Panic Attack Or Heart Attack
The symptoms of a panic attack can overlap the symptoms of a heart attack, clinically termed myocardial infarction , making it difficult for a person to know which one may be occurring.6 People often go to the emergency room with chest pain believing they have a heart issue, but research shows that roughly 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest pain do not have a cardiac cause of the pain.7
How does a panic attack feel different from a heart attack?
Unfortunately, says Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, They can feel identical. People often are short of breath, feel dizzy, and can feel crushing chest pain. Somebody who is perfectly healthy, with great lungs, undergoing a panic attack can feel really, really short of breath. And then, of course, those symptoms feed on the panic so it builds exponentially to this enormous crescendo.
Dr. McCann explains that because of the many different ways that people experience symptoms of heart attacks and panic attacks, theres no way to know the cause of those symptoms on your own.
There are a variety of symptoms that people who are having myocardial infarctions experience or dont experience, so certainly if someone came in with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would undergo a full workup for an MI, no question, she says.
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Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain
Certain anxiety disorders can cause feelings of chest pain.
Chest pain is not a common symptom of the general anxiety you feel here and there.
However, if you suffer from a type of anxiety disorder called panic disorder, you may experience feelings of chest pain during a panic attack.
The most important consideration any time youre experiencing chest pain is the possibility of heart attack, which is a medical emergency.
Unfortunately, panic attack symptoms and heart attack symptoms can feel similar. So, whether you have a history of panic attacks or not, you should go to the emergency room if youre experiencing chest pain.
How To Stay Heart Healthy Even When Youre Down
When youre feeling down, its easy to reach for your favorite comfort food or skip a workout. But thinking about your heart health is important, even when youre not feeling too chipper.
When people are stressed, anxious or depressed, they may feel overwhelmed, so theyre not apt to make healthy lifestyle choices. They may be more likely to smoke more, not be physically active,
sleep too little or too much, drink too much alcohol and fail to take their prescribed medications. Over time, these unhealthy behaviors can increase the risk for heart disease.
Trauma, depression, anxiety and stress can lead to changes that can affect your health, and not just because you may fall into habits that are bad for your heart. Research shows that mental health also has physiologic effects on the body.
Depression is reported in over 7% of Americans ages 18 and older, and the figure can be as high as 20% for post-heart attack patients.
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Could My Chest Pain Be Because Of The Coronavirus
Chest pain is a rare symptom of COVID-19 and usually does not occur as the sole symptom. For instance, if your chest pain was due to COVID-19, you would most likely have accompanying signs of upper respiratory infection such as coughing and phlegm. And, the pain would not be due to a panic attack, says Dr. McCann. But again, because of the wide range of symptoms that people experience with COVID-19, theres no way to know without getting checked by a healthcare provider.
The CDC lists common COVID-19 symptoms as: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.³
Should I See A Doctor If I Get Stomach Pains When I Am Stressed
You should be seeing your primary care physician at least once a year, and you should tell them if you often have stomach pain or GI discomfort.
If your primary care physician identifies symptoms of a chronic GI condition or other warning signs, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist like myself. A gastroenterologist can help determine if your stomach pain or GI symptoms are related to stress, or due to another condition that requires different treatment.
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How Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain
Your brain may get most of the credit for overall control of your body, but the intestines have their own nervous system that is so powerful, its sometimes known as a second brain. This system is called the enteric nervous system.
With the largest collection of nerve cells in the body outside of the brain, the enteric nervous system not only controls gastrointestinal functions separately from the brain, but it also produces and responds to the same stress hormones and neurotransmitters that our brains do.
The link between your gut and your brain stems from this system. Even though these two systems function independently, this connection allows your brain to monitor your digestive tract and modify activity within your gut.
When Anxiety Attacks The Body: Physical Symptoms
In some cases, heightened levels of anxiety can cause chest pain to develop. Anxiety is the bodys reaction to a perceived threat, explains Richa Bhatia, MD, FAPA, of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
When people are anxious, their blood supply to different parts of the body can be decreased because the body is in a fight-or-flight response and more blood is directed to the muscles, she says. Dr. Bhatia adds that people in a state of heightened anxiety often hyperventilate and breathe in a shallow manner, which can cause dizziness or chest tightness.
