Anxiety Induced Chest Pain

Picture it, a nice sunny day and you’re sitting on a lawn chair under a big tree sipping lemonade when all of sudden you get a sharp jabbing pain in the center of your chest.

You go from totally relaxed to “oh no!” in about 3 seconds. This is a very typical reaction to anxiety induced chest pain. Chest pain can create a swift and focused sensation of fear all over your body in what feels like an instant.

Your first assumption is that you’re having a heart attack and that you’re going to die suddenly. After several minutes of experiencing chest pain, even though you haven’t died just yet, you figure that it has to be something serious. Symptoms like chest pain may have even prompted you to visit the ER or set up an appointment with your primary doctor.

If you did go to see a doctor he/she probably put you through the paces of blood tests, EKG, stress test and maybe even a portable heart recorder for good measure. The tests all came back normal and you were sent on your merry way. But, you still get chest pain from time to time. So what is happening, can it be anxiety causing you to have these pains?

First let me just say that if you are experiencing regular chest pain and haven’t seen your doctor you should go see him/her asap. Chest pain really can be a sign of heart attack or other serious heart condition. Really I’m not trying to be an alarmist but this is just a fact.

However, once you have been through the hamster wheel and have been told that your problem is nerves than you might be experiencing anxiety induced chest pains. Anxiety does have the ability to make your chest hurt and it does this in generally six ways.

1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD causes your stomach to create excess acid which is “backed” up into your esophagus which in turn creates heart burn and chest pain.

2. Esophageal spasm : This causes your lower esophagus to contract and also disturbs the muscles in your chest wall. This is a random and involuntary contraction of a series of muscles.

3. Stress : High levels of stress over a prolonged period of time can cause muscle tightness and tension. This can lead to all kinds of aches and pains all over, including the chest area.

5. Panic attacks :It is also very common to feel chest pain and shortness of breath when experiencing a panic attack.

6. Precordial Catch Syndrome: PCS is usually seen in children and teens but has been known to affect adults. This is a seemingly mysterious condition that causes sharp pains for short durations, normally under the left breast or even the arm pit. And although the pain is sometimes piercing it is not dangerous nor does it require treatment.

I have read many articles that try to explain the difference between chest pain and a heart attack. As far as I can tell there is very little difference between the two. This is exactly why it is so important to see your doctor if you are experiencing new or different types of chest pain.

Once you have been checked out however you should relax and accept that not all chest pain is heart related. This is not to say that it isn’t frightening because it absolutely is. I’m just saying that you should try to put your mind at ease so you can reduce your stress level which would decrease the anxiety symptoms that create chest pain.

I have had this particular problem myself for about 2 years. And although you never get used to it, you can relax your attitude toward it. It’s important to get cleared not just for safety reasons, but also to reduce the amount of fear you have when chest pain does hit you.

Chest pain is varied so it can make you grab at your chest and pulse for days. Your heart can feel “warm”, you can have short jabbing pains, the pain may radiate to your arms and back, your chest muscles may vibrate, the muscles under your arm pits may be affected, etc. Chest pain can be an endless abyss of worry. So cut the worry off as it were and do what you must to be reassured.

For tips on how to relax effectively click here . And for a good explanation about the difference between heart attack and benign chest pain click here.


  1. Adam says

    I am 29 and having the same problem it can be scarey. I have had 3 EKG’s 3 Chest xrays and 3 different blood works done and all normal. The doctor said it is anxiety and GERD but i am medicine for the Gerd but not the anxiety. I get chest pains all the time and i am in the army i run,ruck,climb and stay in shape so honestly its just anxiety. Its better not to take meds for that problem because it is all mental and we all have the power to change that our selfs. Everybody needs to be strong and fight the anxiety just take your mind off of it by doing something that you enjoy and can focus on. Hope everybody here feels better soon i know i am trying

  2. Jeremiah says

    Hey folks,

    I am a 35 year old male who has been struggling with anxiety for a little over a year now. My first attack hospitalized me, and so did my second. I was sure I was having a heart attack both times. I know how scary it is to believe you are about to die. I have a beautiful wife and a career that I am passionate about and a future planned out for us.It is frustrating and difficult to have a doctor tell you that nothing is wrong with you when your body is convincing you that something is very wrong. Since then I have had countless blood tests, 2 seperate walking monitors, a stress test and echocardiogram, a heart saver CT scan, MRI’s and CAT Scans of my chest. My tests were clear, all of them. Those results were confirmed by 3 doctors, two of whom were cardiologists.

    Yet I feel physical symptoms every single day. I take xanax .25mg as needed but it only makes me feel sedated. I still feel fearful when my symptoms attack me. I have found that eating a veggie heavy diet, good sleep, lowering my caffine intake, drinking in moderation, and exercise greatly reduces the frequency and severity of my attacks. Until this began I had perfect history of health. No heart disease in my family history, no cancer, no mental illness. Anxiety is so difficult to manage because the physical symptoms cause even more fear, it affects your quality of life, and the physical symptoms are completely out of your control.

