While anxiety isn't generally caused by health conditions, there are a few issues that you can be born with that both cause anxiety and 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.
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How MVP Causes Anxiety
Mitral Valve Prolapse is an unusual condition. It can be dangerous in some cases, so seeing a doctor is important. But 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 panic attacks.
It's important to take my anxiety test first before reading onward. 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:
- MVP reactions are rarely dangerous. Seeing a doctor is valuable, but in many cases the symptoms of MVP are generally harmless.
- Anxiety and panic attacks are often caused by a reaction to specific symptoms, and unfortunately some of those symptoms can be caused by MVP.
Panic attacks may be an anxiety disorder, but they're also a "reaction" disorder. They occur because the mind becomes oversensitive to various physical sensations, and eventually those sensations spur some incredible fear that leads to an anxiety attack.
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 fall under that heading. 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 - ultimately - an anxiety attack.
MVP can also cause other issues, including:
- Body tingling.
- Trouble thinking.
- High blood pressure.
All of these can create their own symptoms that may trigger anxiety 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.
Finally, the fear over what having MVP means for your health may also create anxiety. MVP is still a heart condition, and it's one that can have complications if it's not treated and monitored. Those fears have many people paying very 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 prolapses are not dangerous. Some are completely asymptomatic. Others cause regular arrhythmias, but those arrhythmias are 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.
You'll also need to learn to stop your panic attacks and anxiety, so that you don't have to struggle with it daily. I've worked with many people that have both MVP and anxiety, starting with my free 7 minute anxiety test. It's a great way to learn more about your symptoms, how to prevent them, and what to do when your physical issues cause you to think something dangerous is about to happen.
Venkatesh, Alagiriswami, et al. Mitral valve prolapse in anxiety neurosis (panic disorder). American heart journal 100.3 (1980): 302-305.
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).
Hartman, Neil, et al. Panic disorder in patients with mitral valve prolapse. Am J Psychiatry 139.5 (1982): 669-670.
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.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.