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.



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.



  1. Oron says

    Great job writing articles on symptoms because like myself the symptoms can get really bad and can last for hours/days. We all think we have the worst symptoms and nobody can understand. Turns out you understand and most people who think they nobody has symptoms as bad as themselves read these articles and have a new understanding they arent alone.

  2. solo lolo says

    Thanks – this was very helpful. After 50 years of a racing heart ( I have a 3rd kidney and the xtra adrenaline works for and against me) I look forward to thinking about the beat, beat, fast beats of my heart in a different way.

  3. says

    Hi Sammy, anxiety and panic aren’t the cause of heart disease. The culprit is stress. Stress does kill in the long-run, so I hope that’s motivation to get your stress levels under control.

  4. Sammy says

    Thanks for saying I’m keep all these crazy sensation in my chest thanking it’s my heart doctor said my is fine I’m young not to worried about plus I have body weakness that made me scare I want that thing to go away.

  5. Susan says

    Hi Paul I’m always worry about my heart I done 20 time ECG within two and a half years 24 hour holter monitor it’s funny coz I’m not beleiving doctors so my heart is ok, so everytime I feel pain I related to heart so it’s realy bothering me but the good thing is I joined the gym to keep going in the life maybe I can can feel better
    Is that a good idea Paul

  6. Susan says

    You make me feel better Paul coz always I think tachycardia is part if heart desease

  7. Desiree says

    Thank you for this, because I have suffered with a fast heartbeat and palpitations for over 20 years now. I have had enough of it, and am always looking for ways to calm myself down.

  8. says

    Great post…Its really important that people understand the many symptoms of anxiety… I know for my experience anyway that unusual bodily sensations just make the anxiety and panic worst ..your always in fear of possibly having a heart attack and have a your hand on your pulse or heart all the time

    Sometimes just reading the words of someone who has been there can be relieving in itself…The best tip of all is to visit the doctor and remove the fear of a possible medical condition….from there you can focus on the stress/anxiety/

    Northern Austalia

  9. Susan says

    Hi Cameron thanks got ur advice I’m from Australia too (Melbourne) do u feel any pain in ur body like upper back pain radiate to the front cuz I was complain to my docs about like I list above go couple time for ECG and nothing showing my heart is not fine but I don’t beleive doctors cuz of my pain don’t know what to do in seeing psycologist it help but when I have the pain in thinking its my heart and the thought of death fi u experience something like that please give advice
    Wish we can talk soon

  10. erinkar says

    Hi….I just stumbled onto this post and it was really helpful. My questions is this: how long can these episodes last if they’re anxiety-related? I had a racing heart rate for 20 hours the last time. Thanks!

  11. Mark says

    Hi I tried cocaine about 12 months ago and ended up having it most weekends 1 weekend I had it I ha to pace round my gArden having fast heartbeats and feeling faint ever since then I have never had it but I can still feel the heart racing I’ve been docs and hospital had all the tests and they are fine but all this time it still carries on will it stay like that forever it happens 3 times a week at the least

  12. mary says

    i have had heart beat 140 was taken in to hospital made it slower but it is
    fast again

  13. Elizabeth says

    Hi thanks for your message, but while this is all good at an intellectual level, when the pulse starts racing the brain stops working. My main issue is when i am at the gym and walking at 6 km.per hour speed, my pulse starts racing. It has even gone up to 170 beats and i quickly got off the treadmill. It gradually reduced within some mins. I have done ECGs and Echos and halter and nothing seems to be wrong. Any idea why this happens? How high can the pulse go ? Does it stabilise at some level ? What happens if it doesn’t ? Please advise

  14. says

    Hi Elizabeth, if you’ve done a full cardiac work up, ECG, etc then you are good to go. Your heart can sustain 175 bpm for a significant amount of time without issue. I recommend starting with a low heart rate target, say 130 bpm. Keep this up for a few weeks to build confidence and go from there. In addition, if you haven’t already start to work towards lowering anxiety in general rather than specifically focusing on exercise based anxiety alone.

