Avatar universal

Heart Rhythm Problems or Anxiety?


This is going to be a somewhat lengthy post so bear with me. I am a 24 year old male, 5'6", 180lbs. Back in February of this year I started having health anxiety for no apparent reason. I woke up one morning and, as if someone turned on a light switch in my brain, began to worry that I was having some type of major problem. It started out with breathing. I felt as though I couldn't take a satisfyingly deep breath. I simply dealt with this as it wasn't causing immediate problems and it mostly sorted itself out. (although, to this day I still have "air hunger", just not as bad) From there I've managed to worry myself sick over just about everything a person can contract/die from. Brain tumors, various cancers, organ problems, heart problems, nervous system problems, you name it. Of course, I only exacerbated it by googling every little symptom that I had.

Anyway, I went to my GP shortly after it all started and said my major concerns were either some type of brain cancer (due to funny feelings in my head and muscle twitches every now and again) or heart problems (I was able to feel my heart beat forcefully and it freaked me out). He did a once over and said everything seemed fine to him and that I just needed to get my anxiety under control. He offered to prescribe medication but I wanted to try and take care of it on my own.

For the next 7 months I mostly just dealt with my anxiety as it came and fought off the panic attacks with shear will. While it worked, it didn't necessarily make things better. I was still worried all the time and felt like I was no longer in control of my life.

Then we come to the 13th of last month (9/13/2015). I had been feeling pretty good for a few weeks with little to no stress/anxiety. I was at a beach house with some friends relaxing one day when my heart started beating erratically and very fast (100+ bpm). It scared the crap out of me so I went to the ER. There they did all of the standard stuff for people like me I guess (as in people who are worried but clearly aren't suffering from an actual heart attack). They did many many blood tests, a chest x-ray, and an ECG: nothing abnormal anywhere. The doc said I have a strong and healthy heart. He told me not to worry about the palpitations I was having as they are not life-threatening, simply annoying. That made me feel pretty good for a while but it wouldn't last.

Last week I started doing a rigorous workout routine (P90X) with some friends. I would still get the occasional skipped beat and it was interfering with my mental ability to workout. (quick note, I haven't had any chest pain to speak of at all this entire time, just ectopic beats). So, I headed back to my GP, told him about my episode at the ER and asked what I should do. This time he strongly suggested I try medication. I agreed and he prescribed me 20mg of paroxetine (Paxil). I started those last Friday and they absolutely kicked my a**. I seriously haven't felt that horrible in a long long time. I stopped them on day 4 and have been letting the drug make its way out of my system. This morning I woke up feeling pretty good as the side effects of the drug have mostly worn off. I stepped into the shower and, just as I was about to get out, I felt a string of several (4-5) weird ectopic beats in a row, followed by a very fast heart rate (100+). Basically it was the exact same thing that sent me to the ER last month. I stopped, waited, and breathed deep to try and calm myself down. It took about 60 seconds, but me heart rate did come back down to a normal level (about 70ish bpm). When this happened I felt no chest pain and did not feel light headed or dizzy, although I felt flush in my face and tingly in my pinky fingers.

My question is: does this latest episode of heart arrhythmia seem like it's due to anxiety or an underlying heart problem? I typically notice at least a dozen or so skipped beats a day and try to ignore them. Today, however, the several skipped beats in a row with the rapid heart rate afterwards has me worried. I don't want to go back to the ER every time it happens and I don't have insurance so seeing a cardiologist is going to be majorly expensive.

Before I plunge myself into massive amounts of debt trying to figure out if I'm going to die early from electrical heart problems, does anyone have any advice? Has anyone been through this?
3 Responses
Avatar universal
In all my long windedness I left out some information.

-My mother and grandmother have both had heart attacks. My mom at 48 and my grandmother at 60 something. They're both still alive and their attacks were due to blockages, nothing rhythm related.
-I've never experienced the heart palpitations before until this February.
-Most of the palpitations I notice are triggered when I breathe in very deeply and it is usually just a singular skipped beat. I also sometimes feel them when I swallow food.
-The first episode of irregular/fast heart beats came on after a night with basically no sleep and not eating or drinking water that day.
-This second episode (this morning) is preceding several days with little sleep and having been a new SRRI (paroxetine) for a 4 days.
-I haven't been clinically diagnosed with GERD, but I'm pretty certain I have it.
-I am overweight, but I have been decently active all my life, especially these last several weeks. Also, high heart rates (I used to be a runner) have never triggered palpitations, although they have happened occasionally when working out. (although not more or less frequently than at any other time)
I think that's about it. Neither the docs at the ER I went to nor my GP are concerned about my heart.
Avatar universal
first off all never take an serotonin enhancing drugs like paroxetine, as these can eventually make your heart get damaged as studies suggest serotonin produced outside brain can cause heart valve problems due to fibroid formation.

so always try your best to do a drug free approach when dealing with anxiety.

concerning palpitations, have you done  a thyroid blood test? if yes what is you free t3, free t4 and tsh values?
16042287 tn?1447918751
I am 28 years old and have been dealing with health anxiety since i was 17. I have experienced it all, trips to the er, panic attacks, feeling that I have some life threatening disease. I have had almost every test in the book including echos, holter, chest ct, blood test, all to rule out potential heart disease because of pvcs. I have taken nearly every ssri med in the book but i cant say to a certainty that they caused my abnormal heart rhythm. I have over 34,000 pvcs a day and random svt without any apparent cause or triggers. I know first hand how anxiety can cause these symptoms although sometimes i still refuse to believe it. the best thing you can do is rule things out with your doctor, it will give you the piece of mind and help when you have those "should i go to the er" moments. I can say everything you describe sounds exactly like my anxiety attacks, you wont believe the power you mind has over your body. I have had some extremely odd sensations and unnerving symptoms during anxiety attacks.
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