Chest Pain Cause Non Cardiac Psychological Psychosomatic

Psychological chest pain describes chest pain that occurs without a physical cause. Despite the lack of a physical cause, psychological chest pain is capable of causing just as much pain as any physical condition.

Causes of Psychological Chest Pain

Psychological causes of chest pain include:

  • anxiety disorders
  • depression
  • panic attacks
  • stress responses.

Depression, for instance, alters the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, two brain chemicals that affect how people perceive pain.

Psychological causes of chest pain are often interrelated. Depression may develop from excessive stress and anxiety, both of which can be linked to panic attacks.

Psychological Chest Pain: Panic Attacks

Panic attack disorders cause some of the most extreme psychological chest pain. Often, panic attack sufferers feel as if they’re suffering a heart attack. In fact, psychological chest pain mimics many of the symptoms of a heart attack, and medical attention is the only way to differentiate between the two conditions.

The exact cause of a panic attack is unknown. It is known that stress can trigger a panic attack and that panic attacks can run in families. Women are twice as likely to suffer from panic attacks as men, and panic attack symptoms usually develop before 25 years of age.

A panic attack disorder causes anxiety and stress, as the victim of the panic attack does not know when the next attack will strike. He may avoid circumstances or locations known to trigger panic attacks and may experience depression when panic attacks impair quality of life.

Stress and anxiety caused by panic attacks increase the likelihood of future panic attacks and psychological chest pain.

Panic Attack Symptoms

Anxiety, stress and panic attack disorders can all cause similar symptoms. Panic attacks tend to develop suddenly, and can last for a few minutes to several hours. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • chills and hot flashes
  • dizziness
  • fear of losing control
  • feeling faint
  • heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • overwhelming fear or a sense of doom
  • psychological chest pain
  • rapid breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • trembling and shaking.

If there is any doubt whether symptoms are due to psychological causes of chest pain or a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.

Treating Psychological Chest Pain

A number of therapeutic options are available for treating psychological chest pain. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are most often used to control psychological chest pain, as SSRIs are used to treat anxiety, depression and panic attacks.

Therapy may be used when treating psychological chest pain, either in combination with anti-anxiety medication or alone. Possible therapeutic treatments for psychological chest pain include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • cognitive restructuring (learning to replace anxiety-producing thoughts with calming thoughts)
  • relaxation techniques.

In addition to medication and therapy, psychological chest pain treatment can include:

  • a healthy diet
  • avoiding coffee and other stimulants
  • regular exercise
  • regular sleep patterns.

Psychological causes of chest pain often present in combination with other mental disorders. Panic attacks, for instance, may occur in combination with depression, anxiety, social phobias and agoraphobia (fear of public places). Treating psychological chest pain is most successful when all psychological conditions are addressed.

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (15 November 2007). Chest Pain. Retrieved 15 November 2007 from the Mayo website at mayoclinic.com/health/chest-pain/DS00016.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (17 April 2006). Panic Attacks. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from the Mayo Web site: mayoclinic.com/health/panic-attacks/DS00338/DSECTION=8.

National Library of Medicine. (updated 25 July 2006). Panic Disorder. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from the MedlinePlus Web site: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000924.htm.

National Institute of Mental Health. (updated 7 November 2007). Panic Disorder. Retrieved 15 November 15, 2007, from the National Institute of Mental Health Web site: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/panic-disorder/index.shtml.