Can Extreme Stress Cause Atrial Fibrillation
A relationship between stress and atrial fibrillation has been observed in various studies since the mid-1900s. In 1964, an increased incidence of new-onset atrial fibrillation was reported amongst healthy Air Force servicemen after an acute anger or stress episode. A small study that was published inthe Annals of Internal Medicine in 1968, found that 27% of AFib episodes were attributed to emotional stress. Additional studies since the 19060s have noted similar findings.
Diagnosing And Treating Anxiety
Its important to differentiate normal anxiety from the more severe type. Does the anxiety interfere with your family life or keep you from being productive in your professional life? Does it restrict you from engaging in the activities you like? If the answer is yes, then its the kind of anxiety that may require some degree of therapy or medical attention.
Depending on the duration, severity, and type of anxiety, treatment can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. A common and effective method of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves three main components:
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Looking Out For The Telltale Signs
AFib is notoriously tricky to diagnose on your own, but there are some signs that can help you tell panic attacks and AFib episodes apart. Its important to keep in mind that the two syndromes stem from different sources: AFib is an electrical disorder that sends a mess of signals through the chambers of the heart, but a panic attack typically wont have a physical cause. Rather, its triggered by events in your environment, stressful situations, or sometimes happens for no apparent reason at all.Here are a few markers that can help you tell the conditions apart:Rate of decline. Pay attention to the rate of building and declining symptoms. Since AFib is triggered by a sudden physical event , AFib episodes typically hit suddenly. When the episode subsides, so will the symptoms, but the cycle tends to repeat until treatment is administered. With a panic attack, heart rate can start to creep up as other discomforts manifest, and after the attack hits a peak, heart rate will gradually return to normal as the other symptoms dissipate.Nature of the heartbeat. The pattern or rhythm of a heart beat can also tell you whats going on: a panic attack typically brings a constant rapid heart rate, while AFib causes an erratic heart rate. If your heart seems to be skipping beats, or speeding up then slowing down and speeding up again, its more likely that AFib is to blame.
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Anxiety And Heart Disease
The association between anxiety and heart disease has not been as fully studied as the relationship between depression and heart disease.
However, Una D McCann, M.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, believes the connection is strong.
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Q: Can The Development Or Course Of Atrial Fibrillation Be Influenced By Psychiatric Illness
A: Psychiatric symptoms have been linked to the development and persistence of atrial fibrillation. Specifically, anxiety after cardiac surgery and panic disorder have been linked to the development of atrial fibrillation. In cross-sectional studies, depressive symptoms were associated with an increased likelihood of atrial fibrillation, and patients with atrial fibrillation had higher levels of trait anxiety than patients with hypertension. Furthermore, 8.4% of patients with atrial fibrillation met criteria for major depressive disorder at any given time a prevalence that is slightly higher than the yearly prevalence of major depressive disorder in the general population. Patients with anxiety and depression may have increased severity of atrial fibrillation symptoms, which is perhaps caused by increased interoceptive awareness.
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What Are Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are episodes experienced by people with panic disorders.
This is a type of anxiety disorder is characterized by episodes of intense fear without stimuli or signals that justify it.
Panic attacks are highly disabling situations and that are accompanied by physical symptoms.
Besides, their occurrence cannot be predicted, can appear at any time, and this, in turn, and intensifies fear in those who suffer from it.
The origin of panic attacks is unknown by now, several hypotheses have been handled that try to explain their appearance.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, among them are the alterations in the centers that control alertness at the brain level and alterations in the performance of neurotransmitters like GABA.
Symptoms of a panic attack:
How Is Arrhythmia Detected
Electrocardiograms are the most common tests for detecting arrhythmias. During an electrocardiogram, the hearts electrical activity is recorded. The doctor may perform the test while you are resting or may perform a stress test, which records the hearts activity when it is working hard, while you are at rest.
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Which Antidepressant Is Best For Cardiac Patients
Depression and anxiety are common in patients with heart problems and AFib patients are no exception. If you have heart disease or heart rhythm problems it is important to take care of your mental health. This may include an antidepressant in addition to healthy lifestyle interventions. When choosing an antidepressant it is important to choose one that is safe for use with heart disease and that does not interact with your heart medicines. Common antidepressants that are safe for patients with heart problems include:
Beta-blockers are a type of medication used to treat atrial fibrillation. While they are not antidepressants, beta-blockers can also be helpful for anxiety because they decrease the bodys physiological response to stress. A study published in 2019 in the journal Heart Rhythm found that beta-blockers helped decrease the incidence of AFib in people with a history of anxiety or anger-triggered AFib.
Anxiety, stress, and negative emotional states can all contribute to atrial fibrillation. In addition, atrial fibrillation can be very anxiety-provoking for some people. However, there are lifestyle interventions and medications which can help minimize anxietys negative impact on AFib. In addition, research is ongoing to enhance our understanding of the relationship between anxiety and AFib to help guide future interventions and treatment recommendations.
