Avatar universal

Visible Heart Beat

Hi everyone, a couple years ago I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. I was put on Zoloft for the panic attacks and stopped having the attacks. However, about a month and a week ago, I stopped taking the Zoloft suddenly because I couldn't get the prescription for 2 weeks, then after those 2 weeks, I felt fine so went another 2 weeks without it. So I went a month without the Zoloft, then one week ago I had bad panic attacks throughout the day. So I got back on the Zoloft, I have been slowly increasing the dosage until I reach the amount we originally settled on. I have been having anxiety and stress ever since Saturday, and have been able to see my pulse in my chest as well as my neck. I never noticed this before and am almost positive it didn't do that before. I went to my doctor yesterday and my blood pressure was pretty normal as well as my EKG results. The doctor said there is nothing to worry about and it's okay to be able to see the pulse. I am still getting anxiety from paying attention to it though. I guess my question(s) is, is this normal/okay? Will the visible pulse go away once I stop being so anxious? Maybe when my medicine is at the original dose and completely kicked in it will go away? I am stressing out so much due to my panic disorder. All comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Best Answer
Avatar universal
I'm a veteran user of Zoloft for panic attacks, and although everyone has a somewhat different response to them, I have learned that quitting zoloft or any other drug in its class is really not a great idea. Slowly tapering off is sensible for it lets you see gradually and safely how you are likely to do without it or on a reduced dose.

It takes about a month on the full dose for most people to see the complete effect.  You have only been back on Zoloft for about a week now, so your panic is still in full swing.  One of the benefits of panic is that you fixate on little things like a visible pulse--which as your doc says is perfectly normal.  If you sit quietly and watch your friends or even a bunch of strangers, you will be able to see their pulses in their necks.  Check it out.

When you get up to speed on Zoloft (in another couple of weeks), your visible pulse will still be there--but it will no longer bother you.

In the meantime, call your doc back as soon as possible and tell him/her that you're going through a rough patch right now.  There are short-acting, minor anti anxiety drugs like Lorazepam that can help make you more comfortable until your Zoloft kicks in with full power.  And no, you won't become an addict due to this short term use of Lorazepam.

9 Responses
Sort by: Helpful Oldest Newest
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for your response. The Zoloft worked great for me the past couple of years. I haven't even really had any attacks since Saturday, maybe one or two, but mostly I am just worrying myself sick about this heart beat. I can see it shake my shirt with each beat. And it just doesn't seem normal to me. I thought after a couple of days it would stop doing that, but it's been doing that for a week straight.

I was prescribed Atarax as a momentary panic reliever. But I don't feel the need to take it because I'm not having panic attacks. I am feeling depressed and anxious due to all of this. I think those just might be the combination of starting the Zoloft again and all of the 'what-if' thoughts.

I'm also taking Parasympa, which is an all natural liquid that supposedly lowers the hyperactivity is the central nervous system and parasympathetic system to relieve stress.

I'm going to the cardiologist Monday to get an echocardiogram done. I really just need some reassurance that the visible pulse is nothing to worry about. As I mentioned earlier, I can see my shirt shake with each beat. Could anxiety make it more noticeable? I'm glad to hear that once the Zoloft fully kicks in I won't notice it as much.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Your writing indicates that you are tormented by anxiety, even you say you are not having panic attacks.  Anxiety tends to raise your blood pressure, which is partly a measure of the strength of your heartbeat, so yeah, it will make the pulse more visible than usual.  But I repeat that the pulse IS visible in those who are not anxious, as you will see if you look at people around you.

I strongly advise you to stop the Parasympa immediately.  It contains Kava in an unspecified strength, and it may be unsafe for you.  Kava is generally considered calming, but it does affect synaptic neurotransmitters, particularly the uptake of noradrenalin.  Therefore it may be making you even more nervous by competing with the effects of Zoloft.

You must tell your doctor you have been taking this stuff, so that he/she has all the information necessary to treat you correctly.

Atarax would normally reduce the level of your anxiety and you would feel much better on it, but until the Parasympa clears your system, I really cannot suggest you take it.

That's something else to ask your doctor about.

Please remember that herbal medications are (1) largely unregulated and their strength is generally unknown, and (2) that 'natural' does not mean beneficial.  Some of these mixes are quite dangerous, particularly when combined with other meds.

Helpful - 0
1182699 tn?1297574784
I agree with achillea that the mix of herbal and prescription meds should be noted by your doctor. I asked my doctor if there was anything natural that would help my heart irregularities and he said he knew of some that would make it worse...that was my clue to stay away from herbs.

On the pulse issue...I can see my pulse in my neck, my wrist and my abdomen. That used to freak me out, so I started watching to see if I could see my husband's and kid's, and sure enough...you can see it. I also feel my pulse everywhere...even the bottoms of my feet. I hate the winter because when I wear boots or tennis shoes...I feel my pulse and it drives me crazy! From March to October you will only find my newly pedicured toes in flip-flop style sandals, heals, and whatever else doesn't confine my poor feet.

I hope you can get the medicine levels back on track so you can start feeling better again, but do let your doctor know about the herbal meds.

Best to you!
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Oh wow. Well I'm glad you have the kind of knowledge that you do on these medicines. I only took the parasympa twice, last night and earlier today. I will definitely stop taking it though and let my psychiatrist know when their office opens.

