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Avatar universal

anxiety and arrhythmia

I suffer from severe anxiety from PVC's (which I have had for years and you would think that I would be getting used to them).  I have tried Buspar (which gave me headaches), and tried Paxil (which made my PVC's worse). I have also tried Beta Blockers and Calcium Channel blockers but they didn't seem to help much either.  Beta Blockers gave me terrible headaches as well. I think it is because I have naturally low blood pressure anyways.  Doctors here say don't worry about palpitations, but it is too late, I am terrified of them.  No amount of pacifying from EP doctors or my family physican will make me stop worrying.

I would like to know if you can recommend any anti-anxiety meds that a person could go which would not affect the heart in any way.  

Is it normal to have such severe anxiety that I actually avoid any situation that I have to be around people now (because my my fear of my heart skipping).  I also cannot sleep at night at all because I feel my heart skip sometimes every third beat or so and it sends me into panic.  I have constant butterflies in my stomach because I can't stand the feeling of the PVC's.  These darn things have taken complete control of my life.

My doctor is a a loss as to what to do with me.  Could you recommend anything.  I am hanging by a thread.

45 Responses
238668 tn?1232735930
Dear Trudi,
If I were seeing you here I would probably recommend a trial of flecanide (Tambocor).  We sometimes refer to this drug as a "PVC eraser" because it is so effective in stopping PVCs.  There are precautions that need to be taken with this drug and it is not for everybody.  Persons with any heart disease cannot take this drug.  However, in extreme situations such as yours it is a very useful drug.  I would discuss the possibility of a trial of this drug with your EP doctor.
Avatar universal
My mother sometimes also has a "heartbeat-skipping" problem as detected by her blood pressure measuring machine but nothing abnormal seemed to have happened to her otherwise until very recently.

She told me that for the last couple of weeks, in the middle of the night when she was asleep, she would hear a "woooooo" noise in her heart, like wind blowing a windpipe; it stops when she gets up to go to the bathroom but resumes when she goes back to sleep.  Have you had this problem?  Does anyone have any experience/knowledge about this situation?  

My mother has hypertension and diabetes but both are well under control by medicine (Micardis, a type of ARB which she recenly switched to from Cozaar, and Glibenclamide).  She was once detected to have some blockade in an ECG about a year and a half ago but was assured that was not serious.  Subsequent ECG did not reveal abnormality.

Can anyone help?
Avatar universal
The PVC's are physical, but the severe reaction you are having to them sounds more like it's psychological.  Many of us on this board experience PVC's and react differently to them ... from mild annoyance to outright fear.  After 3 years of them, my own reaction has gone from abject fear to seeing them as nothing more than a nuisance.  If your doctors are all certain your PVC's are benign, it might be prudent to discuss your anxieties with a psychologist.  These comments are just based on my own experiences...any course of action you decide on should, of course, be discussed with your physician first.
Avatar universal
Trudi - just to say I know where you are coming from and your letter could describe my life too absolutely.  Hope the cardio comes up with something.
Best Wishes
Avatar universal

      I understand exactly how you feel. I am a female in my late 20s and have suffered with pacs pvcs for years and also had to suffer with having thousands a day and night. It is very debilitating. There have been plenty of nights were I would get no sleep the pacs pvcs would be every other beat or so. It is extremely scary and can take over your whole life. I very much understand what you are going through.Ive been to Dr. after Dr. test after test and no one takes you that seriously. A few months ago the pacs led to atrial fibrillation and led me to the Icu unit of the hospital. I was put on two different drugs atenolol and diltiazem which seem to help alot I also went off all caffenine I dont know if youve ever tried 2 drugs together it might help. But Im not quite sure if your blood pressure would go to low? Just finding this support group has helped so much. I hope you feel better.

Avatar universal

I also have suffered from PVC's and PSVT since I was about 13 and I'm now in my late 20's.  I completely understand your fear because I've been there.  When I was pregnant with my son they got really bad.  I got so afraid of them occurring that I would have a panic attack when ever they started.  The anxiety can make the skipping beats worse and it ends up being a downward spiral.  I ended up seeing a counselor to learn coping techniques. These are some of the things I've done and am doing that seem to help.

1) I did some counseling to work on my anxiety disorder
2) keeping hydrated, I drink about 80 ounces of water a day
3) yoga and awareness of the breath, often I have found the skipped beats get worse when my breathing gets irregular
4) consistent exercise has worked for me in the past
5) complete avoidance of caffeine, chocolate and alcohol. I have had no caffeine (or decaf) and chocolate for 7 years and it really makes a difference.

My counselor gave me some great advice, she said to find some kind of hobby to take my mind off of things and to avoid situations that cause anxiety.  For me it was getting rid of cable TV and starting to cross-stitch.  I found that working with my hands got my mind off of my heart.  I know there are also other situations that cause my heart to skip beats and knowing helps me.  I have found that a few days before my menstrual cycle I get more of them.  I know doctors say there is no correlation but my personal experience seems to say there is something about the hormones that trigger them.  I know that laying down may trigger them so I'm always prepared so I'm not surprised.  I have found them to be much worse on my left side so often I will start off sleeping on my right.

