Constantly feel like I'm going to have a heart attack (Long story, but please help!)

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Hi, I'm Rachel. I have had anxiety, panic attacks and depression since I was about 10, developed extreme agorophobia about 2 years ago, and discovered almost a year ago that I have Borderline Personality Disorder.

I'm 16 years old now (born March 7, 2000) and have been having stabbing chest pains and chest discomfort in the left side, tightness, jaw tingling, leg tingling, and arm tingling.

This all started about 5 months ago. The first time it happened was in May at about 3 A.M. I was convinced I was having a heart attack and going to die. I woke up my mom and told her my symptoms, and she told me it was only my anxiety, gave me 1mg of Klonopin and had me go to bed. I was still having the symptoms when I woke up, so I called her from work and asked her to please come home and take me to the hospital or Urgent Care to check my heart (I do not drive, due to anxiety, panic attacks and agorophobia). As a concerned mother, she came home and took me to Urgent Care right away. Since I was so worried about my heart, I wasn't troubled about leaving the house.

When we got there, the nurse checked my blood pressure and said it was a little high (I don't remember the exact numbers), but my mom said it was probably because I was anxious. They then gave me an EKG and said that everything looked totally fine and it was just my anxiety giving me those scary symptoms. They prescribed me Celexa (I think 20mg) for depression and anxiety and Klonopin for panic attacks. I dealt with constantly feeling like I was going to have a heart attack for about a week, but then the feeling slipped away. I still had anxiety on and off, but no heart attack-like symptoms. After a couple of months of taking my medication as directed, I ran out of pills. Due to my agorophobia, I didn't want to go back to the doctor to get prescribed more pills, so I didn't go back. I was off any sort of pills from about the middle of August to about 2 weeks ago.

About 3 weeks ago, right when I was about to fall asleep, I had a single palpitation that caused me to have a full blown panic attack that last about 5 hours. It was definitely the worst panic attack I have ever had; I was crying, having heart attack-like symptoms and was vigorously shaking and could not stop, and I threw up somewhere in between those 5 hours. I didn't wake up my mom this time because I knew in the back of my mind that it was just anxiety, not an emergency. After that night, I was having anxiety all day every day, and after about a week of it, I told my mom that I couldn't take it anymore and we needed to go back to the doctor as soon as possible.

2 weeks ago, my mom took me to Urgent Care once again (I insisted that there was something wrong with my heart and it needed to be checked again, so we went to Urgent Care instead of making an appointment). We went into the room and the nurse checked my oxygen, which was was 99%, and my blood pressure was perfect; 118 over 72, I think it was. That made me nervous though because I had anxiety in that moment and I hadn't eaten that day because I felt like whatever I ate was going to kill me, so did it mean that my blood pressure was usually low and it only seemed okay because my anxiety raised my blood pressure? No idea, but it freaked me out.

Anyway, they decided not to give me another EKG because the doctor insisted that I was fine (which I disagree with and was very disappointed that they weren't going to give me another) and this was happening because I got off of my anxiety medication cold turkey. They prescribed me 60mg of Prozac and 1mg Klonopin to be taken once or twice a day for panic attacks. I've been taking my medication as prescribed, but I've only been feeling worse. I feel my heart attack-like symptoms all day, and they are at their worst at night, so that's when I take 1mg of Klonopin which slightly calms me down (I don't want to waste them; I want to go to the doctor as little times as possible).

I haven't been eating very normally at all because I'm worried about my heart as well. Throughout the entire day, I eat about a cup or so of strawberries or pineapple, one packet of Quaker oatmeal, sometimes an avocado, and will only eat one or two small pieces of skinless chicken for meat (if my family even has that for dinner, sometimes I don't eat dinner at all) because I know all of these things are labeled as heart healthy. I am way too scared to eat anything that is not labeled heart healthy, but I am not eating enough, especially for my body weight.

You might be thinking "This girl is totally fine! She is young and her doctor said that her heart is okay." But the thing is, I am only 5'4 and 400 pounds, so it is only natural that I am so worried about my heart. I have been overweight my entire life, probably due to me not being very active. I don't eat very large amounts or very unhealthy food, but I am morbidy obese. I have never been very active, and I am extremely sedentary now due to my agorophobia. I wish I could just get out there and start going on walks to try and make my health at least a little better, but it is too hard to get myself to leave the house because I'm afraid of it.  

I have no idea what to do at this point, and am terrified that I am actually feeling heart failure symptoms. While I had anxiety last night, I checked my blood pressure and it was 148/78. Not good!!

