Substernal chest pain is caused by such ailments as pneumonia, anemia, hypertension, heart attack and pulmonary embolism, according to Right Diagnosis. Anxiety and panic disorders are less likely causes.
Heart attacks can cause substernal chest pain because the heart is deprived of oxygen, causing chest complications, as noted by Right Diagnosis. Hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol are all factors that lead to heart attacks. Chest pain is a prime indication of a heart attack, but sufferers do not always exhibit this type of pain. Others may confuse heat attack pain with less serious problems, such as a panic attack.
Studies show that 40 percent of people with panic disorders experience some form of chest pain, as reported by About.com. There are two types of pain that distinguish between heart problems and panic attacks: typical and atypical. Typical chest pains are related to heart complications, and substernal pain falls under this category. Substernal pain may also occur on the left side of the chest, and while typical pain is normally constant, a creeping discomfort can grow severe for a few minutes. The pain usually begins in the chest and travels to other parts of the body, such as the jaws or arms.
Pain from panic attacks are atypical, according to About.com. This form of discomfort can be alleviated if a person moves around, and the pain is concentrated on a certain part of the body. However, people with atypical symptoms can also experience serious chest issues.