Do I Have A Heart Attack, COVID-19, Or Anxiety?

Anxiety, Depression, Panic Attacks, Stress

COVID-19, Anxiety, or a Heart Attack?

Chest pain can be a symptom of panic disorder, whether you have it for a short period or developed it as a result of the pandemic.

However, cardiac and other physiological conditions must be cleared out before treatment can start.

Additionally, keep in mind that any chest pain demands medical treatment. As the COVID-19 epidemic spreads, anxiety has become more pervasive in many facets of life, and chest pain or tightness may be a sign.

However, it might not.

Additionally, chest discomfort may be brought on by a cardiac problem or originate from a non-cardiac cause, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a chest muscular or skeletal condition, or even COVID-19.

Chest pain is a typical sign of panic attacks, but how can we know what’s causing it when we experience it? The only surefire way to know is to get medical help.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Physical Anxiety

Chest pain can occasionally arise as a result of elevated anxiety levels. According to Richa Bhatia, MD, FAPA, of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the body’s reaction to a perceived threat.

Because the body is in a fight-or-flight response and more blood is diverted to the muscles when a person is stressed, she explains, “the blood flow to different sections of the body can be lowered.”

Dr. Bhatia continues by saying that people who are experiencing high levels of anxiety frequently hyperventilate and breathe shallowly, which can make them feel lightheaded or tight in the chest.

What an Attack of Panic Feels Like

Chest pain brought on by worry can be one of the signs of a panic attack, which is characterized by a feeling of abrupt, overwhelming terror and the severe onset of four or more of the following signs:

  • A chest ache
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Choking sensations
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Feeling faint or nauseous
  • Feeling numb and tingly
  • Dread of losing control or going crazy

An someone may experience a panic attack while experiencing anxiety or it may happen suddenly. The above-mentioned symptoms often last for 10 minutes before going away.

It is possible to experience multiple panic attacks in a span of several hours, which can make the attacks seem to come in waves. Some people get panic attacks every day or every week.

Limited-symptom attacks are a milder variety of panic attacks that only have three or fewer of the aforementioned symptoms. Chest pain can occasionally occur when people are experiencing heightened worry.

According to Dr. Bhatia, “Chest discomfort is more frequent in panic attacks, but patients occasionally report feeling pressure in their chest from excessive anxiety without having a full-blown panic attack.”

A heart attack or a panic attack?

It can be challenging for someone to distinguish between a panic attack and a heart attack, medically known as a myocardial infarction (MI), because the symptoms of both might overlap.

6 Approximately 60% to 90% of ER patients with chest pain do not have a cardiac cause of the symptoms, according to studies. However, people frequently go to the emergency room (ER) with chest pain believing they have a heart problem.

When compared to a heart attack, how do panic attacks feel different?

They can feel identical, which is unfortunate, says Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. People frequently feel out of breath, woozy, and they may experience excruciating chest discomfort.

Even someone in perfect health with strong lungs experiencing a panic attack may feel extremely out of breath. Naturally, those symptoms feed off the panic, which then intensifies exponentially to this huge crescendo.

Because patients experience heart attack and panic attack symptoms in so many different ways, according to Dr. McCann, it is impossible to independently determine the etiology of those symptoms.

“There are a range of symptoms that people experiencing myocardial infarctions feel or don’t experience, so absolutely if someone came in with a panic attack to an emergency room, they would receive a full workup for a MI,” she says.

Dr. Bhatia emphasizes that individuals shouldn’t self-diagnose their chest discomfort or think it is a panic attack, especially if they have never experienced chest pain or had a panic disorder diagnosis previously.

According to her, anxiety disorders and panic disorders may only be identified after a doctor has performed a thorough examination and ruled out any underlying cardiac or other medical causes of chest pain. This is because these diseases are diagnoses of exclusion.

Also worth noting is that cardiac chest pain can occur in those who suffer from panic attacks.

Could the Coronavirus be the cause of my chest pain?

The only symptom of COVID-19 is rarely chest discomfort, which rarely manifests by itself. For instance, if COVID-19 was the cause of your chest pain, you would probably also have upper respiratory infection symptoms like coughing and phlegm.

According to Dr. McCann, the pain would not be brought on by a panic attack. Again, however, there is no way to tell without being examined by a healthcare professional due to the vast variety of symptoms that persons with COVID-19 experience.

(For more information on new research on the cardiovascular hazards of Long Covid after recovering from COVID infection, see the associated article on our clinical site.)

Common COVID-19 symptoms, according to the CDC, include fever, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repetitive shaking accompanied by chills, muscle discomfort, headaches, sore throats, and new loss of taste or smell.

When Panic Disorder Occurs: Treatment Alternatives

Patients and their doctors can talk about treatment when it is determined that the reason of chest discomfort is psychological (i.e., anxiety) rather than cardiac in character. It’s crucial to understand that any one of the five different types of anxiety disorders might result in panic attacks:

  • Disordered anxiety generally
  • An obsessional condition
  • PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Disordered social anxiety
  • Panic attack.

To be diagnosed with panic disorder, a person must experience recurrent panic attacks and be so terrified of having another one that it interferes with their day-to-day activities. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that 2% to 3% of US individuals receive a diagnosis of panic disorder each year. More women than men suffer from anxiety problems.

According to Dr. McCann, the stress of the coronavirus pandemic might induce someone without a history of anxiety to acquire panic disorder.

According to her, “COVID-19 can be the initial environment in which a person experiences panic disorder (PD) for the first time.” “However, for it to be classified as PD, certain ‘conditions’ must be satisfied.

Particularly, the symptoms must last for at least a month. People must modify their maladaptive behaviors (or endure a month of unrelenting anxiety about having another panic attack).

She points out that sleep issues might have a significant impact on the emergence of panic disorder. Poor sleep raises the possibility of repeat panic attacks.

Panic-related anxiety frequently results in poor sleep, creating a vicious cycle, according to the expert. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a potent panacea for panic anxiety.

CBT, according to Dr. McCann, is a method for identifying abnormal, irrational thought patterns and the behaviors that people exhibit when these thoughts arise. A CBT therapist assists patients in putting useful strategies into practice that might lessen panic symptoms.

Patients can recognize and release the tension in their bodies that comes with anxiety with the aid of methods like breathing retraining, meditation, and yoga. (Discover how to perform CBT at home.)

Both Dr. McCann and Dr. Bhatia stress that a patient may have cardiac or medical chest pain that should not be disregarded even if they have been diagnosed with panic disorder.

How to Survive a Pandemic: Coping Strategies

In a survey performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in mid-April 2020, 56% of respondents said that stress and fear related to the pandemic have had a negative impact on their mental health.

The negative effects that respondents experienced included difficulties sleeping, low appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomachaches, trouble controlling their temper, increased alcohol or drug usage, and worsening of chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure.

This is an increase from 45% who said stress related to the coronavirus had harmed their mental health in a KFF survey done in late March 2020. ⁹

Whether you’re mentally healthy as a horse or not, everyone currently has elevated anxiety, according to Dr. McCann.

By linking patients with their doctors, telemedicine can be of assistance, and video conference apps give us a way to maintain our social lives while staying at home. More information about telemedicine access.

Remember to seek emergency medical attention if you have any kind of chest pain.

You can Read More about Natural Ways For Dealing With Anxiety

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