Question About the Chest

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New Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 3/22/2009 7:33 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello Folks,
Happy Spring. Wishing you all well.
This is my first time posting. I'll start by asking my question, and then afterwards I'll write a little bit about my anxiety in general. That way, if you are interested in knowing more about my situation you can read on, or if not you can just skip it. :)

My question is about chest pains and sensations.
There is no doubt that I have some combination of panic, anxiety and obsessive/compulsive disorders, mixed in with a healthy dose of hypochondria (though I notice the preferred term is health anxiety?). Variations on the theme run through my whole family, pushing back at least as far as my grandmother. When it comes to symptoms, I've had many of the physical pains and mental distortions that I've read about so far.
When it comes to the world of anxiety I've largely faced it alone, with no one to talk to but my mother and two brothers, none of whom I've had very communicative relationship with in the past but I'm beginning to speak with more frequently now because I'm currently going through an anxiety flare up. Neither of my brothers get the chest pains that I do, and though I certainly read about chest pain as a very common symptom of panic disorder (I've read that 40% get them) it's never clear to me whether chest pains are seen as just symptoms of panic *attacks,* or if constant, chronic chest pains and weirdness is common to anxiety disorder as well. I wanted to talk to others with anxiety to see how common or uncommon my chest pains might be.
What I'm wondering is whether others ever have anything similar to my chest pains. So far I have accepted so most of symptoms to be anxiety, but the chest pains I still have health anxiety about and constantly worry that I am on the verge of a heart attack or that my lungs are slowly rotting.
The pains vary. I have a very common pain that feels as if I have been cut somewhere in the left side of my chest. Sometimes it feels like I have fiberglass scrapping inside my chest. Sometimes I get something throughout my upper torso that feels like halfway between a very strong tickle and being shocked by electricity. Sometimes it hurts while or just after eating.
My worry is that I now have these pains all throughout the day for most days of life, and I think it will be easier for me to accept them as anxiety if I know that they are not uncommon symptoms.

More Info:
I realize the following will sound very familiar to everybody :) I'm 35 and male. My first panic attack struck at 19 and I had them with increasing frequency for about 8 or 9 years. For the last half of my 20s I was having 4 or 5 hour-or-so long attacks a day. Though I continually went to see doctors throughout this time it was never suggested by any of them that I was anything but ridiculously healthy. No one ever mentioned that I might have anxiety and panic disorder. Eventually I guessed for myself that anxiety must be the culprit, thanks to trolling the internet for answers, but never really understood much about it. At 28 or 29, for reasons I do not understand, most of my symptoms went away. The last seven years I have been basically anxiety and panic free. I moved to the U.S., wrote my PhD, became quite fit and athletic (soccer and/or the gym five or six times a week) and even took multiple plane trips (a huge phobia of mine) without ever really slipping back into panic mode. Then last summer the anxiety/panic returned with a vengeance, with strange and intense symptoms the likes of which I have not known before, spurring on two trips to the ER in fear for my life. Symptoms that were familiar to me from my 20s include: debilitating panic attacks, constant fear of being poisoned by my food, fear of a heart attack, general excessive vigilance in regards to my surroundings. Symptoms that are new to me: hours-long bouts of dizziness/lightheadedness, very physical and sometimes excruciating chest pains, pains in the left arm, heart palpitations that seem to be on one week and off the next, fear of leaving the house, fear of specific places, strange electric feelings throughout my torso and arms, back pain, depersonalization and unreality feelings, etc. Sadly, I have not been able to exercise for more than half year now. I am now officially *unfit,* and the more unfit I become the more my body hurts.
Having spend thousands of dollars (which of course I don't have. Who does!?) on doctors and tests over the last seven or eight months the consistent verdict from the doctors has been that other than anxiety disorder (which they diagnosed this time) I am perfectly healthy. They've worked over my heart with an Echo, they've x-rayed my chest, they've Echoed all my internal organs and they've stuck a scope down my gullet. Everything they've looked at, they tell me, is in perfect working order. No signs of GERD (even though my father has a terrible case of it.) I have been working with a cognitive behavioural therapist for months now, listening to anxiety gurus like Claire Weeks, and trying to be patient with my symptoms. I do not take any drugs for it. (They were perscribed, but I said no.) Generally my progress over the past year has been very good. This time 4 months ago I was 4 times the wreck I am today.
Again, I suspect this all sounds very familiar to everybody. One thing I do have to note is that luckily - and thank God for it - I do not have depression. The symptoms and the way they've led me to shrink into a hole and rot on the vine certainly frustrates me deeply, but thankfully I don't have to battle the added weight of general depression. To everyone on this forum who does have to deal with depression you have my deepest sympathies and respect for how brave and strong you must be for managing it on a daily basis.
Anyway, my apologies for the long post. I look forward to hearing your thoughts regarding my question on chest pains.
Thanks all,

