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How to Identify If Chest Pain is from Anxiety, Heart Attack or COVID-19?

Panic disorder-- whether you've lived with it for many years or have actually developed it due to the pandemic-- can trigger chest pain. Still, other heart physiological problems need to be eliminated before treatment can begin. And remember, any chest discomfort requires medical attention.

Chest discomfort or tightness could be a symptom of the increased stress and anxiety prevalent in every facet of life as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop. However, it might not.

Chest pain also can be the outcome of a cardiac issue or due to a non-cardiac cause, such as gastroesophageal reflux illness, or GERD, a muscle or skeletal problem in the chest, and even a symptom of COVID-19.

When linked to an anxiety attack, chest discomfort is a common sign, but how do we understand what's causing chest pain when we feel it? The only way to understand for sure is by seeking medical attention.


anxiety disorder

When Anxiety Attacks the Body: Physical Symptoms

In some cases, heightened levels of stress and anxiety can trigger chest pain to develop. Anxiety is the body's response to a perceived threat, explains Richa Bhatia, MD, FAPA, of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

" When individuals are anxious, the blood supply to various parts of the body can be reduced because the body is in a fight-or-flight reaction and more blood is directed to the muscles," a medical doctor said, includes that individuals in a state of heightened stress and anxiety frequently hyperventilate and breathe in a shallow way, which can trigger dizziness or chest tightness.

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Experiencing chest pain because of anxiety can be one of the signs of a panic attack, which is specified as a sensation of sudden, extreme fear and the extreme start of 4 or more of these signs:

  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shivering
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Fear of going crazy or of losing control

It is possible to have numerous panic attacks within several hours, or occur out of the blue. A milder variation of panic attacks, understood as limited-symptom attacks, features 3 or fewer of the signs listed above.

In some cases, a state of heightened anxiety can trigger individuals to experience chest pain. "Chest discomfort is more common in a panic attack, however sometimes, people may likewise experience chest pain/pressure from high anxiety without having a full-blown panic attack," a medical doctor states.


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Panic Attack or Heart Attack?

The signs of a panic attack can overlap a cardiovascular disease's symptoms, scientifically described as myocardial infarction (MI), making it tough for a person to understand which one might be taking place. People often go to the emergency clinic (ER) with chest discomfort, believing they have a heart concern. Still, a research study shows that approximately 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest discomfort do not have a cardiac cause for the pain.

How does a panic attack feel different from heart attack?

Someone who is perfectly healthy, with great lungs, going through a panic attack can feel really, really brief of breath. And then, of course, those symptoms feed on the panic, so it builds significantly to this huge crescendo..

A Medical Doctor explains that because of the many different ways individuals experience signs of heart attack and panic attacks, there's no chance to know the cause of those symptoms on your own.

" There are a variety of signs that people who are having myocardial infarctions experience or don't experience, so definitely if somebody was available with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would undergo a full workup for an MI, no question," she states.

Another Medical doctor stresses that people should not self-diagnose their chest discomfort or assume that it is a panic attack, particularly if they have never had chest discomfort before or have been diagnosed with panic disorder before. "Because anxiety conditions and panic disorder are diagnoses of exclusion, they can only be identified when a doctor has done a full medical check-up and dismissed underlying other or cardiac medical causes of chest discomfort," she states. "Also, it is worth noting that even people [who experience] panic attacks can have chest discomfort of cardiac origin."


chest pain covid

Could My Chest Pain Be Because of the Coronavirus?

Chest pain is a rare symptom of COVID-19 and usually does not happen as the sole symptom. If your chest discomfort were due to COVID-19, you would most likely have accompanying indications of an upper respiratory infection such as coughing and phlegm. And, the pain would not be because of a panic attack, a medical doctor said. Again, because of the broad range of symptoms that individuals experience with COVID-19, there's no method to know without getting examined by a health care service provider.

The CDC lists common COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, duplicated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, aching throat, brand-new loss of taste or smell.

When It is Panic Disorder: Treatment Options.

When the cause of chest discomfort has been figured out to be psychiatric (i.e., stress and anxiety) instead of heart in nature, clients and their medical professionals can discuss treatment. It is essential to know that panic attacks can occur with any stress and anxiety condition-- there are 5 in all:

  1. Generalized anxiety condition.
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
  4. Social anxiety condition.
  5. Panic disorder.

A person must have a recurring panic attack and be fearful of having another to the point where it hinders their daily life to be diagnosed with panic disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 2% to 3% of US adults are diagnosed with a panic attack in a given year. Anxiety conditions affect women more than men.

A Medical doctor says that an individual without any history of anxiety can establish a panic attack because of the stress of coronavirus pandemic.

" An individual can establish panic disorder (PD) for the very first time in the setting of COVID-19," she explains. People need to change their behaviors in maladaptive methods (or have a month of relentless worries about having another panic attack).".

She keeps in mind that sleep problems can play a huge function in developing panic attacks. "Poor sleep increases the danger of frequent anxiety attacks. Stress and anxiety related to stress frequently result in bad sleep, resulting in a self-perpetuating negative cycle," she says. Cognitive behavior modification (CBT) can be an efficient treatment for a panic attack. A medical doctor explains CBT as a method to acknowledge unusual, unreasonable thought patterns and the habits that one engages in when these thoughts happen. A CBT therapist assists clients to practice useful behaviors that can reduce panic symptoms. Strategies like breathing retraining, meditation, and yoga can help clients reduce the stress and determine in their bodies when they are anxious. (Learn how to practice CBT in the house.)

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Two medical doctors highlight that, even with a panic disorder diagnosis, a client can have cardiac or medical chest discomfort that must not be ignored.

How to Hang On: Coping During a Pandemic.

A survey performed in mid-April 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 56% of adults reported that worry and stress because of the pandemic had had an unfavorable result on their mental health.

Respondents reported unfavorable effects such as difficulty sleeping, bad hunger or overindulging, regular headaches or stomach aches, the problem in controlling their mood, or increasing alcohol/drug usage, and worsening chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. This is up from 45% reporting that coronavirus's stress had actually adversely impacted their psychological health in a KFF survey carried out in late March 2020.

" Right now, everyone has increased anxiety, whether you're healthy as a horse, whether you have a psychiatric illness, or not," a medical doctor states.

Telemedicine can help by connecting people with their physicians, and video meeting apps offer a way to maintain a social life as we stay in our houses. More on how to access telemedicine.

A medical doctor also suggests exercising together with buddies via video chat to support social interaction, while another doctor recommends practicing mindfulness to reduce stress.

Symptoms related to anxiety/panic can improve with mindfulness-based breathing exercises," a medical doctor said.

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