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Anxiety and Heart Palpitations

Palpitations is a consciousness of own beating heart. In normal situation, people often not realize of the beating of their heart, but when they get excited, stressed, anxious, or frightened, they usually become more aware of their own heartbeat. Anxiety and heart palpitations often come hand in hand.

Anxiety is basically a part of a person’s natural response to life problems and worries. Common events like giving a speech or going on a job interview; or when a loved one gets sick; or when going to unfamiliar places -- all these can cause constant anguish and even anxiety attacks if one cannot cope effectively with the stress.

Anxiety is the feeling of fear, apprehension and worry, caused by anticipation of future events and accompanied by nausea, heart palpitations, chest pain, and breathlessness. For people with severe anxiety, it is much worse and is felt on a constant basis. Anxiety is without doubt considered abnormal when the signs and symptoms of anxiety extend for a prolonged period. This can be triggered off due to a number of reasons such as one’s circumstances, certain traumatic experiences or anything perceived by the person as traumatic. When this happens, you may have developed an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety attacks can also feel like a heart attack that is accompanied by heart palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pains. Your body is quivering and shaking, your mouth goes dry, and you might experience dizziness from the stressful situation. The body becomes "hyped up" by your reaction to the situation, and your senses go into a sort of overdrive that is unlike the depression of the system that happens when you suffer from clinical depression.

Anxiety is said to have four components:

  1. Cognitive components: This imposes fear of uncertain danger.
  2. Somatic components: When faced with a frightening situation your blood pressure and heart rate are increased, you tend to sweat, and blood flow to the major muscle groups is increased. The somatic signs of anxiety might include pale skin, sweating, trembling, missed heartbeats or heart palpitations and pupil dilation.
  3. Emotional components: The emotional components of anxiety cause a sense of dread or panic, nausea, and chills.
  4. Behavioral components: This would lead to both voluntary and involuntary behaviors, and you maybe directed at avoiding the source of anxiety which is quite common.

Types of Anxiety

There are various types of anxiety - Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety and specific phobias.

How can I tell if I’m having an anxiety attack?

Generally, there are a series of symptoms that are experienced that typically signal the onslaught of an anxiety or panic attack both physically and emotionally. The signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder can include anything from sweating profusely to having extreme heart palpitations.

However, since there are quite a number of physical signs and symptoms associated to anxiety disorders, some people tend to assume that they have health issues. Hence, it is really best to know the many physiological aspects of anxiety to accurately determine if you’re having an anxiety attack and to avoid confusion.

Signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder symptoms range from being mild and harmless, to severe and enervating depending upon the individual and also with the kind of disorder that the patient is suffering from. The major physical symptoms of anxiety include something relatively simple, such as blushing or flushing of the face, though an increased heart rate and mild heart palpitations are also possible. The physical symptoms of anxiety are identified by how the brain sends signals to other parts of the body preparing for a fight or flight reaction. The human brain releases stress hormones, which includes adrenaline. Common physical signs and symptoms of anxiety that can occur are:

  • Hot flashes or chills and sweating
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Fatigue and dizziness
  • Insomnia and headache
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Clammy / cold hands
  • Heart palpitations / rapid heartbeats / missed heartbeats including palpitations when lying down
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritated bowel syndrome or abdominal discomfort
  • Trembling, numbness or tingling
  • Chest pain
  • Dry mouth, difficulty to swallow or ‘lump in the throat’
  • Frequent urination
  • Hyperventilation

Emotional or psychological signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:

  • Dread, uneasiness and shyness
  • Avoidance or strong desire to escape
  • Irritability or anger
  • Confusion and inability to concentrate
  • Jumpiness or nervousness
  • Insecurity, extreme fear or abnormal phobias
  • Obsessive behaviors and fear of madness

Anxiety and heart palpitations

Of all the symptoms that are felt by anxiety sufferers, heart palpitations often is one of the most annoying. This is because heart palpitations can make one feels like he or she is having a heart attack or even going to die. And this will worsen the fear, anxiety and panic.

When you get heart palpitations from anxiety attacks, you may feel a racing heart, missed heartbeats, jumping around heart, beating/pounding heart beat, fluttering, and a flopping sensation in the chest. Worse, you may feel like your heart is stop beating,

If the heart palpitations cause is anxiety then it can be controlled with an anxiety medication. But you must talk with your doctor first to determine if the palpitations are being caused by anxiety, or another medical condition.

Treatment for depression and anxiety attacks

There are five types of treatment that have proved to be helpful and they have been used successfully to address the signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

Behavior Therapy
This therapy helps you to become more confident about managing fear and anxiety and also prepares you to face any kind of inducing situations.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy
This treatment aims to change the behavior and cognition patterns of a person suffering from severe case of heart palpitations related to anxiety, depression and anxiety attacks.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy
This therapy helps those who have fear because of unconscious mental conflict. You are made to uncover the conflict as a means to stop the fear-causing anxiety and panic.

Alternative therapies
Different therapies have been developed for treating anxiety, like EMDR - a therapy that utilizes rapid eye movement, repetitive sounds and tapping to reintegrate an “out of sync” brain. Even acupuncture is being used to treat anxiety.

Most doctors prescribed medications like anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs as short term treatment for depression and anxiety attacks. Medications are recommended among patients suffering from this condition as they act as supplementary treatments once other types of therapies are taken.

Therapy, medication, and relaxation exercises (such as yoga) can all provide relief of signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder including heart palpitations related to anxiety and when used together the results are even better. Exercise regularly, improving your eating habits and reduction in caffeine and sugar intake is also very helpful to alleviate anxiety and heart palpitations. Try to reach out to your friends and family and share your troubles; do not let it get accumulated before it hits you hard. Anxiety is very common and you are not the only one, so don't hesitate to seek help.

Disclaimer: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.