Why A Fast Heart Beat Isn’t Dangerous

chest painFor many people a fast heart beat is a waking nightmare. A constant reminder that something isn’t right.

I think of a fast heart beat (tachycardia) in less intense terms. I consider it a sign of stress and not death. Tachycardia (100 heart beats per minute or more) simply isn’t the killer you think it is.

This is an important topic to address because it’s a symptom that has likely affected you.

You see, when you get tachycardic, you imagine all sorts of horrific scenarios, many of which probably involve a sickness of some kind.

It’s one of the reasons why tachycardia scares so well, it makes you feel like your life could end at any moment. But tachycardia doesn’t always mean danger or damage.

How It Works

When you feel anxious you might assume that anxiety is the source of your symptoms. But, in fact, the culprit is stress.

Stress is designed for short bursts of energy, attention, and focus to help you avert injury or death. The trouble is that when your stress response is set off it can sometimes remain activated for long periods of time.

One reason for this could be that you’re sensitive to stress, which fires off strong emotional reactions that make it hard for you to recover from bouts of anxiety.

The result of being stress sensitive is that your body’s production of stress hormone (i.e., adrenaline and cortisol) can be elevated and have a major impact on your body.

Stress can increase the demand for blood  (cardiac output), which makes the heart work harder, pump faster, and increase your heart rate as a result.

What does this look like in everyday life? Well, say that you’re sitting at your desk and get a quick twinge of chest pain and notice your pulse racing. It may not even be a lot, but just enough to make you worry about what it could mean. This is when you start questioning the health of your heart.

Your stress turns into worry, which causes anxiety. Now, your limbic system (emotional brain) kicks in and excites the nerves of your heart, so your heart speeds up even more. That’s “emotion based” tachycardia.

A strong emotional reaction can indeed cause tachycardia. It’s normal, and absent disease, isn’t dangerous.

Chances are that if you’ve had tachycardia you’ve sought medical attention for it. Maybe you did an EKG, blood tests, stress test, holter monitor, etc. Still, you stay scared. But you don’t have to be.

A Different View of Tachycardia

Think of it this way. Anxiety is an indicator of stress. Tachycardia is part of that stress signal. Where do you think all your worry, fear, and stress goes? It certainly doesn’t evaporate into the ether. Instead, those negative emotions are manifested in your body.

But that in no way means that your rapid heart beat is set to kill you. It just means that you’re affected by your emotional experiences. Stress and anxiety are charged, live wire, reactions to months or even years of internal strife. Your heart is reacting to that discord.

The other piece is that your past experience already tells you that a fast heart beat isn’t the killer you think it is. How many times have you experienced a rapid heart rate? And of those times how many ended in injury or death? None right?

So really what you’re dealing with is the anticipation of something awful happening and not with what is likely to happen.

That doesn’t mean that your fearful assumptions aren’t powerful. They can be strong.

This, however, doesn’t change the fact that stress triggers tachycardia in the same way, every time. It’s an old dog with no new tricks. The challenge is to learn how to sit with that reality and accept it when it’s happening.

That will take practice and a certain level of courage, but what’s the alternative?

If you haven’t gone to your doctor then go get screened. Twice if it makes you feel better. After that though, you need to get your mind focused on stress reduction and not anxiety symptoms.

Symptoms are a sign of something bigger that needs to be dealt with, they aren’t the source of your pain. And, most importantly, they can’t kill you.

 

 Disclaimer

Although tachycardia can be caused by an emotional response to stress, your tachycardia should be evaluated medically.

Tachycardia can be related to serious medical conditions.

 

Brain Tumor Anxiety Overblown

For several years, I’ve known of people becoming anxious because they thought they had developed a brain tumor. I’ve seen them in forums, chat rooms, my inbox, all over.

I say to all those people, perhaps even to you, relax a little.

Often the fear of a brain tumor starts because of headaches. It could be a migraine, tension headache, or even a cluster headache that brings an anxious person to this grim conclusion. They are, of course, usually wrong.

I’m not saying that out of spite, either. Headaches are not good indicators of brain tumors.

If you think that you have a brain tumor right now then chances are you don’t believe me. I understand why. After all, I didn’t go to Medical school. But I found someone who did. Take a moment to view his video below.

