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Atrial Fibrillation as Symptom of Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc
Atrial Fibrillation as Symptom of Anxiety

Anxiety can cause symptoms that lead to more anxiety. This is one of the main reasons that anxiety and panic attacks are so hard to stop – once you have anxiety, it can often lead to symptoms that cause anxiety to develop further.

For those with severe anxiety and anxiety attacks, easily one of the most troubling symptoms is an irregular heartbeat, and one of the most common issues that leads to irregular heartbeat is atrial fibrillation.

Cause of Skipped Heartbeats From Anxiety

Atrial fibrillation, or "AF," is the most common cause of irregular heartbeats. Any type of irregular heartbeat can lead to rapid heartbeat and associated symptoms, such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and feelings of feint.

These are the same symptoms caused by anxiety, because anxiety can also contribute to an irregular heartbeat. 

Fears From AF

While atrial fibrillation can be linked to unsafe conditions, like heart disease, it can also be caused by nothing at all. There is research now that shows that many people seem to suffer from severe irregular heartbeat as a response to anxiety.

Why this occurs isn't entirely clear, but most likely the cause has to do with:

The most important thing to do is talk to your doctor first. They can tell you very easily if something is wrong with your heart.

But be prepared to have anxiety anyway. Living with sudden rapid heartbeat is very frightening, and anxiety also tends to cause "feelings of doom" as a symptom, which will cause you to misinterpret your anxiety symptoms as a sign that something terrible is about to happen. Even if your doctor tells you that your heart is fine, during a panic attack you're going to believe they were wrong.

That's why it's so important to make sure that you don't allow yourself to be controlled by these types of symptoms. Consider the following:

You also need to start working on curing your anxiety, because as long as you still have anxiety you're still likely to both suffer from these symptoms and increase the chance of experiencing a panic attack.

Article Resources
  1. Thrall, Graham, et al. Depression, anxiety, and quality of life in patients with atrial fibrillation. CHEST Journal 132.4 (2007): 1259-1264.
  2. Suzuki, Shin-ichi, and Hiroshi Kasanuki. The influences of psychosocial aspects and anxiety symptoms on quality of life of patients with arrhythmia: investigation in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. International journal of behavioral medicine 11.2 (2004): 104-109.
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