    My heart goes out to each and every one of you who deal with this problem everyday. I just wanted to share my story because maybe some else might find it helpful in some way. I wish I had some profound advice or some secret trick to overcoming this disorder but I don’t. Hang in there and try to apprechiate the good things in your life. God Bless.

  3. Mark says

    Hi I’m 22 lived with this for a year Iv been told I have aniexty but living with chest pain day in day out with shortness of breath iv been to 2 cardiologists but my mind won’t take it I’m fine it makes me so afraid .

  4. joel says

    This is a suggestion that may help people who have chest pains that are NOT caused by heart problems.

    I am 36 years old and had a condition felt like costochondritis chest pain for 2 years, starting when I was 33. It was very scary and painful, and affected my life dramatically. No pain medications helped me at all. It took several years to figure out that most of my chest and rib pains were actually caused by tense muscles in my back; this caused referred pain to my chest and ribs; weird, I know. Anyhow, if anyone wants to try simple, cheap, and non-medicinal remedies to re-occurring chest pains, here is what I would recommend: (1) get a back massage by a registered massage therapist and/or (2) use a tennis ball against the floor or the Theracane ( to massage you own muscle knots in your back. These days, when I feel a sharp chest pain, I can massage it away by working on back-muscle knots in about 3-5 minutes.

    Good luck, and I hope my experience can help someone.

  5. Jennifer mcknight says

    Hey my name is Jennifer i am 22 years old , and i have been suffering with anxiety for 10 years . I started at a young age . I just would like to know what i need to do when my chest always hurting . I think its from alot of stress , and it makes my back and neck hurt !… I take medication for anxiety . What do i need to do ??.

  6. says

    Hey great post !

    When you get chest pains it is really hard not to panic.. and when you panic it just makes everything worse…

    Getting that trip to the doctor out of the way to rule out any more serious problems was a really important step for me in reducing my anxiety…


  7. kenyanscorp says

    Siddharth, mark, tom etal

    Another common cause of chest pain that i found was that most of us are right hand dominant, consequently the left side is weaker. Anytime you stretch your chest muscles as in exercise or lift weights etc, your left side is bound to have localised, mild intermittent pains for no reason.

    Secondly if you have not had proper bowel movements and the transverse colon which lies beneath the diaphragm is impacted with stools, it impinges on nerves common to the abdomen and chest which causes the above kinda chest pains.

    In the gym when i switched over from heavy to light weights, it has increased the frequency of chest pain. I feel it is because the lighter weights targets the smaller muscle groups which can cause these intermittent chest pains.

  8. adam says

    Since i just recently started klonopin my anxiety is totally gone guys no more chest pain no more anything. If you can start taking this medication do it my doc said and it would help and it totally did starting the first day and i have had no side effects.

  9. Michelle says

    Hi im 17 n I been haveing this problem ever since I had my bby its been 5 months in my first experiance I went to emergency room I really thought I was ganna die it feels realy bad the first 3 months were the worst chbecuz I really dident know how to control it I went to emerginces almost 2 times a week it was really bad they cheeked me for heart problems n lungs they also did blood test n they said I was fine but I dident accepted I went to a other doctor n they tld me the same thing n that doctor tld me I had alot of strees!n anxity soi now im a lil better on controling it but is very hard sumtimes:( but I love the feeling when I dnt feel nune of that but once it comes dammn I hate it! I know I got to stay strong for my lil girl and for myself n reading all this storys here really did help alot:)

  10. kenyanscorp says

    I saw a peculiar problem today. Having had a gut infection the doc gave me IV pantaprazole yesterday. I took a cipro in the morning on my own after 4 hours i started finding involuntary chest muscle spasms every few minutes on the left side for the past several hours. I was on a bland diet whole of yesterday. I doubt if it is the gut infection and acidity and esophageal spasm or the cipro which is causing this. The spasms are painless and fluttery feeling in the chest and random. Anyone pls share your views.

  11. adam says

    What your having is just muscle spasams most likely from your diet if your body dosent have enough potasium it will cause it to spasam like that it has happened to me before it is normal the lack of potasium can cause that and craps also.

  12. kenyanscorp says

    I found out another seemingly innocuous factor for anxiety. BAKING SODA. NAHCO3 when mixed with water releases carbonic acid, co2 and NAOH. The alkali and CO2 disrupts the acid base balance of the digestive system and screws up the digestive process and can lead to increase in unhealthy gut flora which in turn can reduce the essential vitamins produced by these probiotic flora. Secondly this acid base imbalance is transferred to the blood and when the pH of the blood is altered it leads to anxiety disorders and a key symptom of blood pH alteration is labored breathing. Dietary indiscretion and eating out is the one of the main causes. Anxiety sufferers should take a food audit.

  13. ajenpen says

    Wow! Thanks to this post, I finally know what I have! PCS decribes the pain I have exactly. Under left breast, hurts a ton to breathe in. I got another bout of it yesterday that lasted for quite a while. I’m glad to hear it’s not dangerous (as I also get major anxiety from a fear of heart related problems or breathing problems) I have that along with other chest pain related to anxiety, it feels much different and is always in the same spot.