The man in the video is Dr. Len Cerullo, CINN Medical director and Neurosurgeon. I hope you believe him.

Thing is headaches are a part of having chronic anxiety. Remember that your entire body, including your head, is covered in muscles.

Muscles that get tense because of stress and fatigue. Even daily headaches are not uncommon in people with anxiety problems.

So if lone headaches aren’t a big concern, then what is?

Well, like Dr. Cerullo mentioned, headaches accompanied by the following can be a problem.

1. Vomiting

2. Nausea

3. Double vision

4. Headaches that awaken you

So again, headaches by themselves are a poor indicator that you have a brain tumor. Even if it’s the kind that make your head tingle or feel numb.

However, if you’re convinced that death is at your door then please see a doctor. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and stop doing exhaustive research on this topic because it only leads to more anxiety.

Looking back, in all the years that I used to surf the net to find information about my anxiety symptoms, I never found anything that made me feel better. All I ever found was other diseases that I didn’t account for that sounded way worse than what I thought I had.

So no matter how hard it is, no matter how scared you are, no matter how much you want to dig into your headaches or other symptoms, don’t. It never helps.

The truth is that brain tumors are rare – exceedingly rare. Stop driving yourself crazy about anxiety symptoms. Start finding and applying solutions instead. It’s harder than symptom hunting, but it’s worth it.

Do You Daydream a Lot?

To answer my own question, yes I do daydream a lot.

Believe it or not daydreaming is a symptom of anxiety disorder and depression.  So chances are if you’re an anxious person you spend much of your time in la la land, fantasizing about a very cool version of yourself doing extraordinary things.  But why?

Most shrinks think that daydreaming is a self defense mechanism.  Daydreaming is a form of escapism.  As you well know, when you have an anxiety disorder things can get negative and intense.  Not only that, but all that negativity can get strung out over weeks and even months at a time.

As result, the brain cries out for a break and so it becomes very easy to drift off into a dream state.  Daydreaming is like a time out for your tired mind.

There are two schools of thought on whether daydreaming and fantasy are a good or bad thing for those that suffer with mental ailments like anxiety disorder.

On the one hand, you have those that say that daydreaming is bad because it distracts you from dealing with your problems and hinders you from correcting whatever is stressing you out.  They think it will only prolong and maybe even intensify whatever is troubling you.

Then there are those that completely disagree with that view and find that daydreaming is actually healthy.  The thought is that daydreaming is a break from mental stress which can only be good.  And it’s also thought that daydreaming allows for creative thought and indirect productivity.

So then, is daydreaming good or bad?  I think in moderation it is a good thing.

When I was a kid I was sent home with notes pinned to my backpack that told my parents that I was constantly daydreaming.  I’ve had this love affair with daydreaming for as long as I can remember, but I was never less productive because of it.

Even at work I find that I space out quite a bit.  I usually dream about being somewhere else, like a resort or something goofy that gets me away from any difficulty I’m having.  I don’t however plan my space time, it just kind of happens on its own.  But I also use that time to think about things to write about, and about other projects I want to develop so it’s not always frivolous.

Did you know that they even have a personality type named for people that chronically fantasize?  Fantasy Prone Personality or FPP is a trait type describing people that experience their fantasies deeply and can sometimes cause them to get lost in their waking dreams to the point of having an out of body experience.  When I read that my first reaction was to think that the labeling of everything has gone a bit too far, but that’s just me I guess.

Anyway, if you find yourself daydreaming a lot you’re not a weirdo.  You are simply trying to give your mind a break.  And as long as you don’t neglect your responsibilities go ahead and dream away.

Do you daydream a lot?
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No
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Can Anxiety Cause Vision Problems?

Car wash of the soulHaving tricks of vision is most definitely an anxiety symptom.  The type of tricks vary but generally speaking they involve blurry vision, tunnel vision, and just plain thinking you saw something when there was nothing there.

Most of this can be chalked up to stress.  Stress was not named the silent killer because it just sounds good.  Overtime stress can take a real serious toll on you psychologically and physically.  Now when stress and anxiety join forces is when you may encounter a problem with respect to your vision.

