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Avatar universal

Frustrated with chest pressure/heart and GERD symptoms

I've posted a lot of this info here before, but I am really having trouble accepting that everything I experience is just caused by anxiety. Anxiety definitely intensifies everything, but I strongly disagree that it is causing all my current problems. I am very frustrated as I feel doctors just don't understand.

Anyway, I am 23 yrs old and I was very sick in the Winter with High Blood Pressure and Tachycardia (constant for a couple months). My blood pressure and heart rate was high all the time, even when I was in deep sleep in the E.R. on a high dose of I.V. Ativan. Nothing would make my heart rate come much below 100 for a few months. I was even told doctors that "some people just have a high resting heart rate, and maybe you have just developed primary hypertension since it runs in your family." None of this was true as the HBP and Tachycardia became episodic, and is now gone. I wasn't suffering from anxiety when this all started but anxiety increased as my health got worse. They never found out what caused all this. Despite the underlying anxiety and some other issues, I think I am better off now.

Now I worry about my health, and I can admit I have developed Panic Disorder. On top of this I had a bad few weeks of gastrointestinal issues. I get clumps of food stuck in my esophagus creating a tremendous amount of pressure. I've had the same types of symptoms during the winter months when I was ill, and thought about seeing a GI doctor, but I was more concerned about the heart symptoms and blood pressure. I still have a lot of trouble exercising as it makes me feel really ill. If I do a few pullups, i get a lot of chest pressure and chest discomfort. The discomfort feels cardiac related, but I am pretty sure it's not since I have had a huge workup throughout the past 6 months or so. Recently, I tried to convince myself that everything was just anxiety, and had a doctor prescribe me Prozac and Klonopin. Prozac made me 10x worse, so I stopped that, but I still take the Klonopin as needed. Klonopin helps with my anxiety and panic, and HELPS with the chest discomfort, but it doesn't make it go completely away. I tried Pepcid AC, Zantac, Rolaids, etc, and nothing was helping much. I thought nothing would help until someone had me try chewable Acidophilus. As long as I take them religiously after I eat anything, it gets rid of my chest discomfort. I went a couple days without any, and as soon as I got my own bottle, I had relief. My resting heart rate is also much lower and recovers much faster when I take the Acidophilus.

I saw a GI doc today that told me if the Acidophilus is working, continue doing what I am doing. He told me the gastro symptoms is not related to my heart, but I say ********! I didn't know my true resting heart rate is close to 60 bpm, and the Acidophilus has everything to do with it.

What's also strange is that I get a very slow heart rate sometimes (bradycardia). I get tachycardia 99% of the time, but I've had a couple nights of bradycardia. One night I had chest discomfort, so I took my pulse and it was in the 40's. This scared the living **** out of me as my pulse has never been close to that, and visited the E.R. with with a panic attack. Of course when I got to the E.R. my pulse and blood pressure were elevated, so no bradycardia has been seen by a doctor. Last night I had chest discomfort and a slow stuck heart rate again that stayed about 60 even after climbing a set of stairs (very abnormal for me). I felt pretty anxious about it last night, and surprisingly, the anxiety didn't have much effect on my heart rate. Normally that type of anxiety would increase my resting pulse to around 100 bpm, but it was like my heart rate was stuck.

After my doctor visit today, I tried to see if my heart issues could possibly be caused by by my GI system. I know self-diagnosing isn't good, but I am frustrated as I don't think anxiety is the heart of my problem (no pun intended). I guess I would fall under the definition of a hypochondriac as I don't think I have been given a correct diagnosis by my doctors, and want a better answer. I am always analyzing what my body is doing, and think about my health constantly. I will go some weeks trying to ignore everything and not pay attention to my body and health, but it's hard to ignore everything when I am in constant physical pain. My body screams "help me". I know the obsessive thinking can make me feel physically worse. I don't obsess about my health at all when I feel good physically.

Anyway, after my appointment today, I googled something along the lines of "bradycardia and tachycardia with GERD". I don't recall the exact search phrase I used, but I ended up finding something very interesting called "Roemheld syndrome" on Wikipedia. The syndrome is not very well known in the U.S., but basically gastric pressure stimulates the vagus nerve causing either bradycardia or tachycardia. Now of course I can't self diagnose myself, but I do fit the description of that syndrome pretty well. Sigh.

33 Responses
Avatar universal
You are right about self-diagnosing....it is really not a good idea, especially when you are suffering from health anxiety in a way that you are.  While it is a good thing to be proactive about your health concerns, it can really be a problem when one becomes obsessed with it like you are in my opinion.  You can go on forever trying to find a root cause for your 'symptoms' without any luck.  The truth is, we all have some stuff wrong with us, but you know that nothing major is wrong with you because of your multiple tests and doctor visits.

