Heart Palpitations Anxiety, Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Heart palpitations and other mental and bodily reactions to stressful events are brought on by anxiety. Anxiety triggers the fight-or-flight reaction, which raises the heart rate of the person. Keep reading to learn more about these conditions.

Heart palpitations create sensations akin to your heart pounding, fluttering, racing, or skipping a beat. During palpitations, you might feel the pulsations in your chest, neck, or throat. Anxiety frequently coincides with heart palpitations. Anxiety prompts the body’s “fight or flight” response through the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When encountering discomfort or unease, the ANS triggers, elevating the heart rate.

Defining Heart Palpitations Anxiety

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) explains that anxiety represents a typical stress reaction, serving as a natural coping mechanism employed by the body to remain vigilant in challenging situations.

In cases of anxiety disorders, the body becomes excessively responsive to stress, leading individuals to endure persistent feelings of apprehension, looming dread, or sudden anxiety attacks without forewarning.

Anxiety triggers the autonomic nervous system (ANS), an involuntary mechanism that unconsciously regulates bodily functions like heart rate, breathing, and digestion.

The ANS comprises two key components: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system initiates the fight-or-flight response, dictating the body’s reactions in perceived stressful or threatening situations. When active, it momentarily halts functions like digestion while increasing heart rate and blood pressure.

Conversely, the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest system, maintains bodily functions, including digestion, during rest periods. It aids in lowering heart rate and blood pressure following a fight-or-flight reaction.

Both the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems collaborate to sustain homeostasis, ensuring the body remains in a state of balance.

How to Stop Heart Palpitations Due to Anxiety?

Feeling anxious is a common experience for everyone at some point. Regardless of the situation, you can effectively soothe your body’s fight-or-flight response and decrease your heart rate. Consider the following techniques:

  • Deep Breathing: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose and mouth, repeating this at least ten times. This deliberate, deep breathing helps relax your body and reduce your heart rate. Consistent, controlled breathing signals your parasympathetic nervous system to induce relaxation.
  • Mind Focus: When your heart races, your mind often follows suit. To counter this, try focusing on a calming phrase (“This will pass”), visualizing serene images, or concentrating on soothing sounds. Pay attention to the sensation of your breath expanding and contracting your abdomen. This practice of mental focus is beneficial for overall well-being, not just in times of stress.
  • Walking: A gentle stroll, particularly in a natural environment, can offer fresh air and help dissipate anxious energy, leading to a calmer state. Opt for a leisurely walk to effectively reduce your heart rate.
  • Hydration: Dehydration can exacerbate heart palpitations. Ensure you drink enough water and consider replenishing electrolytes (such as sports drinks or appropriate sodium intake) after exercise. Avoid caffeine, as it can heighten anxiety and palpitations.

If you’re experiencing palpitations unrelated to anxiety triggers, promptly inform your doctor or seek advice from a cardiologist. It’s crucial to rule out any underlying causes or potential medication side effects contributing to these vibrations.

Can Anxiety Cause Heart Palpitations?

Anxiety is a common reaction to stressful situations, whether it’s speaking in public, attending a job interview, undergoing surgery, or encountering any scenario that induces nervousness or uncertainty. Anxiety can manifest as brief episodes with minimal symptoms or persist as long-term conditions, significantly impacting mental and physical well-being.

At times, anxiety can lead to physical manifestations in the form of a panic attack, characterized by an abrupt surge of fear or discomfort, often accompanied by physiological symptoms like sweating, nausea, stomach discomfort, or rapid breathing.

The mechanism through which anxiety triggers heart palpitations involves activating the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates bodily functions like heart rate, digestion, and breathing. The ANS, when triggered by anxiety, initiates the fight-or-flight response, leading to palpitations alongside symptoms such as fatigue, accelerated breathing, perspiration, trembling, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal disturbances like diarrhea, bloating, or gas.

However, if heart palpitations are not attributed to anxiety, there could be more serious underlying causes:

Heart Conditions

Conditions like arrhythmia, disrupting the heart’s electrical system, can result in irregular heartbeats. Various arrhythmias exist, each with distinct symptoms, but all involve irregular heart rhythms. Tachycardia causes exceptionally rapid heartbeats, while atrial fibrillation disrupts the synchronization between the heart’s upper and lower chambers. Bradycardia, on the other hand, involves persistently slow heart rates.

