Mental Health
5 minutes

What Is Anxiety Chest Pain, And What Can You Do About It?

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: September 15, 2023

Key Points

  • Anxiety chest pain is characterized by a stabbing chest pain which can intensify during an anxiety or panic attack.
  • Anywhere from 22% to more than 70% of panic attacks patients experience also include chest pain.
  • Cardiac pain can radiate to other parts of the upper body but anxiety chest pain will be localized to the chest.
  • Experiencing stress and anxiety can trigger hormones that activate the natural fight-or-flight response and the related symptoms.
  • Effective treatment for anxiety in teenage girls includes therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and medication management.

Anxiety chest pain is a stabbing pain in the chest brought on or intensified as a result of a panic attack or other anxiety-related episode. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you can practice breathing exercises, eat healthier, avoid caffeine, and seek professional therapy to alleviate these symptoms.

Facts About Anxiety

Anxiety is an intense fear of something specific, something that could happen, or extreme worry about the unknown that affects millions of teens. It is often accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms such as rapid breathing, profuse sweating, exhaustion, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, and an increased heart rate or spiked blood pressure.

While experiencing anxiety during new or frightening situations is to be expected, those diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder or who are struggling with their mental health could experience these symptoms when facing everyday situations.

These circumstances can trigger internal stress hormones affecting the brain’s cortisol levels and the natural fight-or-flight response. This stress response triggers the physical symptoms of anxiety that can be difficult to manage alone or without medication.

What Causes Anxiety Chest Pain?

Teen patients who present with chest pain related to anxiety disorders are more common than most believe. Patients without heart-related conditions who experience chest pain frequently have a higher rate of panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other anxiety-related disorders. In many cases, this is due to poor quality of life and a habit of avoiding phobias.[1]

What Does Anxiety Chest Pain Feel Like?

Chest pain is a common symptom of anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Official studies report that anywhere from 22% to more than 70% of panic attacks patients experience also include chest pain.[2] If your teen is struggling with anxiety-related chest pain, they may also report some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Numbness
  • Irregular temperature
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body tremors
  • Sense of no control

How Is Chest Tightness Different From Chest Pain?

Chest tightness is different from chest pain and is often described as a pulled chest muscle. It can be identified by the presence of some or all of the following supplemental symptoms:

  • Constant dull ache
  • Sharp shooting pains
  • Burning
  • A muscle twitch you can’t control
  • Numbness
  • Change in Sleep Patterns

Symptoms of Cardiac Chest Pain Vs. Anxiety Chest Pain

Being able to tell the difference between heart attack chest pain and chest pain related to a panic attack or anxiety episode could be a critical marker. In most cases, if there is an existing diagnosis of cardiovascular issues, heart disease, or other heart-related issues, there will be a greater cause for concern. For teens, this is less likely but not impossible.

Heart attack-related chest pain is typically caused by physical strain or exertion. Contrast this with anxiety chest pain, which can occur even while resting.

If a heart attack is imminent, the pain will escalate within a few minutes and remain constant until treated, or, in fatal cases, the heart stops. Anxiety-related chest pain often resolves quickly, sometimes in minutes or within an hour.

Heart attack chest pains radiate from the upper body (neck, shoulder blades, jaw, arm, etc.) and are accompanied by a tingling sensation, whereas chest pains due to anxiety are associated with sharp, stabbing aches and pains isolated to the chest area.[3]

However, you often cannot differentiate between chest pain that’s related to cardiac complications and chest pain related to anxiety, as angina is the same for the two. When in doubt, seek medical treatment.

What You Can Do About Anxiety Chest Pain For Teens At Home

Relieve Anxiety Chest Pain


Did you know that over five million children between the ages of three and seventeen were diagnosed with anxiety over a recent three-year period?[4] While this number is alarming, there are many at-home interventions your teen can begin practicing to alleviate their symptoms.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can help you become more centered and controlled in your physical state. Connect a state of intentional mindfulness with deep breathing to regain a sense of focus and relief. Breathe in through the nose and hold, then push slowly out through the mouth.

Find A Safe Space Or Person

Certain spaces are more conducive to happier thoughts and feelings and can give you the physical and mental space you need to focus on moderating your physical responses. Choose a clean, bright space with lots of natural light if possible.