I still have some fear when they happen but I have found that hearing other peoples situations here on this board has greatly helped.  There was someone who said he thought of it as a heart hiccup and I thought that was great.  I know it's hard to pull out of that dark hole of anxiety but you will with help.  Perhaps you can find some kind of counseling or talk to a doctor who is willing to have a more holistic approach.  By holistic I mean treating the mind and the body.

I hope you find some peace soon.

Avatar universal
Trudy, you are not alone. I too have all of the symptoms that you do. The doctors all tell me not to worry but at least once a year i end up in the ER. I am trying atenolol again but it makes my pvcs worse,i dont know if i can continue taking them.
238671 tn?1189759432
This sounds like a very serious situation. No, it is not normal to avoid situations with other people, nor is it normal to have such a degree of insomnia. I strongly recommend seeing a psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment of possible anxiety disorder/depression. You should not use the PVCs to mask what sounds like a more serious mental health problem.
Avatar universal
Thanks CCF for your response.  I am actually on a waiting list of a physolgist (spelling?), but I have not seen one yet.

I guess I will just wait it out and see what happens.  


Avatar universal
     I know exactly what your going through.PVC's,PAC's have severely crippled my day to day life.Before i started getting pvc's i went through about 5 years of panic attacks,some so severe my heart would race 160-180 beats per minute.Then out of the blue one day i felt my heart start to skip.Needless to say i totally became a basket case until i had a number of cardiac tests done.It's been about 10 years now that i've been dealing with pvc's pac's and no matter what doctors tell me i still am petrified of them.I am on prozac which helps my anxiety, and i always carry a couple of zanax in my pocket as my security blanket.Still these meds dont totally help.I am constantly in fear of my next skipped beat:how many i'm going to get,how long will they last,did the doctor miss something in her diagnosis etc,etc,etc.Well,i could go on for hours but i just wanted to let you know that you are by know means ALONE.Please feel free to e mail me.My address is ***@**** Take care and God bless.
Avatar universal
Trudi I have been going through the same thing for 5 years. ER dr's have told me my heart is fine. I have had all kinds of heart tests all came up normal. I get shortness of breath and chest pains. I can't sleep. The DR I saw last week told me it was Panic attacks but when I have these pains and shortness of breath it lasts most of the day. It goes away for a few hours then comes back when ever it wants. Sometime it goes away for weeks but allways comes back. Everything I have read about Panic attacks tells me you get these panic attacks then they go away. I can't figure out why mine lasts all day( and sometimes all night) My Dr put me on PAXIL last week and I have felt worse since taking it. I read that one of the side effects of Paxil is anxitey. I wonder how a drug that is supposed to fix anxitey gives you anxitey?........Mike
Avatar universal
Dear Trudi & others,

I've had the odd heart flutter for as long as I can remember.  I never thought anything of them...until they started to become more pronounced and frequent.  That was about a year ago.  I'd never had a panic attack before, but you can bet your booties I had them after that!  Several trips to the ER, ECGs all clear, 24 Holter monitor...all clear.  They why didn't I FEEL normal?

Depending on how often the arrythmia happens, it may not be "monitorable".  It's really frustrating to try to explain what's going on.  My doctor in Sydney originally prescribed Prothiaden...I had taken it successfully for Post Natal Depression a few years back.  This was to help with the anxiety.  It did, but only for a short period of time.  During this time I seemed to experience the "flip flops" more than ever, and when I least expected it.  So, Mike, I know what you mean about an anxiety medicine not being able to relieve the anxiety!

I moved to Hobart and started seeing a new doctor.  He took the approach that at my stage of life (39, relatively healthy) there was no real reason for me to be on an anti-depressant.  There are other methods of handling anxiety out there that are better suited for me.  I started seeing a psychologist a few months ago and the difference is remarkable.  I now know how to reign in that panic, how to keep my mind from exacerbating the situation...an over-active imagination is a dangerous thing.

I still have times when I "freak out"...but I know recognize them for what they are and don't let things escalate further.  I've been off the Prothiaden for about 1 1/2 months and feel better for it.  I have a script for Valium, which comes in handy when I really do need instant calm and my mind won't give it to me.

And Mike...regarding the panic attacks that last all day or longer...the effects of my panic attacks and milder anxiety attacks would mean that I would literally have to lie down for the rest of the day, go to bed early and try to get as much peace and quiet as I could (difficult with 2 small children, but made easier by an understanding husband).  If I didn't do this, it was guaranteed that I'd have a full-blown, major panic attack.  Listen to your body as well as your mind.

I suggest to everyone that they try some form of relaxation techniques...whether it's just sitting quietly for 5 minutes or a structured program developed in conjunction with a professional.  You may be sceptical...but what harm can it do?  None.  What good can it do?  It could make all the difference in the world.
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