Can anxiety cause chest pain? What does it feel like and how long does it last?

Anxiety absolutely can be associated with chest discomfort, which may manifest in different ways. Some people may feel pressure, a sense of fear in the chest, a racing heart, palpitations, irregular heartbeats, or changes in heart rate or rhythm. This is largely due to the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which causes the body’s fight-or-flight response, but there are less scientific reasons also. For instance, many emotions–such as love–are perceived in the chest. 

The duration of an anxiety attack really depends, but it usually lasts for minutes, not seconds and not usually hours. It’s difficult to reassure someone their chest pain is due to anxiety without a physical exam, and occasionally without more definitive testing, like cardiac electrical tracing (ECG or EKG) or longer heart monitoring. 

Because chest pain has so many potential causes, only some of them originating from the heart, anxiety is usually a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning other possible causes must be considered first.