Can anxiety cause high heart rate

Anxiety And Its Connection To Your Heart Rate

  • Overview
  • Why does anxiety increase your heart rate?
  • How does it feel to have a rapid heart rate caused by anxiety?
  • Seek out a professional diagnosis
  • How can an increased heart rate from anxiety impact your physical health?
  • Techniques to manage anxiety and lower your heart rate
  • The lowdown

Anxiety creates physical and mental reactions to stressful situations, such as heart palpitations. When a person is nervous, their heart rate rises as this is a natural response to fear.

According to the (NAMI) National Alliance on Mental Illness¹, these palpitations can be a  symptom of an anxiety disorder. In some cases, it may be a symptom of a particular type of anxiety disorder known as panic disorder.

Anxiety is a typical stress response². It's a coping technique that helps the body stay aware of stressful situations, even though the response may not be warranted.  

Have you considered clinical trials for Anxiety?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Anxiety, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Check your eligibility

Anxiety disorders cause the body to overreact to stress, and a person may experience continual uneasiness or dread, along with unexpected anxiety episodes.

Anxiety triggers an instinctive response in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS governs heart rate, respiration, and digestion, and includes the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, body activities like digestion are suspended, and heart rate and blood pressure rise. This is common in a stress response, where muscles tense, breath shortens, and heart rate increases. When a person is resting, the parasympathetic nervous system runs basic activities like digestion.

The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems collaborate to keep the body in a condition of homeostasis or balance.

Because there are various types of anxiety disorders, symptoms vary depending on the person and the type of anxiety they experience. However, all forms of anxiety share a set of common symptoms.

Physical symptoms include:

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Tenseness

  • Anticipation

  • Irritability

While not generally the case, palpitations can be a cause for concern if they are related to abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). It is always important to seek out a professional medical opinion from your doctor.

A doctor will use a screening questionnaire to diagnose anxiety palpitations. It will help them in identifying patients who are prone to anxiety-related palpitations. They will then refer anyone who achieves a particular score to a specialist for further evaluation.

Anxiety-related palpitations appear often in people who have multiple daily stressors and are generally sensitive to bodily sensations.

If a person has palpitations regularly, a doctor may recommend using a Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is a simple ECG gadget that records a person's heartbeat over 24–48 hours. During the monitoring time, the user must wear the Holter device and keep track of any symptoms.

A transtelephonic event monitor is a smaller version of a Holter monitor that does not run continuously. Even though the wearer wears it all the time, the monitor is operated manually. Some transtelephonic monitors require the user to hold the device to their chest only when they believe they are having palpitations.

If the results of these tests rule out all other causes for palpitations, then a doctor may connect the palpitations to an anxiety-related issue.

While anxiety is most commonly associated with behavioral changes, it can also have a significant impact on the body.

Anxiety problems can cause a racing heart, palpitations, chest pain, and a higher risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. What’s more, anxiety disorders may raise your risk of coronary events if you already have heart disease. Anxiety attacks can produce substantial, transitory increases in blood pressure.

If you have those transient spikes regularly, your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys may be subject to long-term damage.

Anxiety has been linked to the following heart conditions and risk factors:

  • In some cases, anxiety can cause increased heart rate (tachycardia), interfering with normal heart function. In serious cases, it can increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Regular exercise, deep breathing techniques, and mindfulness meditation can help you lower your heart rate when you're anxious. Here are some steps to get you started:

  • Take a deep breath and relax

  • Close your eyes, sit or lie down

  • Inhale slowly through your nose

  • Slowly exhale through your mouth

  • Do this as many times as necessary

Too Many Anxious Thoughts? Causes and Techniques to Take Control

Anxiety can have a noticeable effect on your body, particularly your heart. Increased heart rate and palpitations are common side-effects of anxiety, especially in those with panic disorders.

If you are concerned, see a medical professional for a diagnosis. For sufferers of anxiety, meditation, mindfulness, and light exercise can help you relax and keep your heart rate low. In turn, this can help negate the impact on your long-term health.

