As an anxiety sufferer you might be very familiar with having a constant chest tightness from anxiety. This is hardly surprising as chest pains related to anxiety or panic are evident in a very large percentage of anxiety sufferers.
The first time that you experience such chest discomfort, or even chest pain, it’s only natural to worry that it could be caused by a heart attack or something similar. Indeed, many people end up calling their doctor out or going to the Accident & Emergency department because they’re convinced they’re suffering a major medical crisis, such as having a heart attack.
Chest tightness is only one of the symptoms you may experience with an anxiety attack (otherwise known as a panic attack). A person suffering an anxiety attack can experience many different symptoms, some of which can be so severe that the person experiencing them becomes convinced that they must be caused by something more “serious” than anxiety. The fear that you’re having a heart attack is a very common one and perfectly understandable when you realise that a pounding heart and rapid heart beat are two classic symptoms of an anxiety attack.
So when a person experiences tightness in the chest with anxiety, it’s easy to conclude that there might be something wrong with their heart.
Anxiety sufferers are often told that their anxiety problems are “all in your head” so it seems perfectly logical therefore to think that physical problems are caused by something different. They’re not, of course. In fact, it’s very rare for any of these symptoms to be caused by anything else other than the original feelings of anxiety and fear. Nevertheless it is always a good idea to see your doctor initially to rule out the possibility of anything more serious.
When people talk about their chest tightness from anxiety they usually speak of a tight feeling or a tense feeling in the chest. Or they may describe it at as a chest pain or a general feeling of discomfort in that area of the body. Some have likened it to the same feeling that you can get when you have a tension headache – only they feel that tension in their chest instead.
Reassuringly, heart attack symptoms are usually very different from those I’ve just described. Doctors describe it as an intense crushing feeling to the chest, often accompanied by a numbness, tingling or unusual feeling in the left arm. So, as you can see, these two types of symptoms are very different from each other.
So why does anxiety cause you to have tightness in your chest?
The simple answer is – stress! Stress is a ‘normal’ function of everyday life. But, when left unchecked, it can lead to anxiety.
With anxiety, fear overcomes all emotions and brings worry and apprehension, making a person a recluse and a bagful of jitters. Other symptoms can include dizziness, shortness of breath, palpitations and feelings of unreality.
The physical symptoms of anxiety are caused by the brain sending messages to parts of the body to prepare for the “fight or flight” response. The heart, lungs and other parts of the body work faster. The brain also releases stress hormones, including adrenaline. This is a natural reaction to stress and is essential for dealing with genuinely stressful situations.
The problem with anxiety is that the reaction to the perceived stressful situation is exaggerated and it continues long after the original stress causing factor has gone. As a result the stress hormones stay circulating round your body for far longer than is good for you and it is these excess chemicals in your body that cause the physical symptoms of anxiety, including that constant chest tightness.
Try tensing any muscle in your body for long enough and you will feel pain to some degree. Similarly keeping your body permanently tensed and in a state of “high alert” may produce all manner of uncomfortable symptoms.
As with getting rid of a tension headache, you need to learn how to release that tension from your body before you can release your body from the strain that you are putting it under.
Once you’ve spoken to your doctor and been given a clean bill of physical health, the best way to move forward is to look at the various treatments that are available these days to help anxiety sufferers. Your doctor will be able to advise you on some of these and there are many helpful websites out there that can give you advice or tips on how to lessen your anxiety symptoms.
You might also like to read my article ‘How to Melt Away Your Anxiety Symptoms’ which is about relaxation techniques. This can be found in the May section of my blog at http://www.anxietyproblemssolved.com/blog
There are many different things to try and you need to find what’s best for you. It may take some time but it’ll be a journey that you’ll never regret taking.