Anxiety can present with some or all of the same symptoms than those of more serious heart and lung diseases. Angina, or chest pain is one of these terrifying symptoms which can cause you to suspect an approaching heart attack long before you have even considered the possibility on an anxiety attack. Because heart disease is such a common and life threatening condition all chest pain should be regarded as serious and should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.
Angina is chest pain caused by a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle. The oxygen supply to the heart can be insufficient for many reasons. One reason can be due to plaque obstructing the blood vessels that supply the heart of blood. Another reason can be because the heart muscle suddenly starts working harder, increasing its demand for oxygen, for instance during exercise. Angina can be accompanied with symptoms such as breathlessness, sweating, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, all symptoms that occur with anxiety too.
Distinguishing between angina and anxiety is not so easy, since one of the symptoms of angina is anxiety. During an anxiety attack your heart starts beating faster requiring more oxygen and this may lead to angina like symptoms. For this reason it is not possible to tell from personal experience whether you are experiencing angina or an anxiety attack. Both conditions present with similar symptoms, are equally painful and just plain scary.
The only reason to know for sure whether you are suffering from angina caused by heart disease or from angina like symptoms from anxiety is to consult your doctor. Your doctor may perform an ECG to test your heart’s electronic signals, a stress test to see how your heart responds to exercise, a chest x-ray and some blood tests to determine your cholesterol and blood glucose levels.
If your doctor determined that you are suffering from anxiety and not from angina the good news is that you can treat anxiety just like you can treat angina. Apart from relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation you can also consider cognitive behavioral therapy to help you deal better with stress.
Exercise is also a good way to get rid of the stress causing hormones which can lead to a rapid heart rate, but you might want to start slow especially if you are experiencing angina like symptoms. Yoga or other stretching exercises may be a good alternative to vigorous aerobic exercises.
There are many people just like you who faced anxiety, rouse to the challenge and walked away victorious. Anxiety does not need to be a life sentence. With a little bit of help from a qualified therapist or even an anxiety support group and some patience you can regain your confidence and your quality of life.
“Angina” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 2011. Nhlbi.nih.gov (November 13, 2012) http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/angina/diagnosis.html
“Cardiovascular Conditions – Angina”. Heart Foundation of Australia. [No date]. Heartfoundation.org.au. (November 13, 2012) http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/cardiovascular-conditions/pages/angina.aspx
“Angina Causes” Mayoclinic. 2012. Mayoclinic.com. (November 13, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/angina/DS00994/DSECTION=causes