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Anxiety Over My Heart Rate

by
author image Christy Bowles
Christy Bowles has 15 years of experience in the field of education, with 10 years working in mental health and wellness. She specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety and substance abuse, with a focus on alternative treatment modalities. Bowles holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.
Anxiety Over My Heart Rate
A close up of a woman's wrist as she takes her own pulse. Photo Credit Manuel Faba Ortega/iStock/Getty Images

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is a complex relationship among anxiety, heart rate, and panic attacks. Anxiety can cause an increase in an individual's heart rate as well as heart palpitations, sweating, and dizziness. In addition, it is not unusual for an individual with a heart condition, such as a murmur or high blood pressure, to have concerns about his heart rate and overall cardiovascular health.

Heart Conditions and Symptoms

According to Dr. Jay Winner, a contributing writer for "Psychology Today" magazine, heart conditions are often indicated by resting heart rates that fall below 50 beats per minute or rise above 100 beats per minute. In addition, symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, and irregular heart beat can also indicate a heart rhythm problem. Anxiety and panic attacks can produce the same symptoms, so medical tests are typically required to rule out a specific medical issue with the heart or cardiovascular health.

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Anxiety and Panic Attacks

The Mayo Clinic notes that anxiety and panic attacks can cause symptoms that mimic a heart problem. An individual's pulse may race, and many people may feel that they are having a heart attack. It's also quite common for individuals to experience ongoing anxiety regarding their heart rate and physical health when they are experiencing generalized anxiety disorder. Many individuals experience extreme worry about having additional panic attacks, and this can intensify anxiety.

Managing Anxiety

Sources at the Mayo Clinic suggest that anxiety can be managed with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. In many cases, doctors will prescribe psychotropic medications to help control physical symptoms of anxiety such as heart palpitations and dizziness. If the issues with an individual's heart rate are a product of an anxiety disorder the medications will gradually ease the symptoms. In addition, many individuals benefit from psychotherapy, with a qualified professional who can instruct the patient in anxiety management skills such as breathing and relaxation techniques.

Medical Interventions

Sources at the National Institutes of Health note that changes in heart rate can be caused by a variety of medical issues other than anxiety. Dehydration, anemia, and the use of stimulants such as caffeine and cocaine can all contribute to heart palpitations. Doctors will often request a full physical exam, blood tests, and an electrocardiogram to rule out heart disease or heart murmur.

Expert Insight

Sources at the National Institutes of Health note that individuals can lower their anxiety about their heart rate by discontinuing the use of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. In addition, practicing yoga or tai chi on a regular basis can reduce stress and anxiety and regulate heart rate. Sources at the Mayo Clinic also note that a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine are critical to stress management and cardiovascular health.

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