I want to keep this basic so I will simply say that if you are having vision problems because of your anxiety it is mainly tied to fatigue, muscle tension, and the excessive production of adrenaline.

Chronic stress (because of ongoing anxiety) leads to an over production of adrenaline.  This has several potentially nasty effects on the body but of importance to us is the fact that it can increase intraocular pressure.  And although the elevation of intraocular pressure may not be significant it can cause blurry vision.

Tunnel vision is also related to the excessive production of adrenaline.  One of the bodies mechanisms most clearly tied to anxiety is the fight or flight response.  Among other things, this bodily reaction pumps adrenaline into the blood stream which may temporarily cause tunnel vision.

In life or death situations tunnel vision can be a life saver (literally) because it brings focus to the task at hand.  However, if you’re sitting on your lazy boy and having a panic attack the benefit is lost.

In addition to blurred or tunneled vision you may have also experienced peripheral vision tricks.  That is, you thought you saw something from the corner of your eye when nothing was there.  This is one that can be related to lots of things, but in my view it happens to all people.

It may however happen more to anxious people because they are hypersensitive to their surroundings and also anticipate things all the time.  Being cranked up on adrenaline can also make you jumpy and super aware of gleams of light, shadows, and even slight variation in wind velocity.  In other words, don’t worry so much about this one.

In terms of seeing spots of light and wiggle worms (floaters), this is probably due to an actual vision problem.  Please remember that if you are experiencing new or different vision problems to speak with an optometrist so you can obtain a proper evaluation.  You know what happens when you assume things.

This is by far not an exhaustive list of things that can go wrong with your anxiety driven vision problem.  Indeed, you may have dealt with some very strange vision problems before as a result of being anxious.  And that is my main message to you.

Anxiety can do seemingly everything when it comes to our bodies.  It can strain muscles, temporarily raise blood pressure, create tension and many other things that can affect vision.  So once more let me be the one to verify for you that you’re not crazy.  This stuff does happen to anxiety sufferers.

Anxiety Disorders And Sexual Problems

Follow MeAs if anxiety sufferers didn’t already have enough to worry about, there is now growing evidence to suggest that people with anxiety disorders also have higher rates of sexual problems.

We are all familiar with the more common anxiety symptoms like palpitations, racing thoughts, perfuse sweating, but now you can add sexual aversion, sexual dysfunction, and a lower libido to the already long list of things you already hate about having an anxiety disorder.

Sexual Aversion

Sexual aversion is very much like it sounds. The intense avoidance of sexual intimacy which is “characterized by disgust, fear, revulsion, or lack of desire in consensual relationships involving sexual contact”.

Sexual aversion can develop into a syndrome and effects men and women at similar rates. The avoidance of sexual contact researchers believe is related to performance anxiety, fear of over stimulation, or just plain not liking your partner.

Sexual Dysfunction

This type of sexual problem can also affect men and women equally since, “induced by different stressors, anxiety can distract from erotic stimuli… this may result in poor erection (erectile dysfunction) in males and cause a reduction in lubrication and clitoral tumescence in females”.

Although some may not categorize it as a sexual dysfunction, many male anxiety sufferers also suffer from premature ejaculation. It is thought that fears of not meeting a partners expectations or feelings of possible failure account for much of this phenomenon. Keep in mind however that these and other sexual conditions can also have a phyiscal basis as well.

Lower Libido

As anxiety sufferers get wrapped up in their daily fears and worry it can easily take away from ones interest in their partner. Anxiety in this way consumes a persons libido because of the stress and energy needed to worry excessively.

Stress can also cause fatigue and irritability, both of which do not aid in the fostering of a close intimate relationship. The phrase, “sorry honey I’m too tired” comes to the fore much more often in this case.

Simple Fear

This is very basic and has no fancy scientific label. The bottom line is that sex increases your heart rate, and anxiety inducing chemicals like adrenaline. As a result, having sex for some can cause feelings of panic and apprehension.

Heavy breathing, a fast heart rate, sweating and all the rest of it can trigger panic in some. It can even trigger panic and uneasiness well after you’ve stopped and are trying to go to sleep.