Sometimes, I won't even feel anxious until I get a stabbing pain or discomfort in my chest. Can someone with anxiety get a random pain due to anxiety, but not feel other, more typical anxiety symptoms (shaking, hot/cold flashes, upset stomach, racing thoughts) until they feel pain?

I appreciate any sort of help you can give me. Thank you so, so much if you read this entire thing, and I'm sorry if it was rambly! 

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  • Posted

    Hi Rachel,

    My heart breaks for you I am so sorry you are this young and dealing with this! If celexa worked why didn't you get this prescribed the second time? I to have agoraphobia for the last 6 years it really sucks ! Unfortunately anxiety can feel like a heart attack among a lot of other things.

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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for reading and for your reply! I was put on Prozac because with the Celexa, I was still having a lot of depression and the anxiety was still there, just no heart symptoms. I took Prozac for a while when I was younger, around 12 and 13, and it worked pretty well for me, though I wasn't having those heart attack feeling symptoms. If the Prozac ends up not helping much within a few more weeks, I might ask my doctor if I should get back on the Celexa.

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  • Posted

    Rachel

    I have the same exact symptoms as you! Sometimes i get a squeezing sensation in my chest! And it causes me to panic... I was so tempted to call 911 earlier.. But didnt. Anxiety could mimic heart attack symptoms. But if you arent sure its always best to go to the ER! And im glad you did! I worry that im gonna have a heart attack as well. With all these scary symptoms. Ive been to many docs. I even went to a cardiologist.. And he told me my heart is in perfect condition... And the risk of heart attack is very tiny. Heart attacks usually happen in people who have heart disease or a genetic disorder ( if they're young ) and heart attacks are much more common in people ages 30-60. If you have no risk factors for a heart attack.. Then the odds are very very very unlikely. Stop checking your blood pressure so much! That will only make you even more anxious. Only do it when you are relaxed... Never do it when you are even just a bit anxious.. Because even a tiny bit of stress could cause bp to skyrocket. I took my blood pressure once and it was 105/82 or something like that. When i was at the doctors my bp was 133/89. Which is a bit of high. I also take klonopin smile but only .5 mg.

    Many people survive heart attacks. My grandfather had 5 and survived 4 of them but eventually passed away in his fifth. He had diabetes, and smoked a lot. But he didnt have heart disease. In fact, heart disease does not run in my family. But diabetes does.. And high bp. You're not going to have a heart attack. BUT people DO survive them! When you are confused about your symptoms it always best to go to the ER! And if you cant get there for some reason call 911. Better to be safe than sorry. A lot of the time.. They say that if you're unsure.. You should err on the side of safety !!! Just to keep yourself safe. Its your body and you need to listen to it! Im not saying go to the ER all the time!! But im just saying for anyone else reading this... Please dont hesitate!! If you think something is wrong and havent been diagnosed with anxiety yet call 911!! Or go to the ER!!

    Anyways in your case, you're fine. Trust in your docs.. You wont have a heart attack!!!

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    • Posted

      I really appreciate you replying!

      I'm sorry that you have the same symptoms as me, but I'm happy to know that I am not alone. I worry a lot because my grandfather too passed away from a heart attack, and my mother has high blood pressure. It's just very hard to believe that I'm okay when I've convinced myself that there's something seriously wrong with me. I'm currently having a squeezing feeling in my chest and it totally sucks, but I'm trying to talk myself through it.

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    • Posted

      I know how you feel! I was watching a video yesterday with Elizabeth Banks called "Just a little heart attack" and it made me anxious but its an educational video on how to spot potential heart attacks. DO NOT watch this if it will make you anxious!! But it could be helpful to your other loved ones... And that way you can know whether or not someone else is having a heart attack. Im trained in CPR btw.

      One of my classmates has a sister who has a heart birth defect... And idk if she has an ICD fitted in... But whenever i think im having another " heart attack " i think about her. She is at a higher risk of having a heart attack than both of us!!! And shes doing alright. In fact, heart defects could also trigger ventricular fibrillation which is a fatal but shockable arrythmmia that can be reversed if treated quickly. You dont have any heart defects because the ecgs wouldve picked that up. They would also be able to pick up past heart attacks from st elevations and all that. ICDs

      ( implantable cardioverter defibrillators ) prevent v fib by monitoring the hearts rythym 24/7. And when it senses a deadly arrythmmia.. Or even just harmless tachycardias like sinus tachycardia.. It will shock the heart back into sinus rhythm.

      I was asked a question by Tess not too long ago. It was "why do anxiety sufferers still believe they have diseases after so much reassurrance from docs that everything is ok?" And to put it simply... It has to do with your gut.. And for teenagers like you and me.. It could have a lot to do with the internet. People end up putting up stories on the web... Which makes it even worse for anxiety sufferers. In the real world.. People who have heart attacks will have obvious symptoms ... Women and men the symptoms differ a bit. But they're still quite obvious.. And are usually sudden. Aspirin can help reduce the risk of damage to the heart muscle... And can increase your chance of survival. I suffer from pvcs and they're frightening because sometimes its like a big bump in the chest. Usually get worse around my period or when im in an anxious state. They are very common and do not indicate any problems. But its good to get them checked out to make sure.

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  • Posted

    Hi Rachel,

    Looking at your story, it seems to me that the doctors did everything what they were supposed to do. Sometimes our bodies give us symptoms that we attribute to certain conditions, like a heart attack - this is why modern medicine does not rely on the 'opinion' of the patient, but takes into account independent data provided by the diagnostic equipment. Your heart is fine - this is what the tests showed. If it was not fine, no one would release you from the hospital (risking his/her career).

    Citalopram (Celexa) is one of these drugs that shouldn't be stopped abruptly as this is likely to cause nasty withdrawal symptoms – increased anxiety, headaches, nausea, etc. So please make sure that you have enough tablets all the time and never run into this situation again.

    Finally, as you said – you are overweight, which may lead to serious health problems in the future. Have you considered engaging in any physical activities in order to lose a few pounds? Maybe a gym or a swimming pool? Or – if your agoraphobia is too severe – doing some exercise at home? In the grand scheme of things, staying active is important! 

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your reply! 

      Yes, I'm hoping to start slow and go on walks soon once the Prozac kicks in and I start to feel less scared about leaving and depressed. Since I'm not used to excerise, it would be dangerous for me to try and engage in anything like running right away, so that's why I'm wanting to go on walks, at least to start.  

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    • Posted

      Hi Rachel,

      Prozac may take 4-6 weeks to kick in and prior to that you may experience certain unpleasant side effects. If they occurred, they should be similar to the ones you experienced with Celexa - so be prepared and don't give up! You'll get better!

      Regarding exercise - the rule of thumb is that in order to loose weight your heart rate should be in the range of around 0.75*(230 - age) for at least 30-40 minutes per day. If you’re 35, this means that your heart should beat 0.75*(230 – 35) = ~145 times per minute. I understand that running may be problematic considering the forces acting on your joints. I would recommend either swimming or using a cross-trainer (elliptical trainer) – these activities put no pressure on joints.

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  • Posted

    Blood pressure of 148/78 is good. Remember it's the lower figure that matters more. The higher figure increases when you're anxious but it's not harmful.

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  • Posted

    Hi Rachel,

    Sending you BIG HUGS!!! You remind me of myself a few years ago constantly worrying about my heart; countless trips to the hospital and still feeling like something is wrong. I have new fearsite now. I think you should trust the doctor's your heart is fine. I'm also just starting Prozac and the first few days are proving to be a bit stressful, but I have faith this medicine will do well for us both. I too have worried about my weight which caused lots of anxiety but you seem to making decent choices when you do eat so applaud yourself for that. Once the meds kick in maybe you can start going out for walKS or walk around your room/house, dance to some good music. You'll get through this I'm certain.

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  • Posted

    Hi Rachel! I too have chronic anxiety with extreme panic attacks that I am always feeling like im having a heart attack, and feel like I need to be rushed to the doctor. Mine get so bad, like yours, to where I can't even go outside and definitely can't get into a car, I avoid it like the plague because I'm SO terrified of it triggering a panic attack! The klonopin has always helped in the panic attack for me but only aids like a temporary bandaid. My advice is I know it's hard and basically impossible to get yourself to come out of the panic attack once it's started. What helps me though is talking to a family member or friend that understands what you are going through. AVOID CAFFEINE and try doing something you enjoy doing. I know it's hard sweetie but you'll pull through we all do!

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    • Posted

      Thank you for replying!

      It usually really helps me to talk to my mom about it because she understands my anxiety, but she isn't always here because of work, which is why I decided to come onto the forum. It's really nice to see how supportive everyone here is so far!

      And yes, I definitely avoid caffeine ALWAYS! A few months ago I took a Midol for cramps and I had severe anxiety all day because of the caffeine in it. Never taking that AGAIN!

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