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anxiety with fast heart rate and palpitations is this ok?

By March 28, 2010 - 7:59pm
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hi i was diagnosed with anxiety 5 years ago and sometimes its severe. sometimes when im just watching tv my heart starts to race for no reason i also get palpitations. i had a heart holiter monitor 3 years ago and it said it was normal i just had sinus tachycarida, sometimes im scarred its going to kill me or harm me, how do i know when i should go to the hospital and ifs it normal. could it possibly change my heart rhythm or harm me? and as well as the palpitations?

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no stressful events going on. i just get the palpitations and heart racing out of the blue anytime of the day and then thats what makes me panic its a vicious circle i get the physical symptoms and then panic nonstop about them so then they don't go away.

March 30, 2010 - 10:28am
(reply to lhohertz)

Ah. Well, of course, that makes perfect sense.

When is your next psychologist appointment?

I know you have dealt with anxiety for many years. There must be a couple of tricks you have learned to help talk yourself down in anxious moments, right? Things that work for you to help you calm yourself?

For me, one of the most helpful things I ever read was a book written by a doctor who worked with anxiety patients. He said that anxiety patients are often (a) very smart and (b) very creative and (c) very visual. And what happens when we get a bad thought is this: We almost run the entire movie in our head of the bad things that could happen. We are so smart that the movie gets very detailed. We are so creative that it seems very real. And we are so visual that we can actually SEE it happening.

Take fear of flying. Maybe a plane is bumpy with turbulence. A normal person would notice the bumps but not react much to them. An anxiety patient would notice the bumps, see the flight crashing, feel the fear, and even imagine the faces of those she loves when they find out she died. The anxiety person can see the whole movie, which makes it VERY real to our bodies.

In order to undo that, we MUST force ourselves to also "see" the CORRECT movie. For that anxious flyer, she needs to make a movie run in her head that is far more likely to happen: that the bumpiness will cease, the plane will land, and life will go on as planned. She needs to see the details of that plane smoothing out, and imagine how it feels when the wheels touch down, and see herself walking out the door, carry-ons and all. And in that way our brain can also react to this new movie, and calm itself down.

When you feel the palpitations and you panic about them, try to figure out what movie you are seeing, and then run one that is more likely.

Bad movie: These palpitations will give me a heart attack. I could die.
Correct movie: My heart will calm itself down. This is anxiety.

Bad movie: There is something really wrong with me.
Correct movie: This makes sense because I have an anxiety disorder. Many many people deal with this daily. I'll talk to my psychologist about it.

See the difference? You need to "see" the good stuff (even though it will seem very unrealistic in that moment of panic) in order for your smart, creative, visual brain to settle itself down and settle down your stress hormones at the same time.

Give it a try, Lhohertz. It works for me. I don't always remember to do it -- such is the nature of anxiety -- but when I do, it really does help.

March 31, 2010 - 10:14am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks. I just started having these palpitations and they can be pretty scary. I think I'm going to have one then drop dead or something. And yes I'm going to a psychologist right now. In the past I've been able to cope with my panic attacks. Its just the heart thing that scares me half to death.

March 29, 2010 - 12:12pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I totally understand, Anon. But maybe understanding a little more about what's happening will help you feel not quite so scared.

If you were out taking a walk and a loose dog started barking at you and chasing you, scaring you, and you ran all the way home, once you got inside your heart would be pounding, right? Right. That's because you ran, but it's also because of the flight-or-fight response, something we've had since the cave days. Our hormonal levels of adrenalin and cortisol actually soar to give us the ability to run fast and make decisions quickly to keep ourselves out of the way of that sabertooth tiger.

When we have anxiety disorders, something in our flight-or-fight disorders gets out of balance. It triggers itself too often and at non-threatening things. But the hormones still flow, and we still respond to them AS IF we were in danger, even though we are not.

Please tell your psychologist that your panic attacks have escalated to this level, and are causing this response in you. There may be some exercises she or he can give you that will help you consciously calm your system down when this is going on.

When you are having the palpitations, are you also fearful or anxious at the same time about something else? Or do they just seem to come out of the blue? Are there very stressful things going on in your life right now?

March 30, 2010 - 9:28am

Hi, Lhohertz,

I am so sorry you have an anxiety disorder. I do, too, and I know exactly how you feel.

What you are describing, with the racing heart and the anxious thoughts, is a panic attack. It can take over how you are feeling both mentally and physically and almost make you unable to cope. But panic attacks do not kill you or change your heart rhythm. A panic attack is just a reaction to that stress and anxiety.

Are you in therapy, Lhohertz? Or any sort of counseling? Are you on any kind of medication?

Here's some great info on panic attacks from the Mayo Clinic:


And this page has some things you can do while you are having a panic attack to get some relief:


How is the stress level in your life right now, Lhohertz? Are there things going on right now that feel out of your control?

March 29, 2010 - 11:34am
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