Heart Palpitations and Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Anxiety is a common emotion that often sets in before giving a speech, undergoing surgery, or any other situation that makes you fearful or unsure. Anxious episodes tend to be temporary with few serious symptoms or long-term health effects.

Typical signs of anxiety include feelings of nervousness and tension, as well as sweating and an uneasy stomach. One other common symptom of anxiety is an abnormally increased heart rate, also known as heart palpitations.

Heart palpitations can feel like your heart is racing, pounding, or fluttering. You may also feel as though your heart is skipping a beat. Unless your palpitations are caused by a heart rhythm disorder, known as an arrhythmia, they tend to be short-lived and harmless.

Anxiety is a response to stress, which in itself is a response to a perceived threat. The threat may be real, like a hurricane barreling toward a coastal community, or it may be one that we build up in our minds, such as a child worrying about a monster under the bed.

But anxiety’s impact isn’t just isolated to the mind. It’s a feeling that activates the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS), also known as the “fight or flight response.” The ANS helps regulate the functions of the:

  • heart
  • lungs
  • digestive system
  • various muscles throughout the body

You don’t think about it much because the ANS operates involuntarily. You don’t need to concentrate on your heart to have it beat faster when you’re exercising, for example.

Individual response

Each person responds to stress and anxiety a little differently. And what makes one person anxious may have the opposite effect on someone else. You may be petrified at the thought of singing in public, but you may know people who happily get up and belt out a song whenever they get the chance.

If you’re in a situation that is making you anxious, heart palpitations are just one sign that the ANS has kicked into gear. Other physical symptoms can include:

  • rapid breathing
  • sweating
  • muscle tension
  • trembling
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • feeling exhausted

Anxiety can also make you want to avoid the situation that is causing your uneasy feelings. This, of course, can mean you miss out on potentially fun and rewarding things like activities, job opportunities, and relationships.

In addition to anxiety, there are several other causes of heart palpitations. Palpitations can be brought on by:

  • Alcohol. Having one or two too many drinks in a night can get your heart racing. People who rarely drink to excess, but do so at the occasional party may feel a fluttering in their chest later. This is sometimes called “holiday heart.”
  • Caffeine. Each person’s caffeine sensitivity is unique. You might drink three cups of coffee every morning and feel fine. A co-worker might try that and develop palpitations, headache, and other side effects. With the popularity of high-caffeine beverages, such as specialty coffees and canned energy drinks, researchers are learning more about how high levels of caffeine can lead to heart rhythm disturbances, high blood pressure, and other problems.
  • Chocolate. Palpitations can develop from eating too much at one sitting. Overdoing your food intake at a dinner or other event can lead to a version of “holiday heart.” Chocolate is particularly associated with palpitations.
  • Medications. Cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine may trigger heart palpitations and jittery feelings.

For some people, palpitations are signs of an arrhythmia, a problem with the heart’s electrical system that controls your heartbeats. A normal, resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. There are several types of arrhythmias. Each type produces unique symptoms, including an irregular heart rate. Among them are:

  • Tachycardia. In this condition, the heart beats exceptionally fast. Episodes may last a few minutes or much longer. In some cases, doctors can perform a procedure on the heart to better control electrical activity and return your heart to a normal, steady rhythm.
  • Bradycardia. This condition occurs when the heart beats slower than 60 beats per minute. It feels less like palpitations, and more like a slow thudding. But it can still be troubling to experience.
  • Atrial fibrillation. This arrhythmia occurs when the heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat chaotically instead of in a synchronized manner with the lower chambers (ventricles).

Occasional moments of anxiety are normal, especially if you can identify the cause of your anxiety, such as getting on an airplane or preparing for a job interview. These feelings don’t require a doctor’s evaluation unless the anxiety becomes so overwhelming in these situations that it interferes with your ability to function.