  15. Kishore says

    Hi Paul,

    I am from India who had the similar symptoms of high pulse rate.
    I do work mostly in night shift and not having rest as preferred by doctor because it hard to get sleep in day.
    I am smoking from the last 3 years.Let me know if i quit smoking can i overcome this high pulse rate?

  16. Crystal says

    Hi Paul,
    I’ve recently gotten off of Celexa 2 weeks ago (lowest dosage, went off cold thurkey, only been on it for a month). my mom and doctor both said i was getting an adverse reaction to my meds, but I am still feeling anxious… Tight chest, tight throat, shaking, feeling scared, fast heart beat, and hot flashes….. Is it all due to regular anxiety now? Or is it still withdrawals from the med I was on? An ASAP response would be highly appreciated. :)

  17. says

    Hi Crystal, that’s hard to say. But if anxiety put you on the meds then it’s likely more of the same. That being said, getting off or on a medication can make things worse momentarily.

  18. Scott says

    I too have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks and have learned to deal with them. I also have gastro issues and I do believe that all of the above are stress related. I am 50 yrs old and got C-diff twice in the past year. I have been clear of it for about 5 months but have had increased nausea due to it “messing up” my system.

    Now over the past four and a half months I have experienced the rapid heart rate that won’t very easily subside. I went the an out of town ER and had blood tests and EKG and they said all is fine. My local doctor says “don’t worry about the heart rate”.

    I too have a very difficult time exercising now due to the heart rate increasing. Can you elaborate on what you said to Elizabeth???…

    ” I recommend starting with a low heart rate target, say 130 bpm. Keep this up for a few weeks to build confidence and go from there.”

    Is this to train your body that its okay to be doing these activities? I have an extremely sensitive Vasil Vagel response to stresses on my body. Can I assume this is related to stress?

    Finally, just prior to the first instance of my rapid heart rate taking some time to slow I began to experience periods of muscle fatigue and weakness. This has been off & on for months now. Would this too be associated with stress and anxiety? I feel a huge connection to my stomach.. when it is stressing, more of these systems materialize. I have been thinking it is the C-diff causing this but from what I gather you may say it is still just stress??

    I apologize for the length of this message and I thank in advance for you help with this,

  19. says

    Hey Scott, Absolutely. You start slow with exercise and work your way up as a means of “testing” your body. When high anxiety strikes it is common to think that any sign of a symptom means illness or worse. You have to prove to yourself that you can raise your heart rate without causing damage. Also, GI issues, muscle weakness, and the like can all be related to stress and anxiety. It is important to remember that stress can have a significant impact on our bodies. All the issues you’ve listed are commonly seen in anxious people. Try not to give up on exercise and be sure to address your anxiety in earnest.

  20. Scott Dorval says


    Thank you for that prompt response. I know that the rapid heart rate is not going to damage me. I just can’t workout when it happens so it will be nice just to get an actual work out in again. I will keep at it.

    Can you direct me to any good sources of long term anxiety management? Something a little more than telling me to breath deeply in through my nose and out my mouth?

    thanks again,

  21. says

    I think it really starts with a solid education on precisely what is happening. Claire Weekes has a book called hope and help for your nerves that is awesome. Aaron Beck created CBT his book Anxiety Disorders and Phobias: A Cognitive Perspective is a goldmine. This is a good place to start. You can also consider my ebook or coaching service. But whatever you do, continue to take slow, steady action towards solutions. Being problem focused is a waste of time.