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1190
   Posted 3/22/2009 7:50 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Birch,

Well, I'm no expert on these things in the general sense....I can only tell you what I experience in the way of chest pains as related to my panic attacks. Sometimes it's a tingling pain, sometimes it's a squeezing pain, and sometimes it's more like an ache....and sometimes it's a very short, sharp pain. There doesn't seem to be any predictability to other words, I don't know why I have different types of pains at different times....but there you have it. I have a very good friend who had what she called 'excruciating pain' in her chest, down her left arm, and in her head during a particularly bad panic attack, and she was sure it was heart related. Her pulse was very rapid, her blood pressure was out of this world, and she said her head pain was worse than any migraine she'd ever experienced. She had extensive tests in the hospital and got a clean bill of health. And....she's a doctor. When I spoke to her about her experience, she said she was shocked that the pain related to her panic attack was so intense.

I also have long periods of light-headedness/dizziness that you describe......and this is actually more unnerving for me than the chest pain, as it makes me feel like I'm losing control of my body.

I am very sorry for your suffering, Birch. I can imagine that, having been free of this for seven years, you must have been shocked and upset to experience this when it re-appeared. I am encouraged to see that your progress has been "very good" over the past year, and I hope so much for you that you continue to improve.

New Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 3/22/2009 7:58 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks Raniah. Thanks so much for your great answer and your sympathies.
Just to clarify (and in my long long post you'd think I could have made this clearer): I do realize of course that chest pain is a common symptom associated with panic attacks. My problem/worry is that I get them most of the time, and really I do not have all that many full out panic attacks. I had a lot in the summer and fall, but I haven't had one all winter. I'm wondering if chest pains *outside* of panic attacks is something other people experience...?


Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 175
   Posted 3/22/2009 8:21 PM (GMT -6)   
I have similar pain sensations as you, although they aren't limited to my chest I have chronic pain on the left side of my chest, I was "dxed" with chest wall pain because I came in after I had a bout of bronchitis but it has continued for nearly a year now. I have finally gotten to the point where I take a muscle relaxer for the pain because I don't always experience it with a panic attack. Sometimes I feel completely fine anxiety wise but my chest feels like I'm being stabbed. I also take a beta blocker to help lessen my heart palpitations and it has really helped slow them down, I still get them but it is much less than before. Like you I battle with hypochondria and a fear of heart attacks so I struggle with figuring out when to just accept that it is the way my body is or when to go get looked at. Sorry I don't have a ton of helpful info but you are definitely not alone!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1190
   Posted 3/22/2009 9:12 PM (GMT -6)   
Ahhhh, okay. Yes, like Dixibella, I don't always experience the chest pain WITH a panic attack.....sometimes I have chest pain, and pains elsewhere, when I'm not having one at all. I think I've always associated it with anxiety and stress, as a sort of muscle and/or nerve reaction, if that makes sense. She is so are definitely not alone.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 1011
   Posted 3/23/2009 10:19 AM (GMT -6)   
I get chest pains whenever I have anxiety. It is one of the first symptoms for me. For me it's a feeling of tightness and dull pain, not sharp pain.

Elite Member

Date Joined Jan 2005
Total Posts : 24909
   Posted 3/23/2009 10:29 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi there and A Warm Welcome to HW
This is great family here that you have come across and you are getting input so far that is basically what I would think too
I have had the same kind of pains as have others I am 55 and it gets scary at times but
I will breathe deeply and calm self down with techniques I have learnt (and if needed I take my valium) turn   thru great friends n family here
Also in Resources there is plenty of info to look at
Plus back pages to read
Ask away your questions and let us get to know you and you us

As you have said you have had all the tests done and the doc believes it all comes from your anxiety/health anxiety
WOW I can sure tell you that you are not alone in the health anxiety issue at all here
PLZ do stay with us and intro self in the ne members thread which if not up I will bring up for you

Take care and stay strong
U are NO longer alone


 DX: Crohns,Pyoderma Gangrenosum,Anxiety/Panic,
Fibro & Other DD

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Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2008
Total Posts : 94
   Posted 3/23/2009 11:44 PM (GMT -6)   
Like the other posters, I have chest pain that is different all the time. Sometimes ache, sometimes quick sharp intense pain, sometimes a tight squeezed feeling. I get these "pains" when I am not experiencing a high anxiety level at least that I can tell. But once I get the pain, then my anxiety starts to rise, hot sweating, shortness of breath etc. I then calm my self down with breathing techniques and everything eventually leaves me.

I have had my heart checked out several times, second opinions upon second opinions. They all say my heart is fine. So to answer your question, I do have chest pain when I am not experiencing a panic attack.