My original anxiety came from concerns regarding heart health.  I spent months looking for a cause to all my symptoms, and I knew that the doctors must be missing something.  I became hypersensitve and catastrophicsized every little chest pain, palpatation, etc.  My interpretation of the 'symptoms' became 'garbled' and I spent hours searching for a cause on the internet....which will eventually 'diagnose' you with something that is not related to anything you have.

Throughout all of this, have you been going through talk therapy?  You mention all of these medications; while I am a big proponent of these, they will not 'cure' you of anything.  Only through the acquirement of long term knowledge and confronting and accepting it will you gain long term relief from this in my opinion...keep us posted!
Avatar universal
I can't exercise or lift weights without it ruining my day. I guess that's a large reason why I want a better answer. I want to be able to do the things I have done before. While doctors say it is ok for me to exercise I really can't without being in a lot of pain afterward. I can't live like that.
Avatar universal
I had a Barium swallow study and I have been feeling horrible since. I had flu like symptoms last night with a horrible migraine. My head felt very warm, but my hands and feet felt very cold. I don't know whether it's related to the Barium or not, but I feel similar tonight (but not quite as bad). Even though I feel anxious, my heart rate stays around 60 bpm, which is very low for my level of anxiety. On a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate it a 6 or 7. My BP is/was normal. I felt so sick last night that I felt like I needed to go to the E.R., but I didn't go because they can never do anything for me anyway. I worry excessively about my heart because that's what feels like is the cause of my discomfort and pain. Also my resting pulse has dropped dramatically lately, which also worries me a bit. Clonazepam isn't helping with my pain. It's makes me a little less anxious, but I feel the same physically. Even though I have had anxiety issues and depression in my teenage years, my family doesn't see my anxiety this time. They tell me that I just seem ill. Is it normal for family members not to notice? My mom tells me she thinks anxiety is not my problem (and she is one that can read my feelings). I tell her I am anxious because I feel so sick and don't know what to do. While I would like to just think that it's all just anxiety, I feel that that's the truth.

Also, this is strange (probably unrelated?)... 2 of my toes in my right foot are numb and hurt, and the numbness/pain radiates around my whole foot and ankle. Right now my ankle hurts too and have a slight limp when walking. The symptoms limp is pretty minor, but I don't know if this is related to anything else. I have had this for the past few days (before the barium swallow).

I'm currently at my parents house and I am scheduling a flight back home Saturday. Considering how I have felt the last couple days, I am not sure if I should book the ticket. I feel ok mentally, but I feel very sick. I have a friend coming to visit me the 21, I have some work I need to do (I don't have anxiety about work actually), so I kind of feel obligated to go back.

I don't know what to do. It's hard for me to believe that anxiety would be this debilitating. I feel like whatever I have is trying to kill me, and it's not a good feeling to have. I feel helpless and hopeless as I feel like there is nothing I can do. My family is great, and the support helps a lot, but I wish I felt well enough to function on my own. I am not depressed or anything like that, just been feeling a bit discouraged.

What to do?
Avatar universal
I had a very unproductive visit to my PCP today. I explain why further down.

Anyway, I had a friend come and visit me for a week, and I took him for short hikes a couple of days to show him around Lake Tahoe. I went on about a 1-2 mile hike one day and 1/2 mile hike the next. I struggled a bit hiking up the hills. I walked slowly and took several breaks. Last year I rode my mountain bike 20-30 miles a day a few times a week, and it's very frustrating to me that I struggle with something as simple as a hike. I know exercise provokes tachycardia and makes me sick, so I really haven't been doing much but short walks on flat ground. After these hikes, my heart stayed between 110 and 140 for a few days. Surprisingly, even though my heart rate was very high, the chest comfort wasn't too bad, so I had minimal anxiety. I had been taking my clonezepam twice a day hoping it would make my heart rate come down, but it has no effect. I tried taking an extra half one day just out of curiosity, but it had no effect on my heart rate. It did make me very tired though. Again, I really didn't feel much anxiety anyway.

Anyway, I went to my doctor today and said I don't agree that anxiety/panic has kept my heart elevated so high lately since I was not anxious. I have had much worse chest discomfort, and in comparison, what I was experiencing was quite mild. When I feel that the symptoms are life threatening is when I develop anxiety/panic (which of course makes things 10x worse). I got in an argument with her telling her I think she has the cause and effect mixed up, and the whole experience was unproductive. She told me I needed to see a psychiatrist, and that I should go back on beta blockers (which make me feel worse). I occasionally experience a very slow heart rate too, and told her because of that, I wasn't OK with the idea of using beta blockers.

