Almost everyone with anxiety has suffered from a rapid heartbeat at some point or another. A fast heart is an extremely common anxiety symptom, and one that - when severe - causes many people to worry about the health of their heart. One of the first steps towards treating anxiety is learning not to overreact to a rapid heartbeat because the stress of overreacting can create a further rapid heartbeat.
What many may not realize is anxiety can cause the heartbeat to slow down. It's not that common, but it is possible, and in some cases the issue may not be a slow heartbeat at all but how you're interpreting it.
Slow Heart Rate = Anxiety?
Any time you have concerns about your heart it is smart to see a doctor. You may be outfitted with a heart monitoring device to make sure that there are no serious abnormalities in your heart rate. But in some cases, it's possible for your slow heartbeat to be caused by stress and anxiety.
Learn more about anxiety and its symptoms by taking my free anxiety test here.
Slow Heart Beat and Anxiety
In order for your slow heart rate to be the result of anxiety, you need to make sure you're suffering from traditional anxiety symptoms at all. My anxiety test is an important place to start, and should be taken before you read onward.
The causes of slow heart rate from anxiety are not entirely clear, in that it often seems as though the problem is a bit more complex than a slowing down of the heart. Common causes may include:
- Incorrect Evaluation First and foremost, the main problem is rarely a slow heart rate. The problem is that people incorrectly evaluate their heart beat. Most people are not medical doctors, and when you check your pulse multiple times a day it's not uncommon to miscount or simply be incorrect with the interpretation. The vast majority of those that complain they have a slow heart rate from anxiety have no irregular heart rate at all, and simply misunderstand how to evaluate the speed of their heart.
- Fatigue Anxiety can also cause significant fatigue. Living with anxiety can be immensely difficult, and often drains the body of all of its excess energy. The resting heart rate is often much lower than the heart rate of someone during periods of stress, and it's possible that the fatigue can cause your heart rate to go a bit slower than normal.
- Bed Rest Sometimes those with anxiety become incredibly inactive. While rare, this type of prolonged bed rest may lead to lower heart rate symptoms, as the body adjusts to such a low rate of overall activity.
There are some medical conditions that may be worth monitoring as well. Talk to your doctor about hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid is a condition that often leads to anxiety and panic attacks, and may be related to low heart rate.
Stop Checking Your Pulse
You should see a doctor if you're concerned about a low heart rate. But once the doctor rules out medical symptoms, you need to stop checking your pulse unless instructed to by a doctor. Persistent pulse checking is a symptom of anxiety, and it's a symptom that needs to stop if you want to control your anxiety in the future.
This type of behavioral pattern is too self-sustaining. When you check your pulse multiple times a day, you'll never be satisfied with a normal result. You'll instead keep checking until you finally have the anomaly you've been waiting for, which will then reinforce the idea that you need to keep checking your pulse constantly. It's a pattern that absolutely must stop to cure your anxiety.
Other Methods of Reducing Heart Rate Fears
It's very difficult to control your heart rate. But you can control the way you react to it. The most important thing you can do is exercise. Being athletic actually lowers your heart rate, but your heart is much more efficient and you'll be able to convince yourself that your heart is slow because it's strong, not because of any medical problem.
Seeing a doctor is obviously healthy and important as well. Ruling out the most likely medical causes of a low heart rate will never calm you entirely - especially if you still struggle with anxiety - but will at least give you some piece of mind that your heart rate issues are not related to anything medical. Be warned, though: if you keep checking your pulse, you'll find a way to convince yourself that the doctor is wrong.
Make sure you also stop researching low heart rate on the internet. Online, you'll found countless explanations for a low heart rate and you'll convince yourself you're suffering from one of those issues, even if there is no medical reason to think so.
Finally, learn to control your overall anxiety. The less anxiety you experience, the less you'll focus on your heart, and the less you focus on your heart the less likely you'll experience a low heart rate as a result of anxiety.
I've helped many people struggling with anxiety over their heartbeat. Start with my free 7 minute anxiety test to get a better idea of how to deal with anxiety symptoms, and give yourself the opportunity to cure your anxiety once and for all.
Friedman, Bruce H., and Julian F. Thayer. Autonomic balance revisited: panic anxiety and heart rate variability. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 44.1 (1998): 133-151.
Fuller, B. F. The effects of stress-anxiety and coping styles on heart rate variability. International Journal of Psychophysiology 12.1 (1992): 81-86.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.