Anxiety Chest Tightness: What It Is and What You Can Do

Chest tightness caused by anxiety is probably the most disturbing symptom of anxiety. The reason anxiety chest tightness feels so frightening is that it brings on thoughts of heart attack or stroke.

However, there are a couple of significant differences between anxiety chest tightness and heart attack. The first is duration. Chest tightness due to anxiety usually lasts only about ten minutes. Chest symptoms with a heart attack can last much longer.

Second is the intensity. Tightness in the chest that comes with a heart attack feels much more suffocating. It typically comes with a crushing feeling, and the feeling can spread to the arm and jaw. Anxiety chest tightness usually is a mild discomfort that doesn’t spread.

Causes of Anxiety Chest Tightness

Most of the time, the tightness in your chest brought on by anxiety comes because your body responds to the anxiety the same as it does to stress. Several chemicals are released by your body to fight against the stress. Cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline in your blood stream cause your heart to beat faster, you’ll tremble, and your chest will get tight. In all, a scary feeling.

Please keep in mind, also, that some physical conditions can bring on chest tightness that then triggers anxiety. If you have chest tightness frequently that lasts for a long time, it’s best to consult with your physician to see if there is an underlying physical condition.

Some More Frequent Causes

In spite of the possibility of physical causes of chest tightness, anxiety is the most common cause. Here are some of the possible reasons:

  • Hyperventilation.  The most common cause of anxiety chest tightness. When you breathe rapidly and shallowly as a response to anxiety, your body chemistry changes and chest tightness can follow. In the same way, if you breathe more deeply than necessary, a squeezing feeling around your heart can result.
  • Bloating/Gas. One reaction your body has to anxiety or stress is in your gastrointestinal system. It puts pressure on this system that then causes a bloated feeling. This bloating can then cause a feeling of tightness in your chest some people find very uncomfortable.
  • Becoming Oversensitive. Experiencing anxiety can lead to becoming very sensitive to any small pain, even from something perfectly normal. In this case, you can feel these as being much worse than they are.

What Can Be Done?

There are several things you can do to lessen your experience of anxiety chest pain.

  • Learn the facts about anxiety. Set your mind at ease about what you’re really experiencing.
  • Avoid stressors. Find out what sets your anxiety off and stay away from whatever it is.
  • Learn how to be assertive. Many people who feel anxiety are not assertive. They spend a lot of time worrying about bothering or offending someone.
  • Learn and practice relaxation. Find a relaxation exercise that works for you and practice, practice, practice. This will help you fight anxiety overall.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine. This will help deal with anxiety and make you healthier.