When someone has a pain in their chest they automatically fear that something is wrong with their heart which of course can be terrifying.
One of the main symptoms of a panic/anxiety attack, other than a racing heartbeat is chest pain and a feeling of suffocation. These symptoms along with possible dizziness, tiredness, headaches, vomiting and more quite often lead the patient to call the ambulance or rush immediately to the hospital. In most of the cases, after being checked over, he or she is told that they are having a panic/anxiety attack and nothing is wrong with their heart.
Take a minute to think about what happens to the body when experiencing a panic/anxiety attack; it is in fear response mode. If you were in some kind of danger you would need to act quickly to defend yourself, that’s why we have a built-in fight-or-flight response that our body activates once we feel any type of threat. This basically means that you breathe harder to pump more blood to your organs and your body automatically releases Adrenaline, a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland which is found just above the kidneys. When Adrenaline is produced, it stimulates the heart-rate, dilates blood vessels and air passages, as well as a number of more minor effects. Adrenaline is naturally produced in high-stress or physically exhilarating situations so your body and mind are prepared to take on whatever is facing them.
You will start breathing very deeply (over-breathing or hyperventilating) and this will cause you to accumulate extra air in your chest and diaphragm area that you don’t need. (the reason you feel suffocated while you’re having a panic attack) Eventually, this will cause pain because your chest is expanding beyond its limits and pushing on your rib cage. During the fight or flight response especially, the body completely shuts off the digestive system because we don’t need it at that moment. This is why our appetite is reduced when we are extremely anxious. The longer the food stays in the stomach the more acid will back up in your oesophagus. This can cause chest pain and a very painful throat.
About 60% of panic attacks are accompanied by hyperventilation and many people suffering from anxiety over-breathe even when they think they are relaxed. The most important thing to understand about hyperventilation or over-breathing is that although we can feel as if we haven’t enough oxygen in our body, actually the opposite is true. Healthy breathing is when there is a steady balance between breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. You upset this balance when you hyperventilate by exhaling more than you inhale. Everyone tends to think that breathing comes naturally and that there can’t be a wrong way of doing it. Unfortunately, that’s not true. There is a right way and a wrong way and it is essential that correct breathing is learned, understood and established. An anxious body is not a relaxed body, which is why learning how to relax your body in any situation is a must. No Panic teaches how to correct your breathing and relax your body.