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The Links Between Anxiety & Mitral Valve Prolapse

Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS
The Links Between Anxiety & Mitral Valve Prolapse

While anxiety isn't generally caused by health conditions, there are a few issues that you can be born with that contribute to significant anxiety. One of them is known as the "mitral valve prolapse," or "MVP," and it is a heart condition that in most cases isn't dangerous, but can cause extreme levels of anxiety and panic.

How MVP Causes Anxiety

Mitral Valve Prolapse is a relatively common but unusual condition. It can be dangerous in some cases, so seeing a doctor is important. One of the problems with MVP is that it causes reactions that can lead to significant amounts of anxiety, especially if you may have a biological predisposition for anxiety.

You'll get insight into your anxiety that will help you understand the problem with MVP.

There are two issues that are important with MVP:

Panic attacks could be considered to be a "reaction" disorder. Panic attacks occur in reaction to a stimulus which in some cases may be various physical sensations. Those without MVP or any heart condition often have the same problem. They'll feel something - whether it's an increased heart rate, chest pains, leg pains, trouble thinking, or some other issue, and this will cause a chain reaction that cascades into a moment of pure panic, with increasing physical symptoms and the very real belief that you are about to die. Anything that causes much attention to your heart, especially, may have the potential to create this type of feeling. Unfortunately, the symptoms of MVP are very likely to divert your attention to your heart. The most common symptom is arrhythmia, or a change in heartbeat rhythm. Any increase in heart rate can cause a person to feel as though their heart is crashing, and this may cause significant anxiety and potentially a panic attack.

MVP can also cause other issues, including:

All of these can create their own symptoms that may trigger panic attacks. Some also theorize that mitral valve prolapse may increase blood flow to the brain. Anything that alters brain chemistry can create anxiety as well.

The fear relating to having a heart condition that can have complications if it's not treated and monitored is another factor that could increase anxiety. It may cause people to pay close attention to their heart and their health, often struggling with anxiety every day as they try to come to terms with what it means to have this type of heart condition.

How to Stop Anxiety From MVP

Remember, most mitral valve prolapse's are not dangerous. Some are completely asymptomatic. Others cause regular arrhythmias, but those arrhythmias are generally harmless. It's important to talk to your doctor first, and find out whether or not your MVP is something you need to monitor, how to monitor it, and what you can do to prevent any health complications.

Anxiety can make it difficult to trust in your doctor's diagnosis and advice, so keep in mind that even if your doctor tells you it's harmless, it's not uncommon to still feel fear - fear that the doctor is wrong or that your MVP will get worse. Try to work to control that fear. Recognize that anxiety controls your thought process and makes you assume the worst. If your doctor tells you there is no reason to worry about your MVP, then you have to train yourself not to worry.

Article Resources
  1. Venkatesh, Alagiriswami, et al. Mitral valve prolapse in anxiety neurosis (panic disorder). American heart journal 100.3 (1980): 302-305.
  2. Pariser, Stephen F., Emil R. Pinta, and Bruce A. Jones. Mitral valve prolapse syndrome and anxiety neurosis/panic disorder. The American journal of psychiatry (1978).
  3. Hartman, Neil, et al. Panic disorder in patients with mitral valve prolapse. Am J Psychiatry 139.5 (1982): 669-670.
  4. Crowe, Raymond R., et al. Exercise and anxiety neurosis: comparison of patients with and without mitral valve prolapse. Archives of general psychiatry 36.6 (1979): 652.
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