What a Panic Attack Feels Like
Experiencing chest pain because of anxiety can be one of the symptoms of a panic attack, which is defined as a feeling of sudden, intense fear and the severe onset of four or more of these symptoms:
numbness and tingling
fear of going crazy or of losing control.
A panic attack can happen when a person is feeling anxious, or it can occur out of the blue. The symptoms described above tend to last for roughly 10 minutes before fading. It is possible to have several panic attacks within a number of hours, which can feel like the attacks are coming in waves. Some people experience panic attacks daily or weekly. A milder variation of panic attacks, known as limited-symptom attacks, feature three or fewer of the symptoms listed above.
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Back Pain Or Aching Muscles All Over
You might feel okay in the morning, but once youâre at work or sitting at a school desk, your back starts to hurt. It could be stress, or it could be depression. Although theyâre often associated with bad posture or injuries, backaches can also be a symptom of psychological distress.
A 2017 research study of 1,013 Canadian university students found a direct association between depression and backaches.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long believed emotional issues can cause chronic aches and pains, but the specifics are still being researched, such as the connection between depression and the bodyâs inflammatory response.
Newer studies suggest that inflammation in the body may have something to do with the neurocircuits in our brain. Itâs thought that inflammation may interrupt brain signals and therefore may have a role in depression and how we treat it.
Other Types Of Depression
There are different types of depression, and some conditions where depression may be one of the symptoms. These include:
- postnatal depression sometimes new mothers, fathers or partners develop depression after they have a baby this is known as postnatal depression and its treated in a similar way to other types of depression, with talking therapies and antidepressant medicines
- bipolar disorder also known as manic depression, in bipolar disorder there are spells of both depression and excessively high mood the depression symptoms are similar to clinical depression, but the bouts of mania can include harmful behaviour, such as gambling, going on spending sprees and having unsafe sex
- seasonal affective disorder also known as winter depression, SAD is a type of depression with a seasonal pattern usually related to winter
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How K Health Can Help
Stress and anxiety are among the most under-reported and under-treated diseases in America. Nearly 20% of adults in the US suffer from mental health illness and fewer than half receive treatment. Our mission is to increase access to treatment for those suffering in silence.
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Connect with a licensed mental health therapist for unlimited asynchronous text-based therapy. Therapists respond Monday through Friday between 9am-5pm, within 24-hours.
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Anxiety Chest Pain Symptoms
Anxiety chest pain can feel different to different people. Symptoms in the chest area can be described as:
- Sharp, shooting, or stabbing pain
- Persistent, dull aching
- Twitching or spasms
These uncomfortable feelings can come on gradually, or all at once.
It is more typical, however, for chest pain to present itself during panic or anxiety attacks that come on quickly, and for the sufferer to already feel anxious before the chest pain starts.
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Take Stock Of The Situation
Accept your feelings of anxiety, recognize them, and then work through putting them in perspective.
Are you worried about something you cant control? Are you fearful of an outcome thats unlikely? Are you dreading a situation you cant control the outcome of? Talk your way through your feelings to find the source, and then work to put them into perspective.
Depressed People Suffer Chest Pain More Often
“The fact that chest pain frequency at follow-up was decreased in patients whose depressive symptoms improved indicates that treating depression may help alleviate chest pain, after obstructive coronary artery disease as a cause of chest pain has been ruled out,” says Salim Hayek. “This needs to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials.”
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Depressed patients tend to have more frequent chest pain, even in the absence of coronary artery disease, report cardiologists.
The findings suggest pain and depression may share a common neurochemical pathway, says Salim Hayek, a cardiology research fellow with Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute.
Depression is a common and well-recognized risk factor for the development of heart disease, Hayek says. Patients with known heart disease and depression tend to experience chest pain more frequently.
However until now, it was not known whether that association was dependent on underlying coronary artery disease. Although our findings do not establish causality, they do suggest that depression is an important confounder of the relationship between chest pain and heart disease.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Afib
AFib also causes dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness or extreme tiredness, and chest pain.
A few people experience AFib for several days at a time before their heartbeat returns to average. Others may experience AFib for a longer period or, it may become chronic.