Other Factors

Alcohol consumption, particularly in excess, can elevate heart rate. Similarly, high-caffeine beverages like coffee or energy drinks might trigger heart rhythm irregularities, although sensitivity to caffeine varies among individuals. Some medications, including specific cold remedies or asthma relievers, as well as illicit substances, can provoke palpitations. Additionally, conditions like hyperthyroidism or anemia can contribute to palpitations or tachycardia.

Why Does Anxiety Cause Heart Palpitations?

Because of how the body naturally reacts to stress, anxiety can cause your heart to race. The sympathetic nervous system controls the ” fight-or-flight ” response triggered when a person is anxious or stressed. This is the body’s way of preparing for an impending threat.

Anxiety causes the sympathetic nervous system to engage, leading to the release of adrenaline and other stress chemicals into the bloodstream. By speeding up the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, these hormones get the body ready to move. This heightened state of mind can make you feel like your heart is racing, pounding, or beating irregularly.

Anxiety can also cause someone to breathe too quickly or intensely, which is known as hyperventilation. This can throw off the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide balance, leading to signs like dizziness, faintness, or heart palpitations.

During times of anxiety or stress, your heart may feel like it is racing due to a variety of factors, including increased adrenaline release, heightened physiological responses, and altered breathing patterns. Even though these palpitations can be scary, they are generally not harmful and go away as the anxiety goes away.

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Anxiety Heart Pain: Generalized anxiety disorder and depression can both have emotional and physical symptoms.
Anxiety Heart Pain: Generalized anxiety disorder and depression can both have emotional and physical symptoms.

How to Diagnose Heart Palpitations Anxiety?

Heart palpitations, often associated with anxiety, are generally not a cause for significant concern, especially when the individual recognizes the trigger and the palpitations cease as the anxiety diminishes.

Physicians classify heart palpitations into five main categories based on their causes:

  1. Cardiac arrhythmias, such as bradycardia.
  2. Psychiatric factors linked to anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
  3. Medications and drug-related triggers.
  4. Nonarrhythmic cardiac causes, including valvular disease.
  5. Extracardiac causes originate outside the heart.

Diagnosing anxiety-related palpitations typically involves an initial screening questionnaire administered by a doctor to identify individuals prone to palpitations due to anxiety. People who get above a certain number may be sent for more monitoring.

For evaluation, doctors may use tools like a Holter monitor or a trans telephonic event monitor. A primary ECG device called a Holter monitor keeps track of a person’s heartbeat for 24 to 48 hours. The person wears this device the whole time and writes down any signs that come up.

On the other hand, a smaller trans telephonic event monitor works differently. The person wears this monitor all the time and controls it by hand. For some of these trackers, the person only needs to press it against their chest when they are having palpitations.

The results of these tests must rule out other possible causes before they can confirm that the heart palpitations are caused by worry. This makes sure that the diagnosis is correct before deciding that the palpitations are caused by anxiety.

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Anxiety Chest Pain Vs Heart Attack

If you experience chest pain, it’s usually recommended to get emergency medical help. Chest discomfort is a worrying indication. Even if your anxiousness is the cause of your chest pain, it’s better to know than to run the risk of losing necessary time if you are experiencing a heart attack.

When experiencing a heart attack, people can describe their chest pain in a variety of ways. Several instances include:

  • Chest pain that radiates to other parts of your body, such as down your arms or up to your jaw.
  • Chest pain that worsens with exertion.
  • Nausea along with chest pain.
  • Pressure in the chest, as if someone has put something heavy on your chest.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Squeezing sensation in the chest.

According to studies from 2020, 30% of individuals who are having a heart attack don’t experience chest pain. Back pain and exhaustion are two symptoms that some people list as heart attack symptoms.

Even though doctors are aware that anxiety and chest discomfort are related, you should still go to the doctor if you have any symptoms.

If you are experiencing chest pain, dial your local emergency services. Don’t try to get to the hospital by yourself. Emergency personnel can assess you and decide whether you are experiencing a cardiac episode or whether your chest pain is being caused by anything else.

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How Do Healthcare Providers Manage Your Anxiety and Heart Rate?

Upon diagnosing heart palpitations stemming from anxiety, healthcare providers may recommend the following:

Complementary Health Practices

Techniques like biofeedback, massage therapy, and other relaxation methods can assist in promoting relaxation.

