoms. Understanding these differences can prompt you to act and save your life since cardiac issues need to be handled quickly.


Almost 25% of patients admitted to emergency rooms with chest pains are found to have been experiencing anxiety-induced chest pain and not a heart attack. Of that 25%, most of them are young women. However, while the symptoms and signs of anxiety-induced chest pain may be similar to those of a heart attack, there are some key differences.

For one, the risk factors are different. While symptoms of panic or anxiety attacks may look similar, a heart attack (and related heart attack pain) usually doesn’t happen without risk factors. For example, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. The risk factors for coronary artery disease include older age, high blood pressure, tobacco use, family history of heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. So, if you’re free of these risk factors, you’re more likely to experience anxiety-induced chest pain than a heart attack.

What To Do If You Feel Chest Pain

Since you may not know if you’re experiencing anxiety, chest pain, or a deeper, more immediately threatening cardiac problem, it can be important to take stock of your situation as soon as you start to feel chest pain and angina. If you’re experiencing chest pain, try not to panic and do what you can to stay calm.

Then, try to take deep breaths. If the chest pain has been brought on by anxiety, then deep breathing can help to relax the muscles that usually contract and cause the pain in the first place. If this does nothing to help ease the chest pain, consider contacting a doctor for advice on how to proceed. If you think it’s heart attack pain you’re experiencing, immediately call an ambulance.

When Anxiety Attacks

While chest pain and anxiety don’t always go hand in hand, chest pain combined with anxious thoughts, feelings of dread, and a triggering situation can be key indicators of an anxiety attack. One of the most common physical symptoms of an anxiety attack is tightness in the chest or chest pain. Shallow breathing or shortness of breath, trembling, or tightness in the muscles are other common anxiety symptoms. There are several small exercises that you can do if you feel your chest aching and suspect that anxiety could be the cause. These include: 

Avoid Triggering Situations

You may be able to prevent anxiety attacks before they even start by avoiding stressful or triggering situations when possible. It can be difficult to determine when and where triggers of an anxiety attack may pop up, but you can practice being aware of places, times, and events when they’re more likely to be present. For example, if crowded spaces or loud noises are triggering for you, then you may want to politely decline your friend’s invitation to their rock concert. Or, if being in unfamiliar social situations is unnerving and triggering for you, you can bring an understanding friend as your plus-one instead of refusing to attend a friend’s wedding. These steps can help reduce and even prevent the common symptom of anxiety.

Whatever your triggers may be, it can be important to identify them and avoid them when you can. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you must stay in all the time for fear of a panic or anxiety attack. Instead, make a habit of recording your anxiety attacks in a journal, along with a detailed description of the trigger that caused it. Over time, you may notice patterns that can help you identify specific situations to avoid while continuing to live and enjoy your life.

Deep Breathing And Mindfulness

You can also practice measured and deep breathing to help focus your mind on your body. This can promote oxygen flow to your core and muscles, preventing them from tightening and causing chest pain. When you experience anxiety, it can be important to focus on your body's tangible parts experiencing chest pain. Try taking deep breaths, and imagine that you are directing the clean, fresh, oxygen-filled air to specific parts of your body. Start with your chest: inhale and send fresh air straight to your heart. This method can help stop anxiety or panic attacks, and it can reduce anxiety related to stress as well.

Once your breathing is under control and you’re not hyperventilating, turn your attention to the things around you. Identify one thing that you can smell at that moment, touch something near you, and spend a full minute describing it to yourself. These small mindfulness exercises, and others like them, can help move your attention away from the anxiety attack and the triggering situation that caused it.

Long-Term Work With A Therapist

One of the most effective and long-lasting ways to treat an anxiety disorder is to work with a therapist. While this may not be the fastest or easiest route, it is a treatment option that has shown remarkable results for many patients. This can help to reduce anxiety in your life in general.

While there are different methods for diving into an anxiety disorder, most therapists will take the time to talk through your experiences before coming up with a treatment plan. They can then encourage and help you explore the triggers and situations that often lead you to develop anxiety. Over time, anxiety may become less and less of a problem as you make progress in overcoming it. 

While these options can be helpful for treating anxiety disorders and panic disorders as a whole, they shouldn’t be a substitute for also talking to your doctor about chest pain. If you need medical advice about chest pain or anxiety disorders, you will likely need to talk to a doctor or other professional experienced in these areas. 

What If The Chest Pain Continues?

If you experience chest pain for longer than several minutes, it can be important to consult a doctor. If the acute pain subsides, but there is lingering, dull chest pain, see your doctor for advice. This dull and long-lasting pain could be the symptom of many disorders, but it is not often associated with an anxiety disorder or panic attack. It could be a symptom of coronary problems or heart disease. Your doctor can investigate it to help set your mind at ease. When it comes to chest pain, try to err on the side of caution. This means that if you have even a suspicion that your chest pain is more than an anxiety attack, take it up with a medical professional. Remember, in matters of the heart, it can be vital to be safe. 

Getty/Evgeniia Siiankovskaia
Different Coping Strategies Can Help You Feel Less Anxious

Getting Support For Anxiety

While there are many ways to manage and treat anxiety, some methods may work more effectively than others, depending on the person. If you’re experiencing chest pain or any other symptoms associated with anxiety, it can be vital to speak with a professional. Regain is an online counseling platform that offers convenient, affordable therapy services from licensed mental health professionals. They can help you determine where your anxiety might be stemming from and work with you to come up with a treatment plan. If you have a specific type of anxiety, like social anxiety, it may feel intimidating to meet with a therapist face to face. With online counseling, you can speak with a therapist from the comfort of your home and chat with them through video calls, phone calls, or in-app messaging, depending on what you’re comfortable with. No matter what your circumstances are, help is available. 

The Effectiveness Of Online Counseling For Anxiety

Online therapy has been proven to be effective in addressing a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety. In one study, researchers found that an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention successfully reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and more. CBT is a type of therapy that helps people identify and then alter their negative beliefs about themselves and their abilities. Over time, they can learn how to think more positively and experience behavioral changes as a result. 

The Takeaway

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that can be accompanied by several different symptoms, including chest pain. If you’re experiencing any sort of pain, it can be important to see a doctor to rule out any other medical conditions. Likewise, it can be crucial to visit a mental health professional if you believe you may have anxiety. Once you’ve received a diagnosis from a professional, you can begin treating the problem. Although anxiety doesn’t have a cure, there are many ways to manage its symptoms. A therapist can equip you with coping techniques and skills that allow you to live a productive, healthy life. 

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