Experiencing a heart palpitation for the first time can feel scary, especially if you're not sure what it is. It's very normal for people to experience heart palpitations throughout their life, but typically one of the biggest triggers for them is anxiety. As such, those with anxiety often feel them far more regularly. It can often be a cycle - the anxiety causes the heart palpitation, which makes the person scared, which makes them have another heart palpitation.
Heart palpitations anxiety: A heart palpitation can feel as though your heart has suddenly begun beating too hard or too fast. It can also feel as though your heart has skipped a beat (known as ectopic beats), and often will feel like a surge, flutter or jump in your chest. You may get a succession of heart palpitations in a row, and this can almost feel like a lurching or bouncing sensation.
You might feel these palpitations in your chest, throat or neck. They aren't serious or harmful, and will typically go away on their own after a few seconds. You may only experience one, or you may have several throughout the day. However, while they're not of concern, they can be frightening, especially to someone feeling particularly anxious.
The good news is that while you can't completely control heart palpitations, you can reduce the number you get by identifying key lifestyle, emotional and psychological triggers, and looking to ease your anxiety where possible. Some key lifestyle triggers can include strenuous exercise, not sleeping enough, dehydration, drinking too much caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
Heart palpitations can also go hand-in-hand with anxiety, stress and panic attacks. In some instances, they can also be triggered by antidepressants such as Citalopram and Escitalopram. If you are on this medication and think it may be responsible for your heart palpitations, it is important to talk to your doctor.
Some people find stress relief strategies such as meditation and yoga can help to reduce anxiety levels and offer a strategic way of managing stress when it arises. The important thing when experiencing a palpitation is to try and relax, because emotional stress will only make them worse. It's also important to try and avoid triggers, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
Adding exercise into your day has also been known to reduce anxiety levels, even if it's just for 15 to 20 minutes. If you find none of this makes any difference, you may want to consider speaking to your doctor who will be able to either refer you for CBT therapy or prescribe anti-depressants, which can help anxiety, depending on what they feel is the best treatment plan.
Everyone will experience anxiety throughout their lifetime - whether it occurs when they're taking a test, going for an interview, or performing in a sports match. It may cause a surge of worry or fear, but typically this will subside once the moment has gone.
However, for those who experience anxiety on a daily basis, even when it isn't connected to a particular event, person or feeling, this is known as a generalized anxiety disorder.
As heart palpitations are a normal part of the functioning body, there's no need to rush to see a doctor when you experience them. If you have anxiety though, it may help to be told that everything is OK as this will help to stop you worrying. However, typically you won't need treatment.
It is a good idea to see your GP if the palpitations seem to last for a long time, don't improve with lifestyle changes, or get worse. Also, if they are seriously concerning you, or you have a history of heart problems, you should book in for an appointment. During this appointment, you may be asked about your symptoms and medical history, have blood tests taken, and have an electrocardiogram (ECG) taken to monitor your heart rate. If the doctor has any concerns from these tests, they will refer you to the hospital for more detailed checks.
If you have palpitations alongside a severe shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, or dizziness or light-headedness that feels unusual, you should seek emergency help and call for an ambulance. Also the same applies if you get heart palpitations and faint or have a black out.