AFib raises the risk of stroke and heart failure, regardless of whether the flutters are temporary or permanent. You are at risk of having a stroke if your blood does not flow continuously through your body.
Its also worth noting that some people with AFib dont have any heart flutters or other clinical manifestations at all. Occasionally, AFib is discovered during a routine checkup.
Anxiety Chest Pain Vs Heart Attack Chest Pain
Chest pain is a concerning symptom, and its usually best to seek emergency medical attention if youre experiencing it. Even if the chest pain cause is anxiety, its better to know than to risk missing valuable time if youre having a heart attack.
People describe chest pain in a number of ways when theyre having a heart attack. Some examples include:
- chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body, such as down your arms or up to your jaw
- chest pain that worsens with exertion
- nausea along with chest pain
- pressure in the chest, as if someone has put something heavy on your chest
- rapid heart rate
- shortness of breath
- squeezing sensation in the chest
An estimated 30 percent of patients who are having a heart attack dont have chest pain, according to 2020 research . Some people report symptoms like back pain and fatigue as part of their heart attack symptoms.
While doctors know there is a connection between anxiety and chest pain, you still shouldnt ignore your symptoms and seek medical attention.
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Psychological Stress Can Cause Back Pain
Though it might seem hard to believe, mental or emotional distress may be the reason you are experiencing back pain. In fact, there is a long list of physical symptoms that have been proven to be associated with stress and anxiety, including:
Stress itself is the bodys reaction to certain usually unpleasant situations or thoughts. You may not realize it, but when you are feeling stressed or anxious, there are chemical and physical reactions taking place in your body to try and protect you from harm. Cortisol and adrenaline are released, and there is typically an involuntary tightening of your muscles. This often occurs in the neck, shoulders, and down the spine. Prolonged tension in these areas can lead to back pain and, more specifically, lower back pain. You may have had a massage therapist tell you that you hold a lot of tension in your shoulders, and this phenomenon is what they are referencing.
Can Anxiety Or Depression Cause Chest Pain And Shortness Of Breath
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Anxiety And Heart Disease
The association between anxiety and heart disease has not been as fully studied as the relationship between depression and heart disease.
However, Una D McCann, M.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, believes the connection is strong.
Symptoms And Causes Of Depression
Symptoms of depression can be very different from person to person. However, as a general rule, if you are depressed you feel hopeless, sad and lacking interest in things that used to make you feel happy.
Depression symptoms are bad enough to interfere with work, social life and family life, and can persist for weeks or months.
Doctors describe depression in one of three ways, depending on how serious it is:
- mild depression it has some impact on daily life
- moderate depression it has a significant impact on your daily life
- severe depression this makes it nearly impossible to get through your life day to day
A few people with severe depression may have symptoms of psychotic depression.
Below is a list of depression symptoms it’s unlikely that one person would have all of them.
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How Anxiety Causes Chest Pain
When youre anxious, your brain sends a surge of adrenaline and cortisol through your body. These hormones immediately trigger a rapid rise in your heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, many people experience chest pain and sweating, or have a hard time breathing.
The sudden boost of adrenaline can narrow the arteries in your heart and attach to cells inside the heart. This condition, called stress cardiomyopathy, mimics a heart attack, from symptoms all the way down to changes in your hearts electrical activity.
Though stress cardiomyopathy usually heals within a few days or weeks, it may lead to weak heart muscles, congestive heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Levels of adrenaline and cortisol dont return to normal in people with anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronically high hormone levels may trigger a panic attack and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
When To Speak With A Doctor
While home remedies can relieve the feeling of nausea, they are not a replacement for medical treatment for those with underlying conditions.
If a person frequently experiences nausea for no clear reason, they can consider speaking with a doctor to determine the cause. If the cause is psychological, speaking with a therapist may help.
Nausea is not usually an emergency. However, if it occurs alongside symptoms of a serious condition or after an injury, someone may need emergency help. Dial 911 if someone experiences nausea:
- after a recent head injury
- alongside a severe, sudden headache
- with neck stiffness, fever, headache, and vomiting
In some cases, nausea can be an early warning sign of a heart attack. This is , who can experience less obvious symptoms during a heart attack. Seek emergency help if someone has:
- pain, pressure, or squeezing in the center of the chest
- trouble breathing
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