Many anxiety symptoms cause further anxiety, and mimic more serious health problems. One of the most common is tachycardia, also known as "rapid heartbeat." It is a heartbeat described as over 100 beats per minute in a healthy adult, and it is often followed by other symptoms due to the way tachycardia affects your body.
Tachycardia often causes a considerable amount of fear because when it occurs randomly it makes you think that something is wrong with your heart. But often times it's anxiety that causes the tachycardia, and in almost every case that tachycardia is completely harmless.
Stop Your Rapid Heartbeat!
The heart is designed to handle speeds of greater than 100 beats per minute, but that doesn't mean that it isn't any less frightening. If your doctor has ruled out heart health issues, it's very likely you are suffering from anxiety. Stop anxiety related tachycardia today.
How Anxiety Causes Tachycardia
There is more than one type of tachycardia, and more than one cause of tachycardia related to stress and anxiety. The easiest way to understand tachycardia is to take my anxiety test, which will show you how your symptoms interact and what they come from. Once you've taken the test, come back and compare your symptoms to the descriptions below.
There are two primary causes/types of tachycardia with anxiety. These include:
The vast majority of experts in the anxiety field focus on one type of tachycardia: sinus tachycardia, which is caused by activation of the fight or flight system. This is the system that is most active during anxiety. Normally your body rushes with adrenaline during times of intense fear to get enough energy to help you run away or fight.
Those with anxiety have an overactive fight or flight system that is active all throughout the day even when there are no dangers. That floods adrenaline into your heart which causes your heart to speed up as a response. Those with severe anxiety and anxiety attacks may experience this sensation even when they're not having anxious thoughts.
When people talk about their heartbeat increasing because of anxiety, and when experts refer to anxiety tachycardia, this is almost always what they're talking about.
However, it is not the only type of tachycardia caused by anxiety. An often forgotten type of tachycardia is supraventricular tachycardia, and this occurs as a response to hyperventilation.
Rapid breathing is very common for those with anxiety, and hyperventilation itself plays a prominent role in panic attacks. Some people develop hyperventilation syndrome, which is a tendency to hyperventilate even without anxiety.
When you hyperventilate, your expel too much carbon dioxide and take in too much oxygen. This throws off your body's balance and causes your ventricles to constrict. When your ventricles constrict, this makes your heart need to work harder to get blood around your body, and that's what causes the tachycardia.
Is Tachycardia From Anxiety Dangerous?
It's difficult to say whether tachycardia is dangerous. The reality is that it is not dangerous on its own. The fight or flight system is something your body is designed to handle – something it has to handle, otherwise you wouldn't be able to stay safe in danger – and so your body can handle these adrenaline rushes fairly easily.
Tachycardia isn't "safe," however, because it can be a bit dangerous if you already have a heart condition. That is why even though anxiety is likely to blame for your rapid heartbeat, it's always a smart decision to see a doctor and get everything checked out. If your heart is healthy, then tachycardia is unlikely to be dangerous.
Just make sure that you trust their opinion. If they tell you that your heart is in good health, you need to make sure that you don't convince yourself they missed something. Doctors are well trained to spot heart problems just by listening, and are very likely to know whether or not there is something to worry about.
Tachycardia and Heart Attack Fears
Another issue that many people struggle with is in how they respond to tachycardia. It's not uncommon for those with panic attacks to know that their heart is fine in general, but when they experience tachycardia they feel as though they're having a heart attack, or that one is coming.
That's because in addition to a rapid heartbeat, anxiety attacks also cause a "feeling of doom" which convinces a person that something terrible is about to happen (for example, a heart attack). Hyperventilation also causes other symptoms that mimic heart attacks, like chest pains and leg weakness.
You do need to recognize the way you react to tachycardia, because often you can make it worse if you respond with intense anxiety. Anxiety tachycardia is not a heart attack, and though they can feel the same it is important to learn how to control it.
How to Stop Anxiety Tachycardia
Stopping this type of rapid heartbeat is sort of a waiting game. Once your body is flooded with adrenaline (or if you're hyperventilating) your heartbeat won't slow until it gets back to its normal balance.
You don't want your heartbeat to slow until then either. Your heart is beating quickly because it needs to. If your heartbeat could be slowed down before your body goes back to normal, you wouldn't get enough blood to the areas that need it. So unfortunately, tachycardia is an anxiety symptom that needs to be waited out.
The best thing you can do for yourself is learn to control your anxiety and stop your anxiety from getting out of control. There are relaxation strategies that can help you stay calmer in the moment, and several tips and techniques to cure your anxiety forever.
I've helped many people with tachycardia control their anxiety and reduce the frequency of their rapid heartbeat. If you want to be freed of anxiety, start with my anxiety test. The test will look at your symptoms and devise a plan that can help you control it your anxiety forever.
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Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.