  22. Netty says

    Hi Paul
    I’ve been reading your various posts for a while now and find them very helpful. I’ve seen my GP and a cardiologist re my palpitations and have been told I’m ok. I’ve got a harmless form of heartblock type 1 mobitz which showed up on the holter – I don’t feel these as they show up overnight and can be caused by increased fitness due to vagal tone. I’m fit and healthy and in my mid 40s. In the past my palps were mainly skipped beats however they’ve changed up this year to having both skipped beats on some occasions and on other occasions a faster regular heart rate or the sensation of my heart pounding. My heart rate doesn’t go over 100 but as my resting pulse is mid 50s, 80 – 90 feels fast. Can you tell me please if it’s normal with stress and anxiety to have both. I’ve also started suffering from debilitating panic attacks this year. I’m convinced it’s all anxiety/stress driven cause I had a period of 3 months mid year with no issues at all but when my stress levels rose back came the increased HR and skipped beats. Thanks for your time. Netty

  23. says

    Hey Netty,

    If you’ve been screened for heart issues and came out all clear, then you should know that anxiety can cause the symptoms you mentioned 100%. Fast heart beats, slow, skipped, etc can all be caused by excessive stress. Very normal when high anxiety is present.

  24. Amanda says

    Hi everyone! I have suffered from anxiety for a long time, but i can go years without an episode. It had been over a year since my last panic attack. Two weeks ago i ended up in the er with dizziness and shortness of breath (probably a panic attack). They did blood, urine, ekg, chest xray and a ct with contrast. Everything was fine except my ekg showed ventricle tachycardia. She said they are often wrong and said they couldn’t find anything that was medically causing my symptoms. I asked if it was anxiety and she said she couldn’t tell me if it was or not. I have been wonderfully fine since… until yesterday! I got a letter in the mail with a cardiology apt labeled as routine, but not until January 28th. Now i am a nervous wreck and of course i keep having bouts of fast heartbeat then I am normal again. I never had an abnormal ekg with a panic attack before. My cousin works for a heart hospital and she and one of the doctor think that i am probably fine and it was abnormal because of the panic attack. Problem is that now it is all i can think about. I do not smoke, or drink. I am overweight but eat fairly healthy. Exercise is usually yoga about an hour a week. Pretty sedentary except for housework and 4 kids. Any calming thoughts would be great… anyone else similar situation then a clean ekg?

  25. Michael Sta. Maria says

    Hello Paul,

    I am 26-yr old student from the Philippines. Such article is a good read when I was looking for solutions to treat my anxiety attacks. I learned a lot.

    Few questions, though.

    There were several occasions that I have gone through ECGs and everything were normal. Had my 2D echo and luckily still normal. What sort of natural remedies that you can suggest for me to control my stress levels?

    I am a freshman student taking up graduate studies so most of the time I read books here and there. So I lost track on how to manage my stress when it arises which I normally can control finely before.

    I appreciate your time reading my letter. Thank you.


  26. says

    The short version is this:
    1. Don’t smoke
    2. Don’t drink coffee
    3. Exercise often
    4. Find a healthy means of expressing your fears

    That’s a good start!

  27. christina miller says

    I have tried doing a stress test but 10 minutes into it, I went into v-tach. I have worn a holter monitor twice. The results for the first one was, that my hearts beats and extra 19,000 beats a day compared to the average person. The results for the second one was, that my heart beats 26,000 extra beats a day compared to the average person. I have had an ablation done but it was unsuccessful before of where the problem is and a second ablation is out of the question ( according to the doctors ). I am on heart meds but still suffer with the extra heart beats. I feel lost and helpless because noting seems to help me

  28. says

    i would just like to say that just what am feeling like at moment the docters make me eorse saying i have a problem tthey put it in my head am fine till they start what i have just read what you put is how it is your mind brings a atack on

  29. autumn says

    I was just diagnosed with anxiety induced tachycardia. I cant shake the impending doom feeling. Im only 24, I have a 1 year old son, but no matter how much the doctors reassure me its stress, I cant seem to get it under control. I wake up in the middle of the night with palpitations and a bpm of 118. During attacks, its not unusual for my heart to go up to 182. I really wish I could shake it. Its effecting everything in my life. When I do simple things, like walk to the bathroom, I feel faint and out of control..muscle weakness, shivers. Everyone hear has experienced this?

