Of all the symptoms that anxiety produces in anxiety sufferers, palpitations have to be one of the most hated.
This is mainly because palpitations can make you feel like you are having a heart attack and being that people with anxiety frequently feel as if their going to die, palpitations just fuels more fear, anxiety and panic.
What is a palpitation? Simply put, a palpitation is an awareness of your beating heart. In ‘normal’ people there is not much notice of the heart beating, whereas people with anxiety tend to be hypersensitive about everything.
They are hypersensitive about their feelings, thoughts, but they are especially sensitive about their symptoms and sensations.
So someone with anxiety can have a palpitation and get into the ‘what if ?’ mode very quickly, which can obviously create panic symptoms. You think to yourself, “oh no, this is it, this is the thing that is going to get me”. But alas friend your still alive!
About three months ago I had a horrible episode of palpitations and it caused me to jump out of bed one night. As I recall in my podcast,” The Anxiety Guru Show”, I ran into my closet and tried to find clothes to put on ( I was asleep when it started) so I could hurry to the hospital because I was convinced that I was having a heart attack and that I was about to buy the farm.
I had to slow myself down, start my breathing exercise and most importantly have a seat. Once I was able to slow down my palpitations subsided but not before scaring the hell out of me.
My heart was pounding and racing at the same time I could not remember my heart ever thumping any louder than it was at that time, but after those few tense minutes I was able to go back to sleep.
When a palpitation hits it can cause your heart to feel like it is skipping a beat or racing out of control. Remember though that your heart is not diseased, you are simply tuned into everything that it does and you listen in on every beat or perceived missed beat. It is your awareness that is causing your anxiety, not your heart.
Why does your heart seem to race? Well, this is your bodies reaction to the fight or flight mechanism which releases adrenaline and produces all kinds of symptoms, which include what feels like a racing heart.
When your heart rate increases you are experiencing tachycardia which is basically when you have a heart rate of over 100 beats per minute, but this is not dangerous.
If you suffer from palpitations then you probably spend a lot of time checking your heart rate (pulse) and blood pressure as you search for the disease that your convinced is afflicting you. However, I guarantee you that it is your anxiety playing tricks on your mind and body. Don’t waste your time checking your heart rate every hour, instead focus on what is making you anxious and eliminate it.
Whether it is loud noise, a crowd, etc, you need to remove yourself from over stimulation temporarily. Then focus on relaxing, take deep breathes and focus on your breathing, not your fear. Have a seat and don’t pace all over the place, because doing all that extra moving around only makes you more anxious.
And if you do have palpitations frequently then go see your doctor. Allow them to run test on your heart, like wearing a heart monitor, EKG, blood test etc, so you can be reassured that what you have is ‘nerves’ and nothing else. Once you come home from the doctor’s office make an effort to relax, learn breathing techniques, and find a quiet place to relax.
And remember what you have is an over awareness problem, not a heart problem. It is difficult to do, but you have to accept that this is how you feel right now and you must also understand that palpitations will not harm you. Once you accept this fully it will be much easier to cope and eventually overcome your fear of having a slow or fast heart beat.
To read more about how to stop palpitations click here.