What Does Atrial Fibrillation Feel Like
For most people, atrial fibrillation is symptomatic and there will be warning signs that something isnt right. The first sign of atrial fibrillation can be a missed or skipped beat, followed very quickly by a thudding or flipping feeling in the chest and a fast, racing heart rate. This is one of the most common signs of atrial fibrillation and it can be really scary, to the point of feeling like you’re having a heart attack.Symptoms can be fairly minor or very intense, depending on how severe your atrial fibrillation is. Some people only get a few relatively minor symptoms and can still go about normal life with them, while others are completely debilitated.Some of the common symptoms that people with atrial fibrillation can experience include:
- Heart palpitations, which produce sensations of a racing, flipping, quivering heartbeat a lot like a fish reacts when out of water
- Pain/discomfort in the chest
- Fatigue and weakness, even when doing simple tasks that arent exhausting
- Feeling faint and exhausted after an episode of atrial fibrillation
- Finding it difficult to do anything very physical, such as exercising
- Dizziness and feeling light-headed
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Reverse Atrial Fibrillation Naturally
If you are interested in natural treatment options for atrial fibrillation and are highly motivated in improving your symptoms naturally, to reduce your need for medications or even procedures, then take a look at my one-of-a-kind, online educational program,Take Control Over AFib.
Lifestyle modifications and reducing inflammation are essential components of the long-term management of atrial fibrillation. Addressing the source cause of atrial fibrillation can lead to a significant benefit for most AFib patients. Targeted lifestyle modifications can reduce your symptoms, reduce your reliance on medications or procedures, and even improve the long-term success rate of a catheter ablation procedure for AFib. However, most patients are not given instructions or tips on how to accomplish these essential lifestyle modifications in an AFib targeted style.
This is exactly why I created the Take Control Over AFib Program, to give people a step-by-step plan to improve and potentially reverse atrial fibrillation naturally.
Thinking about lifestyle modifications is easy, but putting in place a system to keep you committed to achieve real results takes time and dedication, and with my step-by-step plan, we can achieve powerful and long-lasting results together.
The Connection Between The Conditions
It can be hard to tell if you have AFib or anxiety if you are experiencing some of these shared symptoms. Some patients also suffer from both conditions. For instance, people with AFib might experience anxiety related to their overall health, leading to panic attacks. This can make it even harder to get the right diagnosis.
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Will My Healthcare Provider Be Able To Rule Out Other Causes Of Heart Palpitations
Your provider will want to verify that anxiety-related palpitations arent dangerous. They may recommend other tests, such as:
- Chest X-ray to look at your heart and lungs.
- Echocardiogram or to examine your hearts overall function.
- Electrocardiogram to check your heart rate.
- Exercise stress test to see how your heart performs with increased activity.
- Holter monitoring to record your hearts activity over 24 to 48 hours.
If a Holter monitor doesnt show unusual heart rhythms, your provider may give you an event recorder. You can wear this recorder for weeks. You press a button to record any heart sensations that you experience.
Turning A Negative Into A Positive
A panic attack or an AFib episode can bring a rush of frightening energy, as adrenaline courses through your body and your mind jumps to worst-case scenarios. You could try to wait it out and distract yourself with an activity, but sometimes its impossible to calm your anxious response by sheer will.Instead, you might try to turn the rush of fear into a rush of excitement: force yourself to think of an exciting event or possibility, or simply start dancing and laughing. It sounds counterintuitive, but you may be able to flip the nature of your feeling from bad to good, and although this probably wont make your symptoms go away, they will become easier to handle.Relaxation, support, confidence, and commitment are the ingredients of a smart and effective management plan for AFib and for anxiety. If either set of symptoms begins to take over your thoughts and lifestyle, it may be time to seek a new perspective or professional guidance. The good news is that there are plenty of techniques that can interfere with the AFib-anxiety cycle, and help you regain some control.
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Anxiety And Atrial Fibrillation: Similar Symptoms But Not The Same
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the globe, eliciting emotions ranging from nervousness and fear to extreme worry. For some, simply turning on the local and national news has triggered stress and anxiety leading to racing, pounding hearts and shortness of breath. But what if these symptoms are indicators of something more?
When it comes to matters of the heart, experts caution not to ignore or dismiss any symptoms for they could be warnings of the most common type of irregular heartbeat: Atrial Fibrillation or AFib.
Anxiety or Atrial Fibrillation?
In stressful situations, anxiety can cause the body to mirror similar symptoms of AFib, but its important to note that both are different medical issues.
Anxiety is an intense feeling of worry or unease prompted by pressure or stress from an everyday situation. It can be brought on by fear of certain activities or thoughts that become all-consuming to the point they interfere with normal, day-to-day routines.
