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Panic and ECGs
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Panic and ECGs

Hi.  Thanks for this wonderful community.

My situation could be described as a conundrum, I guess.  I have panic attacks.  One of my biggest worries is having a serious illness, like heart disease.  Ironically, I am also terribly afraid of doctors.  The thought of going to a doctor makes me terribly anxious.

Recently, I mustered the courage to have a physical for the first time in a few years.  The physical was basically unremarkable, with one exception: the resting ECG.  When I'm in the doctor's office, my pulse rate is easly 130+, where, at home, it ranges from 64 to mid-70s.  So not surpringly my ECG shows sinus tachycardia.  My internist was a little freaked out at first.  When I explained that I was anxious, he seemed pacified and proceeded with the rest of the exam.  But then he referred me to a cardiologist for a stress test, "just to be safe."  (BTW, I had exactly the same experience with my last physical (another doc), which resulted in an echo and MRI.  Both of which were perfectly normal.)

Of course, the idea of going to a cardiologist is petrifying to me.  It's irrational, I know.  But I'm scared to death the same thing - or worse, a full blown panic attack - is going to ensue.    Any advice on how to get myself through this?  I want to do the responsible thing.  Heart disease is prominent in my family.  But I'm almost paralyzed by the anxiety.
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Have you ever had treatment by a doctor for your panic attacks and anxiety?  Speaking as someone who gets panic attacks, I can say that a good shrink is a wonderful help with this problem.

At the very least, I'd like to recommend a terrific little book called 'Hope and Help for Your Nerves, by Dr. Claire Weekes.  She explains a lot about panic, and also provides some helpful mental exercises that have aided many people, as you will see if you look at the reviews of the book at amazon.com, for example.

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What you describe is normal, but not very pleasant. Earlier, I've had my share of EKGs with heart rate 130 caused by panic. And not just EKGs, actually I remember getting intense panic once when my blood pressure was measured. At that time, I was very afraid of cardiac inflammations (myocarditis). Anyway, my heart rate was 170 and my blood pressure "somewhat elevated".

I'm not sure you are afraid of doctors. You are probably afraid that your doctors will diagnose you with something bad. That's slightly different.

If you keep in mind when you go to the cardiologist: "My heart is healthy. I'm here just to be completely safe", you will probably get less panic. But keep in mind, if you get a panic attack before or during the stress test, it doesn't matter. The point with the stress test is to increase your heart rate, so it's just fine. You don't need a heart rate of 60 to pass that test.

Also, read the post above. Great advice :)
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