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Heart Pounding From Anxiety? Yes. Heart Attack? No.

It's one of the first causes of death you learn as a child. When people are sick or old, their heart stops, and they die. So when you start to feel like there is something seriously wrong with your heart, it's no wonder that your mind thinks only the worst.

You may have a heart condition. But if you're one of the millions of people with pounding heartbeat and a healthy heart, chances are you are suffering from anxiety - most likely an anxiety attack. It's one of the most common, but most frightening symptoms of anxiety.

Heart Pounding = Anxiety?

As soon as your heart starts pounding it may be a sign something is seriously wrong. But it may also be a natural reaction to anxiety and breathing. Often doctors will ask you if you have any other symptoms.

My 7 minute anxiety test will help you discover what symptoms are likely from anxiety. So click here to take the test now.

The Cycle of Pounding Heartbeats

Most people have experienced an increased heartbeat as a result of nervousness. But there are times when you're convinced that something is wrong - you're convinced that this pounding heartbeat means something more. Maybe it comes with other symptoms, like chest pain or lightheadedness, and you're sure that you're having a heart attack.

But that's what anxiety does to you. While only a doctor can rule out heart related disorders, the truth is that pounding heartbeat is often the result of anxiety. If you haven't done so yet, take my 7 minute anxiety test to see your anxiety symptoms broken down into their core components.

Anxiety - especially panic attacks - are a frequent cause of rapid heartbeat. Unfortunately, they are also characterized by a "feeling of doom." Your body erroneously tells you that something is seriously wrong, and so you experience profound fear and dread that you're about to die. This leads to two cycles of anxiety that lead to further pounding heartbeat.

Cycle 1:

  • Your heartbeat increases.
  • You notice that this heartbeat feels different and scary.
  • You experience severe anxiety, and most likely a panic attack.
  • You experience other symptoms associated with heart disease, like chest pains.
  • You recover from the pounding heartbeat.
  • You worry that you may have a heart problem.
  • Your worries cause anxiety over your health.
  • Your heartbeat increases.

This is a common cycle in people suffering from anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Unfortunately, it's not the only cycle either. You'll also find that during an anxiety attack, you experience the following:

Cycle 2:

  • Your heartbeat increases.
  • Your anxiety over your heartbeat increases.
  • Your heartbeat increases further.
  • You try to breathe more to calm yourself down.
  • Your heartbeat increases further.

This effect is caused by hyperventilation. It occurs when you feel as though you're not getting enough air (even though you are), so you take in more air. Your body then gets too much oxygen, and your heart has to pump harder, leading to other symptoms as well, such as chest pain.

Going to the doctor is important, but it doesn't always help. The experience of a pounding heartbeat, along with the feeling of impending doom, are both very real, so it becomes too easy to convince yourself that the doctor missed something.

Even if you know you have panic attacks, it may not help. That's because it simply changes your cycle:

Modified Cycle 1:

  • You worry that you may have another panic attack.
  • Your heartbeat increases because of that anxiety.
  • You get severe anxiety because you believe you're going to suffer from another panic attack.
  • You start to hyperventilate.
  • Your pounding heart increases further, and the chest pains come.
  • You start to worry about your health again, or worry that you may have another panic attack.
  • Your heartbeat increases because of that anxiety.

Rapid heartbeat is a symptom that is often times self-sustaining unless you know how to handle it, and when it comes with that feeling of "something is wrong" that occurs during anxiety attacks, it can quickly become a more serious anxiety issue that requires a stronger treatment.

How to Control Pounding Heart From Anxiety

Controlling your pounding heart requires an understanding of what is causing it and what it takes to place it under control. Remember that while an anxiety attack may feel like a heart attack, they're not the same thing, and suffering from a panic attack is not dangerous. In the midst of a pounding heartbeat, consider the following:

  • Deep Breathing Start with deep breathing exercises, structured to ensure you're no longer hyperventilating. Remember that although you may feel like you're not getting a deep breath, the truth is that you're actually breathing fine and have taken in too much oxygen. Take slow, controlled breaths through your stomach (not through your chest). Hold your breath in for a few seconds before breathing out, just as slowly.
  • Walk In some cases, pounding heartbeat can make you feel dizzy. But if you're not feeling too dizzy, go for a walk. This will get your heart pumping blood more efficiently and should assist in helping you get your breathing under control.
  • Call Someone Talking on a cell phone can actually be beneficial as well. For starters, it calms any worries you have that you're going through your pounding heartbeat alone. When you call someone on the phone, you're also distracting your mind away from the pounding heartbeat. This can reduce some of those persistent negative thoughts that make it hard to recover.

Panic attacks tend to peak about 10 minutes in and then start a very slow recovery process, so the pounding heartbeat will usually subside on its own, but the severity can be reduced using the above tools and tips.

Once you've reduced the severity of your panic attacks, the next step is to stop them from coming back. This is a process that involves a significant amount of help, because you essentially need to re-train your body to overcome the severe anxiety you experience during these attacks.

For that, start by taking my free 7 minute anxiety test. I've helped thousands of people suffering from intense, regular pounding heartbeat overcome their issues, but before I can begin, I need to know more about their anxiety.

I developed the free test to give you the same help. You'll be able to compare your anxiety symptoms to others, see what symptoms are likely the result of anxiety, and find out more about how your anxiety affects you so that you can use a smarter treatment.

So if you haven't yet, take the test here.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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