I asked my doctor instead of doping me up on a bunch of drugs, can we possibly look for a cause. She said there is nothing she can do. I suggested testing for bacterial or fungal infections, and I got a big "NO" (my endocrinologist told me a few months ago that maybe I just have a fungal infection such as Valley fever). I have had bilateral pleural effusion (fluid around lungs) and enlarged chest lymph nodes, and I think that's why he thought I could have a fungal infection around my lungs and heart. I never got tested for Valley Fever because I didn't think my symptoms matched up, but at this point, I am willing to just be a guinea pig and get this figured out.

Anyway, it was hard to tell my doctor what I was going through without being interrupted all the time, so I will not be seeing her ever again. WORST VISIT EVER.

Since I am young and appear otherwise healthy, it's been hard to get doctors to care or take me seriously. It seems that if I tell them I have anxiety with my illness, they jump to conclusions anxiety is the cause. I don't think they'd understand how physically sick I am unless they could experience being me. I've tried to go with the "it's just anxiety, and I am not sick anymore" thing for a couple weeks, but after this recent relapse, I have come to realize anxiety is just a symptom. Even when I told my close friends and family that I was getting treated for anxiety, they responded, "I don't think that's your real issue". Even my own mother who helped me battle through anxiety when I was a teenager doesn't think anxiety is the cause.

Just a couple weeks ago, I was saying, "No mom. It's just anxiety and panic attacks now." I've come to realize that I was just being optimistic.

Anyway, I am also making some lifestyle changes in the next couple weeks. I am going to drive across the country and live with my parents short term, and then I am moving to florida with my friend. I am both excited and optimistic about the move.

As of now, I will stay physically inactive. I wish I could exercise, but the more I rest, the better I feel. I am pleased that I have my GERD issues under control by taking acidophilus. I just have to remember to take it after anything I eat.
Avatar universal
In my experience until you accept and confront your anxiety you will always search for a cause that is not there.  I used to vehemently argue with my doctors about health concerns and told them that they were wrong...yes they are human, but they are doctors and they have found that you are ok medically.  Remember, that aches and pains are a NORMAL part of life.  We all have certain things that are wrong with us but the VAST majority (as in your case) are not life threatening and are a normal occurance because we are human and we are all not alike.  

Instead of constantly searching for a medical cause, you need to go see a good therapist in my opinion to understand your anxiety/depression issues.  For me, this was the most important step I took to get out of this hole....please keep us posted.  
358304 tn?1409713092
I self diagnose myself all the time... and that is part of my anxiety illness. lol.

Just try to relax. Everything will fall into place. Sounds like you are on your way to recovery from anxiety. =)

As I'm sure you know, anxiety can do lots of crazy things to your body.

I also get the chest pains, especially when I work out... and I feel ill after I work out. But I know its mostly just my nerves, and partially b/c I havnt worked out in 6 months. lol.

Keep in touch with us. You'll be fine in no time. =)
Avatar universal
I really don't think anxiety causes my heart to race for days. I've been knocked out with I.V. Ativan too a couple times in the E.R. and my heart rate stays in tachycardia range (100 bpm+). My heart rate isn't necessarily related to my level anxiety, but I'll admit a panic attack can increase it to 200 bpm or more. The severe attacks have taken a toll on me mentally, but I think I am getting better. To be honest, when I was first ill, I really don't recall having much anxiety, and I didn't have the panic feeling. I developed panic disorder and anxiety a few months later when my symptoms got worse and I was scared.

I really appreciate everyone's feedback, but I really can't exercise without paying the consequences for days or weeks. I am optimistic that I will get back to the point where I can tolerate exercise, but now is not the time. Nothing helps me more than lots of rest and a good night sleep.

On another note, I've been out of Clonazepam for the past couple days, and I think I am experiencing the lovely withdrawl effects of benzodiazepines. I can't get a refill until the third. I've been getting really sweaty and I randomly get that anxious feeling you get before a panic attack. Strangely, my pulse is in the 60s! It was 120 a couple days ago when I had no anxiety, and now it's 60 when I am extremely anxious. LOL (I am actually laughing about it right now). Wow, I actually feel a lot better after laughing at myself. :)

I am not objected to seeing a therapist, but I have doubts on how much it would help me. My anxiety is about my health, and I am not depressed. Sometimes my anxiety/panic has no cause and comes completely randomly without any thoughts or fears provoking it  (weird, huh?). It happened today as I was making a sandwich for lunch. I've been to a therapist in my teenage years when my anxiety/depression was more generalized, but my anxiety is very, very specific now. I have family and friends that are very supportive and listen to me, and I honestly feel that I don't need anybody else to talk to. I do think that something like meditation or relaxation techniques could help me though, and I want to find a teacher or group after my move.