So you would suggest taking the Atarax even if I don't feel like I'm having a panic attack? It might help when I am paying too much attention to the visible pulse because it makes me nervous?

I am just hoping that once the Zoloft starts to take its toll, this anxiety, worrying and depressed feeling will go away. When I was on the Zoloft before (for about 3 years) I felt great. I can only hope it will have the same effect on me this time and that I didn't screw something up by stopping taking it for a month.

Also I'm 18, 6'2'' and 192 pounds. Just in case that is an important factor.

Again thank you for your comments, they are very much needed and appreciated.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
It is so comforting to know that others have a visible pulse! I am just freaked out by it a little still because even if it was there before Saturday's episode, I know it wasn't this bad. But as achillea stated, my anxiety is probably making it increase more and I am paying too much attention to it. I think the fact that my EKG and blood pressure results were basically normal should be my hint that I am okay. But hey, you know what panic disorders can do to you. I just want to fast forward a couple weeks until my Zoloft is working! Thank you for your input. Talking really does help with it.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Please excuse me if I have already posted this.  The website is behaving a bit strangely tonight.

Atarax is an antihistamine and very mild anti-anxiety medication.  If you are not taking any funky herbals or meds your doc doesn't know about (ahem), you would probably feel more comfortable if you took it.  It would not hurt to try it (after all, why ARE you seeing a doc anyhow?).  However, quite frankly, given what I perceive as your pretty severe distress, I would recommend that you ask your doctor about Lorazepam, known as Ativan, which is one of the benzodiazepines, but a short-acting one quite specific for anxiety and panic.  Lorazepam is VERY, very good for this kind of interim problem.  If your doc is not a board-certified shrink, he/she may be shy about prescribing this one since it does have some addictive potential for long-term use, but a real psychiatrist would probably be less likely to have problems prescribing it, especially if the rx were specifically for just a couple of weeks.  This is a common strategy for shrinks while their patients are waiting for the longer-term medication to become fully effective.  

The Zoloft, once it kicks in, will probably be just as good for you as it was before.  I get panic attacks in clusters every few years for no reason I have ever found, and always go on Zoloft to quiet things back down again.  Sometimes it takes effect more quickly or less quickly, but the end result has always been the same for me:  Way better than life without Zoloft!  

I hope you understand that what you have is most likely a biochemical abnormality.  The tendency to want to control our health and even our moods all by ourselves, without medication, is normal, but sometimes that is no more possible than it is to control pancreatic function, for example.  There are conditions like diabetes for which lifelong medication is just absolutely necessary, due to the body's inability to produce the right substances in the right amount.  There is no moral weakness in this.  We are talking about a medical condition here.

Likewise, I hope you now understand that you must be in close and frequent contact with your doc and not change your medications without discussing the situation with him or her.

Good luck to you.  I suspect you will feel much better soon.

Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Once again, thank you so much for your comments! They really are a help. I sort of thought when first getting the Parasympa that maybe it wouldn't be a good idea due to the fact that both that and the Zoloft are attempting to balance out something in my brain and they could interfere with each other.

I am feeling less anxious today and was relieved when I WAS able to see my girlfriends and her moms pulses in their necks. I will give the Atarax a try next time I feel like I need it and see how that works. Tomorrow I will start taking my regular dose of Zoloft again, as my psychiatrist told me to increase the doses at about 5 days with each until I reach the dose settled on in the beginning.

There is one concern of mine that you mentioned though, after realizing without the Zoloft I am once again so vulnerable to these panic attacks. I wonder will I need Zoloft the rest of my life, and if so, would that cause some more mental issues? Regardless of that matter, I will continue to take it and discuss with my doctor the possibilities of slowly getting off it in a couple years to see how I can do without it. As you said in an earlier post, these effects can just be from suddenly stopping the usage of this medication.

Thank you again and I think I will feel better soon as well!
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
You wonder if you will need Zoloft the rest of your life.  That is difficult to answer, but from my own long experience, I would say that a tendency toward panic is something one is born with, that it is probably genetic, and as such, yes, very possibly a lifelong problem.

For the last decade and a half, I have needed to go back on it every few years when panic attacks recur.  Based on this history, I expect that I will need the drug from time to time for the rest of my life, and believe me, it is reassuring to HAVE the stuff available, knowing that it will stop the panic dead in the water and let me continue to enjoy the world I live in!  

You also ask if using Zoloft will cause 'more mental issues.'  I am not sure what you mean.  

Zoloft was only OKed by the FDA in the 1990s, so there has not been enough time yet for serious long-term studies, but in the available literature, I have not read anything about its causing 'mental issues.'  Rather, it helps relieve mental problems that interfere with some people's ability to live their lives well and fully--which of course is impossible if you are obsessively 'listening' to every insignificant little twitch and hiccup your body makes.

Knowing this, and knowing that there is a kind of tool that you can use when your anxiety acts up should make you feel much more free and comfortable in your daily life.

Helpful - 0
Have an Answer?

You are reading content posted in the Heart Rhythm Community

Top Arrhythmias Answerers
1807132 tn?1318743597
Chicago, IL
1423357 tn?1511085442
Central, MA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Are there grounds to recommend coffee consumption? Recent studies perk interest.
Salt in food can hurt your heart.
Get answers to your top questions about this common — but scary — symptom
How to know when chest pain may be a sign of something else
Herpes sores blister, then burst, scab and heal.
Herpes spreads by oral, vaginal and anal sex.