This may be one of the easiest questions to answer about panic attacks and anxiety events. An irregular heartbeat and/or increased rate of heartbeat are very common among those who suffer a panic attack. In fact, some studies show the incidence of irregular heartbeat, skipping heartbeats etc. at 80 percent among panic-attack sufferers.
Patients who talk with doctors, psychologists, family members and friends almost always report that their heart races, it beats much harder than normal, it skips a beat and so on. Medical doctors have given these situations names like tachycardia and arrhythmia. But the bottom line is that any change from the regular and steady heartbeat makes a person feel uncomfortable or even slightly ill.
There are some basic physical causes for an increased heart rate or a heartbeat that becomes irregular. In addition to the two medical terms mentioned, some people actually suffer from heart failure, a disease of the heart tissue, some type of bacterial infection or artery disease. If a panic-attack sufferer has prior history of this type of physical problem, the symptoms during an attack can be much more intense. Not only that, these symptoms can be dangerous or even life threatening.
Many people who have consistent anxiety or panic episodes feel a fluttering or racing of the heart. As mentioned earlier, this seems to occur in the vast majority of cases. While this is not generally a hazard to an otherwise healthy person, any change in the heart rate or beat makes us feel uncomfortable and causes us to worry. Worrying about this or getting more nervous than usual because of a change in the heartbeat simply compounds the attack.
We may even start to focus on the physical symptoms and may progress to an obsession with these symptoms. Of course, one way to fight against this obsession is to focus on other tasks, take a short walk etc. Focusing exclusively probably won’t help with the skipping heartbeat or racing heart rate. It will probably make it worse.
The worst thing a person can do just before or during a panic attack is to turn the physical symptoms into a psychological struggle. This applies to changes in the heartbeat, tension or trembling in the arms and legs, tightness in the chest or any other regular symptom of panic or anxiety. It should help to know that mild cases of arrhythmia are common, even in the healthiest people (including those who don’t’ suffer from panic attacks, anxiety or panic disorder).
This mild condition is not a threat to the normally healthy person and in most cases it is not a threat to a healthy person who happens to have panic attacks. When this symptom presents itself, whether it is associated with a panic attack or not, it’s important to focus on being relaxed, taking a few slow, deep breaths and moving around normally if possible. Remember that something has triggered the panic attack, something physical, mental or emotional. If you can identify it and deal with it, this will take your mind off an irregular heartbeat, which isn’t dangerous in many cases.