Symptoms of anxiety may include:
Knowing Signs And Symptoms Of Afib To Get Early Treatment
If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of AFib, it isimportant to seek medical attention. While some people with AFib may notexperience any symptoms, others may experience symptoms that are notsevere.
However, AFib can lead to serious complications, such as stroke orheart problems, so it is important to be diagnosed and treated by amedical professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improveyour prognosis and prevent complications.
If youre interested in reading more articles, follow our dailyblog post.
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Can You Mistake Other Types Of Heart Palpitations For Anxiety Heart Palpitations
If heart palpitations dont go away within a few minutes or happen frequently, they may not be related to anxiety. Less commonly, heart palpitations result from a health condition or disorder, including:
- Lifestyle, including your alcohol and caffeine intake, as both can cause palpitations.
- Medical history.
Your provider may suggest a blood test to check for anemia or low potassium. Theyll also look for a thyroid problem or other health issues that could cause heart palpitations.
How Stress May Trigger An Afib Episode
During times of stress, your body releases stress hormones that can increase your blood pressure and trigger an AFib episode. Stress can arise from many aspects of your daily life. The two main types of stress, physical and emotional, have varying effects on your body.
Physical stress includes sleep deprivation, sickness, injury, and dehydration. Emotional stress occurs when you experience negative emotions including sadness, anger, and fear.
It is very common for unhealthy habits to arise from stress. Habits such as poor diet and alcohol or caffeine consumption can increase your blood pressure and trigger an episode. In order to manage your episodes, its necessary to find healthy ways to manage your stress.
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Things You Shouldn’t Do If You Have Health Anxiety
If you find yourself experiencing health anxiety, that’s okayand luckily, there are things you can reduce the intensity of the anxiety. However, there are also behaviors that may lead to increased health anxiety, Dr. Lira de la Rosa states.
Usually, people with anxiety avoid situations that cause anxiety. If you find yourself avoiding doctors appointments, that may actually increase your anxiety. Moreover, health anxiety may cause some people to become preoccupied with checking their symptoms or health status and this can also increase that health anxiety.
Here are a few additional things to avoid making your anxiety worse, according to Dr. Goldman:
- Spending hours online researching symptoms and health conditions
- Diagnosing yourself based on your internet search.
- Talking to strangers or multiple people about your health symptoms.
- Fixating on your health and focusing on bodily sensations
- Catastrophizing about what a physical sensation might mean
Is It Anxiety Or Afib
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When you get nervous or very excited, does your heart race or feel like it has skipped a beat? While it may seem like a case of the jitters, your heart thumping could actually indicate a serious health problem known as atrial fibrillation or AFib.
Atrial fibrillation happens when the heart’s electrical signals don’t travel through the heart in a normal way. Instead, they become very rapid and disorganized. These disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers to fibrillate, or contract very fast and irregularly.
An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million Americans are living with AFib.
The two main complications from AFib are stroke and heart failure. A person with untreated AFib is five times more likely to have a stroke than the general population.
While some people with AFib feel a ‘fluttering’ in their chest, some people do not notice a change in heart rate or rhythm, but may experience exertion fatigue. Others may have no symptoms at all.
If you do feel the fluttering, how can you tell the difference between anxiety and atrial fibrillation? Seek care from your primary healthcare provider who can discuss your symptoms and refer you to a specialist, if necessary
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When Smartwatches Contribute To Health Anxiety In Patients With Atrial Fibrillation
- Lindsey RosmanCorrespondenceAddress reprint requests and correspondence: Dr Lindsey Rosman, Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Cardiology, 160 Dental Circle, CB 7075, Burnett-Womack Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7075.AffiliationsDepartment of Medicine, Divsion of Cardiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Anil GehiAffiliationsDepartment of Medicine, Divsion of Cardiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Lancet Digital Health.N Engl J Med.
Nat Rev Cardiol.
J Am Heart Assoc.
Write Down What Youre Thinking And Feeling
Some people may find it helpful to keep track of their anxious thoughts and to note what their triggers are, says Dr. Lira de la Rosa. This can help you increase awareness of how health anxiety manifests itself in your life.
Dr. Goldman also recommends keeping a log of your anxiety-related behaviors. If you are someone who spends hours online researching or time spent daily checking your body for lumps, track this in a log. In time, see what you can slowly start to decrease .
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What To Do If You Have Symptoms
If you suspect you may have AFib, or have any symptoms of the condition, talk to your doctor. Treatments are available, including medications, surgery and options such as cardioversion therapy. The goal of treatment is to control the heart rate, manage the heart rhythm and prevent blood clots from forming that may lead to a stroke.
However, because symptoms of AFib can often overlap with those of a heart attack or stroke , call 911 immediately to get to a hospital ASAP if you are concerned that AFib may be occurring along with a heart attack or stroke.
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Date Last Reviewed: July 19, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc.