Panic attack or heart problem?

Posted , 6 users are following.

I'm a 26 year old female and have suffered with panic attacks and anxiety for about 7 years. I have had many tests over the years because of frequent PVCs, countless ECGs, echo, blood tests, 48hr monitors, all ok. 

On about 4 or 5 occasions in the last couple of years I have had episodes of heart racing really fast (180-200bpm) for no apparent reason. It's always been in the morning, and mostly with slight exertion like walking upstairs, hoovering etc. I know it isn't SVT because it's more of a gradual increase and decrease, and I don't think it can be atrial fibrillation as it's not irregular. I don't get any symptoms when it happens like chest pain or shortness of breath. It has lasted anything from 15 mins to 45 mins. I just don't know if it's a panic attack or something serious. Last time it happened I didnt feel overly panicky, just very aware of this fast heart rate. It also seems to fluctuate a bit, like it's coming in waves. 

I have done a lot of googling and can't find any particular heart problem that fits this symptom. I'm really hoping its panic attacks but there's this doubt in my mind that it could be something else and it's stopping me from living my life, I feel like I'm just waiting for it to happen again any time. 

Are there any heart problems that could cause this? I am fairly healthy, don't smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine, eat fairly healthy and am not overweight. I have been to the Gp and they don't really know what to say except my risk is very low. Any reassurance would be gratefully received. 

1 like, 11 replies

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Anna

    I have panic attacks, mine can last hours and come on any time of the day and nite for no  reason. Once I had blured vision in both eyes, my GP refered me to the hospital everything OK. Moving on I had a 3 way by pass the surgeon said to me before the op you may get palputations afterwards o yes the 7 days I was in hospital I got them ever morning . The surgeons right hand man gave me an ECG every morning ALL OK. Please get your GP to refer you to the cardiac consultants on of the best tests is an angagram camera through the groin normal ( you do not feel a thing ). This will show ALL the functions of your heart, go for it.

    All the best

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    • Posted

      Hi, thanks for replying to my post. Why did you have a 3 way bypass? Do you have a heart condition that causes your panic attacks (or causes symptoms that bring on panic attacks, I should say). 

      I know there are further tests but I'm reluctant to have any invasive tests like an angiogram unless I truly need one, and i guess I'm still hoping that these are 'just' panic attacks and nothing more sinister. 

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  • Posted

    Hi Anna

    I had pains in my jaw and if someone had put a needle in my chest and in my back

    My GP refered me for tests in the end I had an angagram NOT painful. The consultant said to me after the tests ( you are seriously ill ) you are going to have a 4 way by pass in 4 weeks time. I had it in 3 weeks bearing in mind other tests needed to be done, at Broad Green Liverpool.

    Please full up and badger GP get sorted out improve your quality of life. You only live once.


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  • Posted

    I had Atrial Fib first when I was 16. The arrythmia  kept coming back for longer and longer periods. My GP at the time thought I was neurotic biology student!!! Finally at 28 I produced 24 hours of it, took me to hospital and said I a very young to have AF. Doh! I had been describing it for a mere 12 years....

    The good news is that after about a year of trying meds, I found a perfect one! I'm 58 and the A Fib is pretty well controlled. Which is a long way of saying: if you are not getting breathless and feel otherwise pretty well - then your heart is in pretty good shape. But you could feel a lot better and avoid future problems by getting a cardiac referral.

    Anxiety can make your pulse race - but I suspect that having the irregular beat is a good reason why you are anxious. Your body is trying to tell you something. The something is: you could feel better and be less anxious if this were sorted.

    I'm a biologist/med writer not a doctor - but it does sound like SVT to me. The paroxysmal things(I have paroxysmal AF) are a bugger to find. Keep diary when it happens and the detail and go see someone.

    I'm sure you know this but if the heart were a house, the blood vessels are the plumbing where blockages (heart attacks/clots) and leaks (anuerisms) can estroy it; the building itself is are the heart walls/vavles etc and they can weaken (heart failure) and the electrical wiring of the house is...the electrical wiring in the heart. We've got some short circuits!

    So, sounds like you have a loose wire - can be fixed when you find it.

    Tell us what happens....and good luck!

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    • Posted

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It's always reassuring to hear from someone that's had an arrhythmia for years and years and is still perfectly healthy! I'm sorry that you've had to deal with AF from such a young age but it sounds like you can deal with it very well. 

      I gather that AF usually feels quite erratic/irregular, whereas mine is very regular, so I'm fairly sure that's not what mine is. 

      On the other hand, I think SVT starts and stops suddenly, like flipping a switch, which doesn't happen to me. Mine is more of a gradual increase and decrease. Do you still think it's possible it could be SVT? 

      Problem is, because it's so infrequent, there's no point having another 7 day monitor. Normal ECGs always fine, bloods are fine, low cholesterol, blood pressure fine, no structural heart problems. So what else could they do?! I am already prescribed a very low dose of propranolol (for the PVCs but mainly for panic attacks), and these episodes have always happened before I've taken a beta blocker. 

      I can't help wondering if several years of anxiety and panic attacks has just left me extremely sensitive to adrenaline and the smallest amount or slightest inbalance can set my heart off thundering away.

      Are you aware of any other heart conditions that could cause sinus tachycardia? I've only come across AF, VT and SVT, none of which seem to fit my symptoms. IST (Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia) sounds more likely but tends to be more constant, with a high resting heart rate. But my RHR is around 60bpm. It sounds daft but I guess I'm looking for someone to tell me it definitely isn't anything to worry about based on my symptoms.  Wishful thinking...


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  • Posted

    Atrial Fibrillation is where one gets a lot of irregularity in the heart-beat BUT when you get a very fast REGULAR heart-beat (the ECG will show this) as Atrial FLUTTER.  This is a common problem with many and is thought to be easier to cure with Ablation.

    Sometimes one can experience both A.Fib and sometimes A.Flut and you will find that all cardio consultants acknowledge these two symptons as being similar as they both present with fast heart-beat and are sometimes confused by patients.

    Hope you are doing OK. Good wishes, George

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  • Posted

    Hi Anna,

    Pls look into Automatic Atrial Tachycardia, This is a form of tachycardia originating

    from the atria with a gradual onset!!! So it is a form of SVT.

    It is different from IST as this form originates from the sinus node.

    People with IST however experience fast heartrates sitting down, mostly above 100bpm. So I would bet on AT ( automatic ). 

    Look for a very good Electro-fysiologist,. This is a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythem problems.

    Panic attacks can cause heartracing however rates of 180-200 are almost always some form of SVT/VT.

    Good luck and keep us posted!


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    • Posted

      Hi, I've just done some googling and unfortunately that does sound like it fits my symptoms! Now I'm pretty terrified that's what it could be sad the episodes don't happen often enough to catch on a monitor so I don't think there's much that can be done for me as far as tests go. I guess I'll just need to keep taking the propranolol and try and live with it. 
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  • Posted


    Anna we all have ( white coat ) even my GP when he takes his children to to the GP. 100/200 ok its a bit high I have had mine equal to that look at this. Are you on any other medication ? this can cause problems. have you changed tablets ???. been on diets other life changes ??. re thing My heart sugeon is happy to take me off propanalol SPEAKS volumes..

    Keep in touch

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