  30. joey says

    Ive suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for 4 yrs. Been on all the meds. Paxil, celexa, effexor, lexapro etc etc. I take klonopin (thank goodness) and it helps. This illness is an everyday struggle for me and millions of others. We are not alone just remember that. I’ve been rushed to the ER 7 times with a heart rate of 180+. It starts out at 120-150 and then once the ambulance arrives it shoots up to 180. Its all built up stress. Your body releases chemicals trying to help you but try telling your brain that while panicking. Also hyperventilated to the point my whole body vibrated and my hands clinched closed. But every time I have a normal sinus rhythm thats just fast. And once I calm down I feel tired but fine. Control your brain and you will control the body. Anxiety never makes you worry about your kidney or ear. Always the heart because you think death. We relate death to the heart. Ive had it all. Chest pains. Left arm numbness/tingling. Leg pains.neck pains.headache.flushed face.sweats.chills. They all go away when the panic subsides. They also all come back when it arrives lol. Deep breathing. Reading. Even reading helpful bible quotes all help me. Always be honest with your dr. If they aren’t helping demand to see somebody else. No health insurance? Who cares our country is trillions of dollars in debt. Go to a hospital, they have to treat you. You can either suffer for lack of insurance (scam) or get help and enjoy life. This isn’t a dress rehearsel. Enjoy your life at all means necessary.

  31. Christain says

    I stumbled on this wondering if I was losing it. This is all pretty new to me, about a constant month, but my heart rate just hovers between 100-110 and gets as high as 125-145. Of course that would pretty scary for anybody who can’t tell how stressed they really are or who doesn’t even feel anxiety when the numbers are that high. I have noticed though, when my numbers are at its lowest, around 86-92, that’s when I can feel some anxiety but it doesn’t last long. I’ve come to realize now that allowing stress which essentially just comes from taking the weight of family members on my shoulders in my case, to affect me like this is literally sending me to an early grave. I choose longevity and this article is life changing for me. I feel just in time before things got worse. Thank you, Paul, for this article and all you for your input.

  32. Talia says

    Hi, Im REALLY worried because ive just turned 13 years old and have a fast heart rate. Im REALLY healthy like the healthiest in my class so i know i dont have a big problem. But im always checking peoples heart rates in my class with me to see the difference because im so nervious. I have been a week not worrying about it because i dont want stress (from family probs) so i stopped and was laughing lots and having great times that i completly forgot about it but when i felt it was still there it got me nervious again. I really hope im fine. Can a hot bath make your heart rate calm? Haha, i dont know…
    But anyways do you think its alright? I have had a few little chest pains when i open my chest a bit like stretch out a bit and near my heart. I also feel a little bone like a pinching feeling near my heart and it annoys me. It doesnt really hurt but like that feeling i dont know how to explain. Will i be alright. Since this happened (probably a few weeks the chest pain and 1 week or so an upper back pain but i just pulled my muscles from the trampoline there haha) and my heart rate was fast for like 1 year. GETS ON MY NERVES and i feel like everyone like my friends have fun and i dont. I do LOTS of excercise and like i said im healthy. I really need an answer im so desperate. The only thing i think about since the pains but not that they hurt but like sometimes a little stabbing feeling or a tiny ache is thinking about death even though i dont say that to my parents because they would tell me im stupid of thinking in that as it wont happen. The bones on my left area sometimes feel a pinch or feel wierd and my parents say it can be growing pains. Thanks for taking the time to read this! :)

  33. Raye says

    Thanks for this article. For some reason in January my heart decided to go bonkers and start beating all crazy. Spent a night in the ER and all test were normal (blood, urine, ekg) only thing wa my heart was fast. 122+ a minute. They gave me an IV shot of an anti anxiety medication and sent me on my way. My PA put me on a beta-blocker and holy cow that had awful side effects. Cardiologist said nothing was wrong with me after a 48 hour holter test. Then I was removed from the beta blockers. All was good for a couple months and now I am back high again. I hang around in the 90s to 105 area, this sucks. Guess I am ok but it is nice to read re-assuring articles like this one. Thank you for publishing.

  34. Kelly says

    I have been suffering with Anxiety/panic attacks for about a year. It has been extremely difficult dealing with this. I went to the ER yesterday with a 200bpm. When I went into the ambulance it lowered. I can’t take this much more. The ER doctor referred me to a Cardiologist for further examination. My blood pressure is usually high 140/90. The doctors believe the stress is causing me to have anxiety.

  35. Peter says

    Hi paul my gf heart beat fast every day not right thru the day but when she chilling it happens… n her feet go numb too pls help me thanx

  36. kamara says

    Thanks a lot paul.been having anxiety disorder for almost 6mths now,m just 27 done all heart/blood test,just the ECG that showed abnormal heart beat,I get so many symptoms including headache and pains on my face including my nose,though it doesn’t happen all the time,I find it hard to sleep sometimes because am always scared of my palpitation and chest pain etc..well I think I have been able to control my feelings but am sometimes scared..I need help please

  37. says

    Hi Kamara, Feeling scared when you have palpitations is super normal. The important thing is you’ve been medically screened already, so it’s not a physical issue. So at this point the problem isn’t what is inside your heart but what resides in your thoughts. And although those thoughts can make you uncomfortable they cannot, and will not, ever harm you. If you haven’t already try to practice deep breathing/meditation for 10-15 min a day for about a week and see if that doesn’t help some.

  38. kamara says

    Thanks a lot paul!!but I do havin dizziness n sensation around my heart,and I keep thinkin about my ecg result that came out abormal,am trying soo hard to remove my mind but I can’t..I guess your article is helping

  39. Roy says

    i also cant get out my mind thinking or worrying about my heart rate and its been 8 months now still thinking and worrying about it… like it becomes a hobby…and once it goes up it stays high for an hour or so and have to take a beta blocker to slow it

  40. Brandon says

    I have had this panic attack disorder for 6 months now and i feel chest pain, fast heart beat and shortness of breath almost everyday. I really feel like( especially when I’m alone) I’m gonna have a heart attack and die. But my mind says all these are nonsense and deep down i know all these nonsense too but i can’t help feeling the fear. This affects my life in every aspects. This is really scary and i feel relieved when i read articles like this. Because of this fear, I can’t be alone in any place and i feel like if i stay alone i’m gonna die suddenly but if i have someone with me whom I can trust I see no problem and feel relaxed. How can I overcome this problem? I really would like to get back my old, anxiety-free life. I’m just 18.

  41. Roy says

    @brandon me too its sucks that I have to be alone for 10 hours everyday and my heart beats,beats faster when I’m alone because I’m anxious when alone specially when I have no one to call if something bad happens because everyone’s at work I’m more scared of having fast heart beat than anything because there’s a time it feels like it won’t go back to normal beat 60-70 and it stays 130-150 for an hour or 2 and that’s scary

  42. Abhijit Kunachi says

    Hey Paul,
    Thanks for the wounderfull work & research done on this topic,
    now a days many people are suffering from this disorder,
    Thanks for this work again.

  43. Lauren says

    So what do I do if it’s interfering with my daily life? Like waking me up in the middle of the night and I have to go throw up? Or I’m at school and I pass out? I’ve never been worried I’m gonna die or anything, but it’s annoying.

  44. says

    Hey Lauren, if your anxiety is causing vomiting and a lot of interference with daily living I would definitely speak with a doctor.

  45. kamara says

    Please can aniexty disorder cause abnormal ECG (fast heart rate)result but normal bloodtest and chest xray,because am curious and wondering why I still have palpitation even when am calm,all the other symptoms seems to be disappearing except the constant palpitation and sometimes shortness of breath,could this still be anxiety?well I want start taking med”propranolol”

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