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Is it normal to have chest discomfort if I have anxiety?

Mental Health Psychiatry Health & Fitness

I have an anxiety problem. Recently i have been stressed, and I started to have chest discomfort for a week.

Now my whole left side of the body is feeling ache. Is this normal given that I have anxiety issues?

DOCTOR’S ANSWER (3)

Thank you for highlighting such a common problem, which many patients at the clinic also have.

Chest discomfort, tingling sensation over the limbs, aches and pains, can certainly be attributed to anxiety and depression. Nevertheless, it is important to seek medical attention so that other medical problems like an underling heart condition can be excluded.

For anxiety issues, it will be good to learn to practise a relaxation technique on a daily basis. If your stress stems mainly from your work, you can try writing down all the tasks that you need to perform, and then prioritise them, sorting out the important or urgent  ones first. Many patients of mine find this a useful strategy as they stop fearing that they will forget to perform some tasks or work.

Going for long walks may also be useful in relieving one's anxiety. There are many parks in Singapore and most of them are pretty scenic and pleasing to the eyes. Choose a park that is near your house so that you can incorporate walks in the park into their lifestyle. When you are in nature, do remember to immerse yourself in it by focusing on the tress, flowers and vegetation around you.

Wish you a speedy recovery. Take good care of your mental health.

524 views 4 Nov 2018
Dr Paul Ang
Dr Paul Ang
"Family Physician with special interest in Mental Health"
(1 Reviews)

Thank you for sharing your problems.

  1. Chest pain and discomfort can be a very scary symptom. For most people, who are used to be in control of life; “suddenly” losing control over their own body can be extremely terrifying. Especially when we might have heard/seen other people having heart attacks or sudden deaths. The first step would be to see a family doctor and make sure the doctor feels that it is nothing serious to it.
  2. Left sided body aches and discomfort are quite common. In fact, everyone will feel it from time to time. But as the mind-body-soul has close connections with one another, any disturbance in balance can cause bodily pain to be felt more acutely and more intensely.
  3. “Anxiety issues” is a big word that doctors use to communicate with other doctors. It is nice to hide ourselves behind a big word like this, but it absolutely has no meaning to you, the patient. It understates your problem grossly.
  4. It would be good to seek professional help when you are still able to cope with the symptoms. Things are always easier to treat.
  5. Most people think that we can “will these things away”, but from experience gained from seeing hundreds of patients like you, they will NOT go away by themselves. They will fluctuate throughout your life.
  6. Medications might be helpful sometimes, but it might be more useful to see a formally trained clinical psychologist (not a counselor or hypnotherapist).
  7. A psychologist will listen to you, find out what is predisposing you, triggering you and causing this problem to flare up. Then with more information, you will be empowered to learn to change unhelpful thought and behavioural patterns.
  8. We have been having good treatment success rates if the patient is willing to stick to a course of treatment.
  9. Happy New Year and hope you will find peace soon.
979 views 26 Jan 2018

Experiencing chest pain is extremely common amongst patients who suffer from anxiety.

This is known in medical speak as somatisation, which is when physical symptoms are caused by mental factors. You can read more about somatisation in this great article here.

Even though your history is strongly suggestive of chest pain related to anxiety, and not of the worrying “heart attack” sort, I cannot tell for certain from the limited information that you have provided.

Suggestive risk factors for heart disease include if you are an older male with a history of smoking, diabetes, or have relatives with heart problems.

As such, if your chest pain continues to worry or bother you, I’d suggest for you to visit your GP. He will be able to readily tell the difference between anxiety-related chest pain from that caused by serious medical problems from your history.

The reason chest pain symptoms can be triggered by anxiety is because your body mounts a stress response when you are anxious, which can cause tightening of your chest muscles and an achey feeling.

If you are able to, calming yourself down with relaxation techniques will bring an end to the stress response, and will stop the chest pain. This can take up to 20 minutes.

Not to fret if you don’t know any relaxation techniques! After your doctor visit, if he determines that your chest pain is due to anxiety, he will be able to counsel you and/or refer you to a psychologist accordingly to learn and practise these techniques.

974 views 26 Jan 2018
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