Chest Pain: How do I know when it's not just anxiety?

Hi everybody!

I have had generalized anxiety disorder for over ten years and I have experienced several panic attacks and strange physical manifestations of stress. Often, when driving, I have shortness of breathe and a tight feeling in my chest that nags me. I have had an EKG that showed that I have a strong heart and I have mentioned it to my doctors but I am still not satisfied. I really do feel like there is something wrong. It could also be my hypochondria kicking in. The sensations and shortness of breath come and go. I am 28 and pretty healthy otherwise. Anyone else experience this? It's gotten a lot worse since I returned to finish my degree. I have a script for clonopin that helps at night but I really wonder if there is something wrong with my heart. :/ Any advice?

i (and many others) have gone through similar things. Panic attacks, hyperventilating etc. Stress can do funny things but a heart attack at age 28 is very unlikely. In my opinion it is the mental awareness and heightened sensitivity to anxiety which makes you feel as though you have problems with your ticker. The fact you have had an ECG shows the problem is more psychological than physical. The latter can obviously affect the former, however not to the degree of a heart attack (atleast while being so young!). The shortness of breathe will tighten your chest, but not your heart. Have you been shown breathing exercises and relaxation techniques?

I have tried several relaxation techniques. Deep breathing helps instantly. I'm taking some stressful classes which may be getting to me more than I thought. I think you're right about being hyperaware. I do pay attention more than I used to. I also think about health issues more than the next person. I guess I just need to stop psyching myself out so bad! It feels good to know that other ppl fo through the same kind of stuff. Thanks again, Timmy :)

yep the deep breathing tends to slow and relax the muscles, and then the thoughts. I had similar things several years ago. I found the mental manifestation and 'overawareness' of the physical side of things just keeps you on edge so much. It starts to dominate your life sometimes, however it is easily treatable. Its all about relaxation, practice and just slowing things down as well as your thoughts.

I'm going to give relaxation techniques another shot. I feel better just thinking about it! Thank you. I'm going to have a nice long bout of meditation and breathing before bed and maybe before my drive to school tomorrow :)

Take it from a reformed Panic Attack sufferer, who is a hypochondriac as well. Here's the deal -
While your chest pains certainly are cause for concern, through my cognitive behavioral therapy, I have learned that it boils down to one simple question for me:

"Have I had this before, and how did I do back then?"

The problem I had is a heightened awareness of everything happening in my body. Equate it to a noisy refrigerator. There is always some kind of noise going on, but it still works fine. The problem with being hyper vigilant is that you NEVER get a break.

Take a student - they study for hours on end, then they need to take a break, or they are too tired. Same goes for someone at work. When you are hyper vigilant, you NEVER take a break, so you are exhasted, which further fuels the anxiety and symptoms. It's a viscious cycle.

Take all the times you have had the bad things happen to you (in your mind,) and look at them as proof that you "survived" despite your thoughts to the contrary. Each time you had an EKG, (and I have had over 12 in the last year. LOL) each time you visited the doctor, each time you suffered are actually proof that you are allowed to be okay.

Finally, I had to ask myself, what does being hyper vigilant give me? When I am constantly checking, or waiting for something bad to happen, what is that giving me?

The truth is, if something's wrong with your heart, (in the case of a medical emergency,) NO AMOUNT OF VIGILANCE is going to help you. There will be NO QUESTION as to what's wrong. At your age, it's rare. (You have a better chance of winning the lottery!) You would have to have something wrong already, like a bad heart defect, which has been ruled out by your doctors.

Finally, I knopw it's hard, but try and get off the anxiety meds. They are fueling your anxiety, and are a crutch. Your road to recovery will have many setbacks, (mine did,) but in the overal picture, it will go down.

If you need any more help, don't be afraid to look into CBT. If it's really expensive for you, (a session around here costs 110$, and you are looking at minimum of 10 session!) you can try a university where they are training their students under supervision of a psychologist. I paid 20$ per session then, and my insurance picked up the tab for most of it.

Good luck, hollar if you need anything!

Thank you so much, Jason. I will look into it if I feel the need. I had a really good day today though. :) Stay strong!

I've had the same problem, and it had turned out to be a heart structural issue, but there are other symptoms (mainly extreme fatigue and an increased heart rate). I also suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, and the heart structure issue feels different from the panic attacks.

If you feel that there is something wrong, you could try asking for an echocardiogram, which looks at the heart structure, where as an EKG looks at the electrical stuffs.