As long as you have seen your Pdoc and they have tested you and say you are fine then you must trust them. I know it is harder said than done. If I could take my own advice I wouldn't be in the situation I am in. If you are still worried, have it checked out again and then trust them. My disclaimer, I am not in the medical field and am in no fashion a doc. Just wanted to give my opinion and what I experience.


Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 97
   Posted 3/24/2009 6:29 AM (GMT -6)   

Welcome, Birch!

Your post sounded very familiar...although I am sorry to hear that anxiety is back after 7 years of freedom.  But that is just proof that you can kick it again and be anxiety-free once more, right? :)

Chest pains are very, very common for me.  They differ between "panic attack" chest pains and "general anxiety" chest pains.  When my general anxiety is really bad, I will have continual chest pains - for me, it is like a burning/pressure sensation.  Like you, had the battery of tests done to find out that my heart is "as good as gold".  Yes, this is one of my scariest symptoms.  Even though I am relatively young (32) and healthy - my mind instantly goes to that illlogical place where I wonder daily if I am having a heart attack, have some terrible heart disease or illness. 

So, yes, I have had more chronic chest pains with general anxiety...usually burning/pressure with sometimes a sharp stab or something.  When I have a panic attack, it's usually the same but more severe, almost "crushing" feeling.  My panic/anxiety is very physical...when I was younger (childhood & teens), it was more mental.  Beginning in my 20's, it became much more physical as well - attacks can be debilitating, anxiety symptoms mimic serious illnesses, etc.  It's the worst!

Anyway, you're not alone and I hope that you are able to return to a calm place soon...

Panic Attacks (since age 10) & General Anxiety with a little OCD thrown in there
Biggest Challenge - Panic; Biggest Joy - my 3 cute kiddos (ages 1, 2 & 5)

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 3/24/2009 9:39 AM (GMT -6)   

Welcome Birch,

I have GERD so I have a fair amount of Heartburn and chest discomfort from that but I have not had any from anxiety. 

I am glad you received such a great response from the members.

I hope you stick with us as we love new members and as you can see the members are kind and caring and very willing to share.

Again welcome



Kitt, Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic & Depression
&  Moderator GERD  Forums

*~* *~*
Not a mental health professional of any kind
Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul
Clickable Link: Anxiety-Panic Resources

New Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 3/24/2009 1:01 PM (GMT -6)   
Well, thank you Raniah, dixibella, paniccu, Howlyncat, bigcc_1976, mom2three and stkitt.
I very much appreciate your replies and welcomes to the forum, and though it seems like a backwards thing to say, I'm glad to hear others experience chest pains as well.

Of the innumerable symptoms that come and go I can accept almost all of them as manifestations of the anxiety disorder - and then accepting that I can accept that with time, and with calming and resting of my nerves, these things will eventually dissipate. Most of all in regards to other symptoms I'm no longer worried that I have some underlying disease doctor's haven't identified yet that will sneak behind my back and kill me one day soon. I think these fears have been allayed in my mind because I've put my finger on the cause of those many symptoms: anxiety and panic disorder.
But I haven't fully accepted the same for the chest issues yet. That's why, i think, I'm going around asking people to verify that they have similar things with their anxiety. I'm looking to put my finger on the cause. A good part of my mind realizes this is just the last big thing my OCD/hypochindria ia latchign on to and let letting me let go of... but not enough of my mind yet.
Your answers in this thread have really helped, though. Thanks, and I'll try to return the favour to others in threads...

Georgie Girl
Regular Member

Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 319
   Posted 3/24/2009 3:18 PM (GMT -6)   
When I am in the throes of anxiety, I have a crushing, squeezing feeling in my chest and upper abdomen.  Not really pain, just severe discomfort.  I have mild anxiety right now and it's causing me mild chest pressure.  Once I became incapacitated by my anxiety and had to be hospitalized, at that time I felt like my chest was going to burst. 

Georgie Girl
Bipolar, Anxiety Disorder, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 341
   Posted 3/25/2009 6:22 AM (GMT -6)   

I'm going through the same thing. I have very sharp pains in my chest. Like someone has taken a battery cable and attached it to my chest and it shocks me. I'll get them before I even have a sign of an attack coming on. And it instantly sends me into a full blown attack. These chest pains are random and without reason. I can say I'm not the normal when it comes to doctor visits. I am scared to see the doctor as they might/will give me the bad news. Request blood work. Which I have passed out because I'm so worked up over them.
I do (for my sake) blame them on my back problem. It helps calm me down most of the time. Not always if its a new sensation I haven't had before.

I know these pains well. Been dealing with them now for 10 years. They seem to be getting worse for me. But I'm breaking down and seeing the doctor Friday. Hopefully I can bring myself to tell him.
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