How to Deal with Heart Palpitations if You Have an Anxiety Disorder

Heart palpitations are a very common anxiety disorder symptom. If you have them, then you know how these palpitations can be described as feeling the force and rate of your elevated or rapid heartbeat.

For example, if you vigorously exercise, you’ll probably notice the beating of your heart inside your chest. When you begin to rest, that sensation may continue for a few minutes or so. As you recover from your exercise these pounding sensations begin to fade away.

If you have an anxiety disorder you may have these palpitations more often when you’re in a situation that makes you anxious or otherwise psychologically uncomfortable.

What many anxious people tend to do is pay more attention to their physical symptoms…in this case, their pounding heart…instead of learning how to deal with the situation that causes their physical symptoms.

Unfortunately, after a few episodes of a pounding heart, some people with anxiety begin to believe they have heart disease or another terrible physical illness. It is interesting to note the majority of complaints associated with the heart presented to doctors are psychological in nature rather than physical problems.

Of course, if you have heart palpitations, you may feel like you’re having a heart attack or another heart-related problem. In addition, if you suffer from anxiety, you typically will pay far more attention to your bodily symptoms…the pounding heart only increases your anxiety and it can even lead you to a panic attack …if you let it.

This is because you’ll start to play a game of “what’s the worst thing that can happen” and you’ll usually jump to the most awful outcome imaginable.

If you’ve been medically checked out, then you know your heart is okay and you need to remind yourself of this. If your heart is not diseased, then you are paying too much attention to your heart and focusing on each and every beat or what you perceive as missed beats. The thing that is actually causing your anxiety is your awareness of your heartbeat, not your heart!

Your heart palpitations – or racing heart – are one of the things your body does as a reaction to the fight or flight response . This response releases all sorts of adrenaline and other stress hormones in order to physically prepare you to deal with your fears.

The first thing you need to do…after reminding yourself that your doctor said your heart is healthy…is to get away from whatever is causing your anxiety, at least for a little while. Step out of the room, go for a walk, etc. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and focus on your breathing instead of your fear.

Medical evaluation is a necessity

Obviously, if you have heart palpitations, you need to be checked out by your doctor. You must rule out any type of heart disease or other cardiovascular problem. Don’t take a chance with your heart or your physical health!

Let the doctor examine you…run whatever tests she thinks are necessary…and then if everything comes back okay, you’ll be reassured your heart is physically okay and you can then focus on dealing with your anxiety.

If you have to live with anxiety and palpitations, it can certainly make your life unpleasant and fearful. Uncertainty about when your heart palpitations might next occur can cause you to be cautious about going anywhere. You may even become hesitant about making future plans because you’re fearful that something might happen.

Happily, anxiety and heart palpitations are fairly easy to overcome if you follow the right treatment method. Be vigilant about finding the right treatment and patterns of thinking. One excellent method of treatment is called cognitive behavioral therapy .

A few of the more typical causes of heart palpitations are:

• fear

• strong emotions

• anxiety

• some antidepressant medications

Symptoms

A heart palpitation can be described as an unpleasant sensation in the heart. The heart can beat rapidly or slowly; the heartbeat can be regular or irregular. If you think your may have heart palpitations, here’s a partial list of what they might feel like:

• a heart that “jumps around”

• a flopping-type sensation within your chest

• your heart feels like it’s fluttering

• a beating or pounding heart

• your heart races

• your heart feels as though it’s skipping beats

• your heart might feel like it’s stopping

You can also experience these sensations:

• shortness of breath

• dizziness

• lightheadedness

• tightness in your chest

• blackouts

Once again, it’s extremely important to understand that if you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms – or other heart-related symptoms – you should take them seriously and get a medical evaluation. Your doctor needs to determine if your palpitations are caused by anxiety or another medical condition.

Treatment

While heart palpitations are a very common symptom of anxiety disorders, we know that palpitations can also be a sign of heart disease. And even though most complaints of palpitations only indicate a minor cardiac problem or sign of an anxiety disorder, it is possible they may reflect coronary artery disease...

...so, the first step in the treatment of heart palpitations is to see a medical doctor. Because even if your doctor discovers your palpitations are caused by an anxiety disorder, you have medical reassurances that your heart is physically okay.

So what do you do if your doctor says your heart is physically fine and your heart palpitations are caused by an anxiety disorder?

One thing you could do would be the next time you get palpitations just allow your heart to do what it’s doing. Let go of the thoughts you have about wishing the palpitations would go away.

As we’ve learned earlier, people with anxiety disorders tend to pay far too much attention to their bodily symptoms. Just let go of the thoughts you have about wanting your heart rate to slow down. No matter how many times you have these kinds of thoughts, ignore them and let them go!

It’s important not to resist your anxiety. Resistance always makes things worse and you find yourself becoming more anxious. It gets so bad that you’re actually becoming anxious about your anxiousness! It’s anxiety on top of anxiety! When you start to mentally create a list of everything that could be wrong with you, it only causes your heart beat even faster. Reframe your experience. Learn to enjoy the energy pulsating through your body. Move your attention off your symptoms and onto a present moment sensation, such as your breathing. Pay attention to each time you inhale and each time you exhale. Practice the many relaxation techniques that are available.

If you learn to accept your feelings and focus on the present, your heart palpitations will usually go away much faster. It really is a matter of relaxing your mind and your body.

If you need them, your doctor can prescribe medications to help you relax or you can talk to a mental health therapist who will help you learn to relax and change your anxious thought process to a calmer way of thinking using cognitive behavioral therapy.

If your heart palpitations are not medically caused, other things you can do to help calm your palpitations are:

• learn how to relax

• avoid caffeine

• avoid cigarettes

• eat a healthy diet

• don’t take diet pills or other over-the-counter medications that can make you anxious…when in doubt, ask your pharmacist

You might also want to try intense aerobic exercise and resistance (or weight) training. Get your doctor’s okay first. Exercise is beneficial because it helps to boost the blood flow in our brains. It increases the amount of serotonin in our brains which has a calming effect on us.

Exercise also helps burn off all the stress hormones that were created when our bodies produced the fight or flight response.

This is very beneficial to our health because if these chemicals and hormones aren’t burned off, over time they can damage our health and cause a great many problems.

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