This is very similar to the fear that some anxiety sufferers have of exercise. Anything that resembles a panic attack is just avoided. But of course like exercise, sexual intimacy is an all around good thing.

What To Do

This is a tough cookie to crack even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder. Researchers simply don’t know the exact reason(s) why anxiety sufferers have high rates of sexual dysfunction and acknowledge that much more attention needs to be paid to this neglected topic.

That being said, if an anxiety sufferer is experiencing phyiscal dysfunction than the first place to start is the doctors office. Because sexual dysfunction can be a phyiscal problem, sometimes a physical solution is required. There are many new therapies that are now available and talking to your doctor is great way of finding out what they are and if they can work for you.

If your issue is more mental however, than of course the issue becomes more about anxiety and stress reduction. Moreover, sometimes we simply have to try harder. Despite the difficulty of getting started, it is a well documented fact that a healthy sex life can boost your immune system, fill you with endorphins, and create a stronger bond between you and your partner.

Sex is always a difficult topic to talk about for obvious reasons, however its always a good idea to have an open channel of communication with your partner about any possible sexual problems you may be facing. In the long run its better to get these issues out in the open and discuss ways to cope with them in a healthy way.

Reference

Archives of Sexual Behavior, August 2001, Vol 30, Number 4 pp. 369-379

Msnbc article “More Sex, Less Stress”

Psychiatric Times August 1, 2007 Vol. 24 No. 9

What Causes the Lump In Your Throat?

Having a lump in your throat or the sensation that it’s hard to swallow is a very common sensation among anxiety sufferers.

This lump causes us to think that we are headed for a medical disaster and may even cause us to swallow in quick succession so that we can make sure that we can still swallow – just in case.

This creates fear in us because the assumption is that sooner or later you won’t be able to breathe. We start jumping to conclusions about what could be causing it and go into extended versions of the what if game.

But let me assure you that when you get this lump in your throat you’re not dying. Like most of the other physical symptoms caused by anxiety having a lump in your throat is just another physiological fear response. So what’s going on in there and what is causing you all this worry?

Without getting into medical school style detail the cause of your lump is rooted in the bodies peripheral nervous system. This system is broken into two parts – the voluntary and the autonomic (automatic). The voluntary set of nerves allows us to do things with our bodies, like walking.

The other set of nerves, the autonomic nerves, control the functions of your body that you can’t control – like the beating of your heart, digesting food, etc. So now that we have identified the part of the nervous system causing all the trouble, let’s look at how it can effect the throat.

When we get nervous we enter the fight or flight mode. This in turn creates havoc in the body. During the early days of the human experience this was used to get our bodies prepared to take survival measures – like running from bears and the like.

The “havoc” comes in the form of increased blood flow, faster heart rate, faster breathing, and so on. The faster rate of respiration is what effects the muscle that controls the opening of the throat called the glottis (middle of the larynx). The glottis expands to allow more air in during the preparation for fight or flight.

The expansion and retraction of the glottis is the “lump” you feel in the throat. This of course is a watered down explanation but the basic mechanics of this lump production I hope is clear.

And although  this information is not terribly entertaining it is important to note that your anxiety symptoms are a normal reaction to fear and the subsequent fight or flight response that is initiated by all the nervous tension you endure.

So, in summary, you are not crazy. In fact it is your bodies natural reaction to anxiety and not some other thing that is creating lumps in your throat. Despite the fact that these lumps can feel large and like there is a foreign object that has been jammed down our throats – it is harmless.

Do all you can to reduce the stress in your life and you will, overtime, reduce your anxiety and the number of lumps in your throat. Moreover the lump in your throat is not a choking hazard, anxiety just makes you think it is.

Brief recap of what causes lump in the throat.

Anxiety + fight of flight response + effects on the throat muscle (glottis) = lump in the throat.

Anxiety High Wire Act

At one point or another we have all seen the high wire act during a circus performance or on a  t.v. show. The performer steps out onto the tightly stretched rope and slowly puts one foot in front of the other doing all they can to avoid a nasty spill. We all look at the performer and think “yea you’re gonna fall” but of course they usually don’t.