If relocating isn’t possible, find a trusted person who will support you through this episode and help you implement other strategies for recovery.

Look At The Current Situation Objectively

Make a mental checklist of what you know to be true and possible and what you know isn’t real or impossible. Reevaluate your current situation through this lens.

Think and Stay Positive

Bring to mind happy, positive thoughts and circumstances that bring you joy. Picture a positive ending to your current state and see it through.

Picture A Serene Setting In Your Mind

If you’re not able to find a safe space or person, picture a space in your mind. Think through all of your senses. Where would you sit? What could you see? What would you touch? How would you feel in that room?

Inventory Your Body

Move through each muscle of your body, from top to bottom. Intentionally relax as many muscles as possible. The action of resetting your body and your mind can restore balance to your nervous system and reduce anxiety attack symptoms.

Take Up Journaling Through Your Anxiety

Journaling what led to your natural response and then working through your thoughts and emotions about it is a highly effective method to release those symptoms from your body. Keep a small notebook with you so that you’re ready no matter where you are.

Skip The Energy Drinks

Too much caffeine can make you jittery or exacerbate the physical symptoms of an anxiety attack. Reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake as much as possible.

Use Counting Techniques

Count slowly backward from 10 until you get to zero. Evaluate your symptoms and repeat. Continue until you’re able to achieve a greater level of calm and focus.

Get Enough Sleep

Rest is incredibly important for those who struggle with anxiety, as this is the body’s time to reset. Create a consistent sleep schedule and stick to it in order to begin each day as refreshed as possible.

There’s An App For That

There are several meditative or calming apps that can reduce anxiety symptoms. Look into what app will work best for you and pin it to your mobile device’s home screen.

Develop Healthy Eating and Exercise Habits

What you eat and how you move are directly tied to your mental health and emotional well-being. Make the extra effort to eat a healthier diet and stay physically active. It doesn’t have to be a high-impact exercise to have a meaningful impact on your health. Something as simple as walking, riding a bike, or stretching can improve the physical symptoms of anxiety.

When These Tactics Don’t Work To Relieve Anxiety Chest Pain, It’s Time To Seek Professional Intervention

If you’re ready to be fully supported through anxiety symptoms or a mental health diagnosis, there are many options available to help you maintain balance and safely navigate anxiety.

Teen Therapy Solutions

Teens require age-appropriate treatment that addresses their unique struggles. Approaching teen therapy must realistically incorporate an understanding of what they face on a day-to-day basis at home, in school, and among their peers.

Therapy interventions like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and Resiliency Support are critical to supporting long-term improvement and recovery.

Medication Management

Medication management may also be a good fit for some teens, depending on their unique needs. A licensed therapist may prescribe anti-anxiety medications as part of an individualized treatment plan that includes private and group therapy sessions.

Effective Treatment For Anxiety Chest Pain In Teens

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, BasePoint Academy can help. With teen-focused treatment and evidence-based interventions, we can help restore the balance and create a healthy future for your teen. Call today.

Frequently Asked Questions About Anxiety Chest Pain

Anxiety chest pain is described as sharp, stabbing pains and is usually localized to the chest. Heart-related chest pain will radiate from the neck, shoulders, arm, etc., and is described as constant and escalating.

Anxiety-related chest pain should not last for days. If you or a loved one are experiencing prolonged symptoms of chest pain, head to the emergency room or seek immediate healthcare support.

In most cases, heartburn will start at the top of your esophagus and move down into the chest and can be relieved by antacid tablets. Chest pain will feel more like radiating pain that can intensify.

Once the natural stress response has been activated and the cortisol levels affected, the physical symptoms of anxiety can be triggered. From dizziness and nausea to chest pain and a rapid heart rate.

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[1] Katerndahl, D. A. (2008). Chest pain and its importance in patients with panic disorder: An updated literature review. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from  

[2]Huffman, J. C., Pollack, M. H., & Stern, T. A. (2002, April). Panic disorder and chest pain: Mechanisms, morbidity, and management. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from  

[3]Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? Cedars. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2023, from  

[4]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, March 8). Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from