Medication Options

Some individuals benefit from anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. Beta-blockers (such as propranolol) and benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax®) or diazepam (Valium®) might be suggested by your provider, particularly to manage anxiety linked to specific situations like public speaking or air travel. Note that benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for occasional use due to their potential for habit formation.


Cognitive behavioral therapy aids in recognizing and addressing thought patterns contributing to anxiety. Exposure-response prevention aims to foster positive reactions to fears, thereby reducing stress.

Self-Management Techniques

Engaging in self-management strategies can help alleviate the intensity of anxiety-induced heart palpitations. These approaches include:

  • Stress Coping: Employing effective stress management techniques.
  • Diaphragmatic Breathing: Practicing controlled breathing exercises.
  • Regular Exercise: Incorporating routine physical activity into your schedule.
  • Adequate Sleep: Ensuring sufficient and restorative sleep.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Practicing meditation, pursed-lip breathing, tai chi, yoga, or similar mindful movement activities.

Preventive Measures

While complete prevention might be challenging, reducing the frequency and severity of anxiety-induced pulses is possible. It starts by identifying triggers such as public performances, air travel, or phone calls and subsequently devising strategies to alleviate anxiety related to these circumstances. Relaxation techniques, prescribed medication, and therapy can effectively help prevent future occurrences.

 Persons who have sensitive bodies and those who feel frequent irritation are more likely to experience anxiety-related palpitations.
Persons who have sensitive bodies and those who feel frequent irritation are more likely to experience anxiety-related palpitations.

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Heart Palpitations Anxiety FAQs

  1. Can Anxiety Cause Heart Murmur?

    Can anxiety cause a heart attack or stroke? A physiologic cardiac murmur may develop as a result of stress and anxiety. However, anemia, hyperthyroidism, or an underlying cardiac problem are more likely to be the source of a heart murmur.

  2. How To Slow Heart Rate Anxiety

    How To Lower Heart Rate Immediately Anxiety? Coping with stress, diaphragmatic breathing, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, meditation, pursed-lip breathing, tai chi, yoga, or other mindful movements.

  3. Can Anxiety Cause Heart Attack?

    In severe circumstances, a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) can impair normal heart function and raise the risk of cardiac arrest. Chronically high blood pressure can cause coronary disease, heart muscle deterioration, and heart failure.

  4. Does Anxiety Cause Heart Palpitations?

    The most frequent cause of heart palpitations is anxiety. Others have palpitations more frequently, while some only get them under certain stressful situations.

  5. Does Anxiety Increase Heart Rate?

    The autonomic nervous system’s “fight or flight” reaction is triggered by anxiety (ANS). Your ANS engages when you feel concerned about a circumstance, raising your heart rate.

  6. What is Anxiety Resting Heart Rate?

    Your body can be significantly impacted by anxiety, especially your heart. Heart palpitations and an elevated heart rate are frequent side symptoms of anxiety, particularly in people with panic disorders. Consult a doctor for a diagnosis if you are concerned.

  7. Can Anxiety Cause Heart Problems? Can Anxiety Cause High Heart Rate?

    In severe circumstances, a rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) can impair normal heart function and raise the risk of cardiac arrest. Chronically high blood pressure can cause coronary disease, heart muscle deterioration, and heart failure.

  8. Can Anxiety Feel Like A Heart Attack?

    Most people who have anxiety disorders have, at some point in their lives, had a panic or anxiety episode. For some people, the symptoms—chest discomfort, breathlessness, palpitations, or a fast heartbeat—can closely resemble heart attacks.

  9. What’s the difference between Anxiety, Chest Pain, and Heart Attack?

    Although both a panic attack and a heart attack can cause chest pain, the pain’s features frequently vary. The center of the chest typically experiences severe stabbing discomfort during panic attacks. Heart attack chest pain can feel like pressure or a squeezing sensation.

  10. Can Anxiety Cause Heart Palpitations at Night?

    Due to their sleeping position, some persons get heart palpitations when lying down. The increased pressure inside your body from sleeping on your side can result in palpitations. Anxiety, stress, and melancholy are a few of the other often occurring reasons for heart palpitations.

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  5. Mulkey, S. B., & du Plessis, A. J. (2019). Autonomic nervous system development and its impact on the neuropsychiatric outcome.
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