The high wire reminds me a lot of what its like to have an anxiety disorder. Feeling off balance, woozy, lightheaded, faint are all sensations I’m sure a performer might feel while hoisted 50 feet in the air, but should we be feeling the same way?

Some time ago a wrote an article about my top ten most hated anxiety symptoms. One of those on the list was the all encompassing term “dizziness”. Now I put the word in quotations not because its a metaphor but because its a lot more than just a feeling of hum drum dizziness.

Anxiety related dizziness can feel like you’re falling, about to faint, or the floor your standing on is moving. The falling sensation is not an exaggeration either. I have been standing firm and literally lost my balance to the point of half jogging to the relative safety of my bed. So in case you were wondering it is normal to feel dizzy when you have an anxiety disorder.

Maybe dizziness doesn’t cut it so let’s use a different word to describe this feeling – let’s go with vertigo. Vertigo is the sensation that either you or your surroundings are spinning or moving about when they actually are not moving. This I think sums up the feeling of imbalance produced by an anxiety disorder. O.K. so we named the feeling – what is going on?

The most clear answer I have found is nobody really knows. This explains the name that is given to this condition which is sometimes referred to as Chronic Subjective Dizziness or CSD. Now the word subjective is telling in this instance because subjective means “proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than in the external world”.

Although the cause is unknown studies have shown that treating your anxiety will stop the dizziness slash vertigo. Whether you use drugs, exercise, diet, breathing techniques or a mixture of all these the idea is that you treat your anxiety to help all your symptoms including this one.

So is it all in your head? I doubt it because feeling dizzy is real. You don’t kind of feel dizzy you just are. Don’t feel discouraged by the non reason for this symptom occurring. Again, just focus on dealing with the underlying issues that sustain your anxiety and you’ll go much further in solving this problem.

Are You Lazy Or Is Anxiety Slowing You Down?

One of the most unfortunate symptoms of an anxiety disorder is insomnia and to those that deal with it bless you all. Not being able to sleep is horrible but what if you have the opposite problem? Leave it to anxiety to be confused about how to make your life harder. It is true however that anxiety can put you in a near slumber and never ending state of sluggishness.

Although feeling tired and slow are not startling (for the most part) they can put a damper on your daily routine. Want to go out? Not really. Want to exercise? Nope. Can you help me move this big heavy thing? No thanks. When you have an anxiety disorder you really can be sidelined by chronic fatigue because its more than just “lazy bones”.

The fatigue brought on by anxiety also goes beyond just feeling sleepy all the time. Your muscles may feel weakened and seriously challenged if you decide to do something even remotely physical.

In addition you may find it difficult to stay awake or focused on anything for any prolonged amount of time. So is all this constant tiredness dangerous? No its not and in fact it is very common in people with anxiety disorders. If you feel like your just going through the motions of life you really are experiencing a normal anxiety symptom and not some mysterious affliction.

The answer to the why and how come lies in the stress anxiety creates and distributes throughout the body. Here are some of the more specific reasons why you may be feeling run down.

First and foremost if you are experiencing prolonged fatigue make sure that it is anxiety. Once you rule out other potential causes then you should turn your attention to taking action.

Taking action sounds dramatic but what I mean is that you simply need to do something about it. Whether that’s eating better, getting exercise and sleeping right or taking vitamins, and making sure you do all you can to avoid or treat the anxiety blues (A.K.A depression).

Above all you should understand that fatigue related to an anxiety disorder is not all in your head. Anxiety really can make you feel tired and sluggish. It can also last a really long time. We all have bouts of I don’t want to do anything but anxiety fatigue can be a long lasting affair that makes this sentiment semi-permanent.

Moreover be sure to avoid the urge to mask the fatigue by chugging caffeinated drinks and refined sugars. Products such as energy drinks and the like will only make things worse. Address your anxiety disorder and it’s underlying causes and you will then improve your fatigue symptoms. Remember that you’re not lazy just anxious.

I dealt with this issue for years. Walking up stairs, carrying heavy items, anything that required exertion just made me say to myself “here we go again”. That is why it is so important to not ignore your fatigue. You want to make sure that you don’t add any more fuel to the fire. Laying around and not going anywhere just has a way of creating more anxiety. If you make the effort to reenergize yourself you will see a change.