Psychologist Shares The Reason Your Chest Hurts When You're Anxious

Chest pains can only add to your anxiety – here's why they happen.
Chest pains can only add to your anxiety – here's why they happen.

Chest pains can only add to your anxiety – here's why they happen.

When you’re anxious, having chest pain can make you feel even worse. And when that chest pain strikes, it can be difficult to reassure yourself it’s down to an anxiety attack, when Dr. Google tells you it could be something more sinister.

Now, a clinical psychologist has weighed in on the link between the two to explain why our chests can physically hurt when anxiety kicks in.

Dr Kirren Schnack, who has almost 500k followers on TikTok as @DrKirren, shared a video taking through the reason behind the phenomenon – and thousands have flocked to the comments section to share their thanks.

Pretending to type on her computer, Dr Kirren adds the caption, “Me letting my patients know that chest muscles brace themselves when anxiety strikes”.

She continues: “This is to protect your body against damage. That’s why your chest feels tight, even painful, when you’re anxious.”

In a response to one of her commenters, she added: “This is also why it can be hard to take long deep breaths.”

In other words, when you’re having an anxiety attack and your flight or fight response is triggered, your body prepares itself for an impact that doesn’t exist.

The post has been reassuring for many, with one TikTok user writing: “Thank you for posting this, this always happens to me and makes me panic more.”

There are ways to encourage your body to relax and move away from the “flight or fright” of the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, which kicks in after periods of danger, perceived or otherwise, and is essential for basic bodily functions such a digestion and sleep.

Breathing is one of them – so here are three calming techniques you can try, and some more information on why it’s so good for calming anxiety and stress.

Help and support:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.

  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.

  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk

  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.

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