  14. JackV says

    Hi everyone, im 17 years old, i experienced a sharp pain in my shoulder whilst in a lesson and for some reason lead to me have a ‘panic attack’ which i thought was a heart attack, i went to A&E and they did an ecg and said i wasnt havnt having a heart attack and sent me home, a couple weeks later i went back to A&E as i was having chest pain and was just frightened, they did an ecg and blood tests and again sent me home. Since them i went to see a cardiologist who did a echocardiagram and stress test and said the tests came back fine. I went to the cardiologist about a month ago and since then have still been scared im going to have a heart attack. i get sharp pains in my chest on and off, i get pressure in my chest which scares me, i get occasional sharp pinching feelings in my left arm, and i get light headed alot which just makes me petrified. If anybody could give me any advice it would be much appreciated, i am just terrified that im going to have a heart attack and die, i just want my old life back before i was worrying about all of this. By the way its been 3 months since i first had the ‘panic attack’.

  15. Damaris says

    Food allergies and sensitivity can cause symptoms similar to those of heart trouble. It does this by increasing inflammation . If you can see an allergist and for now try taking an antihistamine if the symptoms occur
    ( preferably one without ephedrine ) and avoid anything containing caffeine which includes :
    Chocolate, coffee, tea, and various other foods lotions and products.

  16. Maverick says

    Hi I’m 34 years I’ve been suffering with anxiety for the past few years I think it started when I found a my friend dead he had a massive heart attack at the age of 47 ever since then I see the world defferent I see it as a short pointless life n that it could happen to me any moment. I guess I’m scared to leave this world to soon like my friend I’m not married no kids like him all I do is work n sleep these days I feel like life is passing me by . I once had fun lots of fun nights with girls drinking bars clubs all the time. Now nothing seems to interest me anymore . I guess what really started scaring me is when my anxiety started to get physical like chest pains it doesn’t feel sharp it feels like my chest is heavy like a have muscular chest pain it’s been going on for awhile I keep thinking it’s my heart I quit smoking cigs like a year n a half ago n it seems I’m getting worse I thought it was from smoking but idk I’m confused my whole body hurts .went to docs they found nothing. I’m lost I don’t wanna go on anxiety meds n and I don’t want to c a shrink I’m thinking about joining the gym does anybody know if working out really can help with anxiety ??

  17. Kelsey says

    Hi. I’m currently 21 years old. I had a baby on February 27th of this year. I work night shift, and one night when I got off work I suddenly felt like an elephant had sat on my chest. I then passed out. Once I woke back up I started to panic about the situation. Since the incident occurred, I’ve had regular panic attacks. The attacks lasted for a couple weeks then subsided. Now I have regular chest pain and arm pain (both arms and both sides of the chest, just varies day to day). I’ve been to the hospital twice and also spoke to a great friend of my family who also is a cardiologist and I’ve had many ekgs chest x rays and ct scans. Nothing was physically wrong with me. Even with consistent chest pain. I was told it was anxiety and I have to visit a neurologist for further information. It’s very hard to deal with, and very scary. It most definitely feels like a heart attack. But just something I have to deal with. I’ve found xanex to help. But have yet to visit a doctor.

  18. says

    Hey Kelsey, sounds like you’ve been screened appropriately. Have you considered seeing a therapist? If there is nothing wrong with you physically then it’s a good time to explore your anxiety in earnest.

  19. melvin says

    Hi my name is Melvin and I’m 25 years old. I’ve been suffering from anxiety for the last 1 month. I have been having chest pains,palpitations,tense muscles,stive neck,dizzyness,shortage of breath and sweaty palms…I used to get all the in the beginning. I’ve done all my test EKG and blood test all came out fine. Doctors said that I’m actually having anxiety and Its due to stress. I met this excellent doctor a week ago with a really good advice given to me. I’ve not taken any antianxiety medication or any medications at all. But all the doctor thought me is how to control my mind and let everything out once..since then its a week now my chest pains has stopped all I’m left with is little panic attacks which are controllable and tensed chest muscles..I suggest to all my friends who has been going through what I did to change your healthy stuff..stop smoking and alcohol which I did as well..start exercising.. do a little yoga..stay away from caffeine its bad for anxiety trust me!!! It just makes it lots of funny stuff to increase your happy hormones..and get vitamin b complex…its only a week that I’ve been doing all this and I see so much of difference…there are other things that help reduce stress as well such as making love and a good massage helps a lot indeed..try all this I really hope it helps all of you as it did to me….

  20. Tara says

    My heart muscle hurts , I get slight paralysis and numbness and war mess in my left arm and leg .
    The pain can be severe then gone . Or it can last for days on a mild roller coaster peaking . It hurts my back right behind my heart . I went to the ER after I had spotty vision . all results are fine although I had an abnormal EKG reading it was diagnosed as ok . I figured I havnt died yet so I must be ok. but it’s very concerning . I feel like it can be triggered by anxiety ? I was startled at church and it acted up . But other times I’ll be laying watching the clouds totally relaxed . Now I’ve had off and on pain since Friday . what should I do. It’s Sunday.


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