When you experience a painful sensation near your heart, it’s natural to have chest pain anxiety and worry about what it might be. Here are some key things to know.
Chest pain isn’t limited to heart attacks
According to the CDC, of the 790,000 Americans who have heart attacks each year, 580,000 are a first heart attack. If you feel tightness, squeezing, pain, or an ache in your chest that spreads into the arms or jaw, then head to the nearest ER. According to the MayoClinic, these are classic symptoms of a heart attack.
But panic attacks can also trigger chest pain anxiety—sometimes sharp pain coupled with erratic, rapid heartbeats—and sometimes the pain may spread. “Part of the problem is that a lot of the hallmarks of a panic attack are exactly the same as a heart attack,” says Knox Todd, MD, former Professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and a practicing emergency physician for over 40 years. There are other reasons you might have scary chest pain.
Symptoms of anxiety and heart attack are similar
It’s almost eerie how anxiety and heart attacks can mimic each other:
Key warning signs of a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association:
- Chest discomfort that comes and goes or stays
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw pain—which is slightly more prevalent in women
Some key symptoms of a panic attack, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Chest pain