Time to try and get some sleep. Without the benzos, I feel like I have had 10 cups of coffee. Wish me luck. :)
Avatar universal
You said that your anxiety comes without thoughts or fears provoking it....that is CLASSIC anxiety.  You pretty much fit the 'typical profile' of someone suffering from health anxiety.  I say this because I was EXACTLY like you years ago.  You refuse to accept it, get the help you need, constantly search for other causes, and misinterpret your 'symptoms.'  

My pulse, bp, etc. vary widely throughout the day....if your doctor says you are fine then you are ok.  Until you are willing to talk about it, you will not get over it.  In my experience, once you accept then you will be willing to go the help you need which then you will start the road to recovery.  

Meanwhile, I would stress paitence, although I know that is the last thing you want to hear right now.  You will get better.  I advise you to take a look around here in the forum and see that your experience mirrors most of ours, so you are not alone...keep us posted!
Avatar universal
I don't think it's fair to say that since I have anxiety, it is the only cause of my suffering. Yes, the anxiety makes things more difficult, but I'm sorry, I really don't agree that anxiety is my only issue. No, they haven't found a specific cause, but it seems that most doctors give up after a couple blood tests and an EKG. I have progressed a lot physically. For the first couple months I literally couldn't get out of bed. I was way to short of breath to walk around and the chest discomfort was 24 hrs a day and it was hard to sleep. I was told I was fine since my blood oxygen was around 99-100%. Even with my blood oxygen this high, it turns out my lung capacity can be way below normal. It baffles the docs too since I exhibit no signs of asthma. They have guessed "mild" bronchospasms but they admit they really don't know why it happens to me.

I've been told I needed to go an anti-depressants for the anxiety, but the SSRI's I have tried either don't do anything or make me feel worse. I don't think Serotonin is my problem, but benzos do work wonders for the anxiety. Since I am not able to get a refill until Monday, I have realized that I am already quite dependent/addicted to the benzos.

Instead of taking benzos, has anyone tried anything natural that targets GABA receptors? I've read that kava kava can work wonders and is non-addictive, but I have also heard of some health concerns about liver toxicity. It sounds like these health concerns arose  some companies were using the whole plant rather than just the root to manufacture kava kava. I've read that taking GABA directly doesn't work since it doesn't penetrate the blood brain barrier. Some claim GABA works for them but I wonder if they are just experiencing the placebo effect. Maybe I'll just go to the health food store and pick up kava kava and report back if it takes the edge off. I asked my M.D. about natural supplements that target GABA receptors, and asked her about kava kava. I just got a blank stare. Probably not the right person to ask.
Avatar universal
I bought some kava kava and took my first dose, and wow, it really does work. It makes me feel more tired than when I take klonopin (maybe the dose?), but I feel so much better. I was surprised at how fast it acts. I combined a kava kava stress relief tea tea with 30 drops of kava kava root, and it took effect very fast (10 minutes or so). I was told that kava extracts can vary in quality and effectiveness, and it's best to go with a reputable brand in liquid form. My health food store also had roots that you can combine with warm water or tea. This supposedly will give you the best effects.

I think a lot of supplements are bogus, and I was pleasantly surprised that this has taken off the edge.
Avatar universal
Again, we ALL have some things that are wrong with us physically, but until you decide to confront your anxiety, you are going to go round and round like this for a long time. For example, I have an extremely low pulse and when I get up I do get dizzy once and while...but that is just me.  I went to the doctor and found out I was okay.  You need to accept what the docs are telling you.   Unless you are medical doctor, then you are not qualified to diagnose yourself...it sounds like you have been to the docs a lot.  Regardless of where your anxiety comes from, you really need to confront it anyways and if you are not willing to learn and talk about it through therapy then there is not much to really suggest.  

Work on accepting it and then I believe you will eventually be ready to confront it.  I was like you for many months. I refused to listen to the professionals, I did not what to seek help, and I knew everyone was wrong besides me....keep working at it!  
Avatar universal
So, even though the kava kava helped the anxiety, I was still sweating a lot and I smell like chemicals even though I showered 3 times today. I thought I was just having benzo withdrawls, so I called the doc and got a few pills tonight. I took one a few hours ago, but I feel virtually the same and I am still sweating and smell. I feel really hot and feel almost like I have a fever, but I don't have one. It's not norma for me to sweat like this.

I would think that taking a pill would stop the withdrawl symptoms. No?

In other news, even though I felt like **** and felt like I shouldn't be on the road (I think I'd be safer driving drunk), I went to the grocery store and then cooked an amazing dinner. I think getting out and doing something as simple as buying ingredients is therapeutic. I also saw some friends at the grocery store which was nice.

I'm feeling a little better now, but wish I would stop sweating and stinking.
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