Understanding Chest Pain in Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues, with over 40 million American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder each year. Anxiety can manifest both emotionally and physically in a variety of ways. One of the more troubling physical symptoms that can accompany anxiety is chest pain. Chest pain caused by anxiety can be worrying, but it’s important to understand where it comes from and how to manage it.

Understanding chest pain and anxiety

Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety and panic attacks. Some describe it as tightness in the chest or a feeling of heavy pressure.

Chest pain from anxiety can also feel like:

  • Sharp, stabbing pains that come and go
  • A tight ache or squeezing sensation
  • Burning in the chest or rib area
  • Tingling, prickling, or numbness

These pains are often caused by tense muscles or changes in breathing patterns brought on by anxiety. During times of stress, anxiety increases the heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and triggers the release of hormones like adrenaline. While not dangerous, these physical changes can provoke painful muscle spasms and tension around the heart and lungs.

Causes of Chest Pain in Anxiety

Causes of Chest Pain in Anxiety
Causes of Chest Pain in Anxiety

There are a few key reasons why anxiety and panic attacks can produce chest pain:

Hyperventilation: Rapid, shallow breathing during anxiety leads to low CO2 levels, causing chest tightness.

Muscle Tension: Anxious feelings tense the muscles surrounding the chest, which can lead to painful spasms.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction: Cells don’t get enough oxygen during panic attacks, resulting in chest pain.

The good news is that while anxiety-related chest pain can feel alarming, it is not life-threatening or dangerous. Once the anxiety attack passes, the chest pain usually subsides as well.

Management and Remedies

If you experience occasional chest pain related to anxiety, there are ways to get relief:

Relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation, can help reduce anxiety and relieve chest pain.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy that aims to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can help individuals with anxiety learn coping strategies and manage their symptoms, including chest pain.


In some cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to help manage anxiety and reduce chest pain.

Lifestyle changes

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can also contribute to reducing anxiety and chest pain. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and avoiding triggers like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can all help manage anxiety symptoms.

Support groups and counseling

Joining a support group or participating in counseling sessions can provide emotional support and helpful strategies for managing anxiety and its associated chest pain.

Getting anxiety under control can reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attack symptoms.

Read More: Breath Exercises for Anxiety: A Calming Guide

Prevention and Coping Strategies

Preventing anxiety-related chest pain and managing anxiety effectively are essential. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Lifestyle Changes: Incorporate regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep into your routine to reduce anxiety levels.
  • Stress Management: Learn to manage stress through techniques like yoga, tai chi, or journaling.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Practice mindfulness and deep breathing to stay grounded during anxious moments.


In conclusion, chest pain from anxiety is a real and distressing experience for many individuals. Understanding its causes, recognizing its symptoms, and knowing how to address them can make a significant difference in managing anxiety-related chest pain. Remember, seeking professional guidance is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. With the right approach, you can find relief and lead a healthier, anxiety-free life.

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