If you experience anxious feelings frequently or if you find yourself experiencing anxiety and you’re not sure why, tell your primary care physician or seek out a mental health professional for help. You may have an anxiety disorder that could be managed with a combination of therapy and medication.

Diagnosing an anxiety disorder often starts with a physical examination by a doctor. Certain conditions may cause anxiety, such as:

  • heart disease
  • thyroid disease
  • respiratory disorders
  • withdrawal from drugs or alcohol

Blood tests and other screenings may be ordered if a physical condition is suspected of causing anxiety.

A mental health professional will also review your symptoms and go through a questionnaire or other psychological screening to help make a diagnosis. Here are a few places to help you find a mental health professional in your area:

  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Veterans Affairs: VA Certified Counselors

If palpitations come on with identified episodes of anxiety and then subside quickly on their own, you don’t need to tell your doctor. Anxiety-triggered palpitations that last for hours or keep you from functioning normally (going to work or socializing, for example) should be evaluated.

Likewise, if palpitations appear without an anxiety-inducing cause, you should definitely tell your doctor or see a cardiologist. It may be something easily treatable, like a medication side effect that can be resolved by switching drugs. A racing heart could be a sign of:

  • anemia
  • thyroid disease
  • low blood pressure
  • a heart condition

There are a few different tests your doctor can use to help identify what’s going on in your chest. They’ll first give you a physical examination and listen to your heart with a stethoscope. Then, they may use one or more of the following diagnostic screenings:

  • Electrocardiogram. Several electrodes are placed on your chest to measure electrical activity of the heart. It can help diagnose an arrhythmia or rule out a heart rhythm problem.
  • Holter monitoring. This involves a special device that you wear 24 hours a day to record your heart rate and any changes that occur. It’s usually only worn for up to three days at a time, and may not “catch” any palpitations if you have them infrequently.
  • Event recording. This is often used if a Holter monitor doesn’t pick up any rhythm abnormalities. The recorder can be worn for weeks at a time, but it only records your heart rhythms when you press a button while having symptoms.

If feelings of anxiety bring on heart palpitations, there are some steps you can take to relax and slow down your racing heart. Some proven relaxation strategies include:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • deep breathing exercises

Regular exercise and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night are two other ways to help you reduce stress in your life. Avoiding stressors is also important. This can mean:

  • taking alternative roads if your usual traffic route is stressful
  • avoiding certain topics of conversations with people who tend to argue with you
  • removing clutter from your home
  • spending more time connecting positively with friends and family

Online meditation options

Read our review of the best online meditation options to find the right fit for you.

While anxiety can cause palpitations, the episodes can be eased by learning relaxation techniques, discussing de-stressing strategies with a therapist, and medication. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional if you think your heart palpitations could be caused by anxiety. If you don’t already have a provider, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to physicians in your area.

Read this article in Spanish.

Anxiety, fear, palpitations. Possibly autonomic dystonia

Autonomic dystonia (sometimes referred to as somatoform autonomic dysfunction) is a diagnosis that many have heard of, but not understood by everyone. Manifestations of vegetative dystonia are not unambiguous. The symptoms of each person suffering from this disease may be different. One experiences a rapid heartbeat, another an inexplicable anxiety, and a third difficulty breathing. The specialists of the Vivendi Medical Center talk about the main symptoms of the disease and the possibilities of its effective treatment. nine0003

Dystonia is a dysfunction, that is, a manifestation of body dysfunctions. The autonomic nervous system regulates the functions of internal organs and systems of the body, acting independently of human consciousness. If a person constantly experiences overloads, prolonged stresses, the body spends all resources to compensate for these overloads and stresses, which leads to deviations from the normal manifestation of emotions and violations of the physical functions of the body. If you have health problems, you should first of all contact your family doctor to make sure that the symptoms are not associated with a disease of any organs. To do this, you should do a cardiogram (to find out if there are any violations of cardiac activity, exclude the possibility of a heart attack), check the thyroid gland (to exclude its increased function that causes heart palpitations), do blood tests (check the content of calcium, magnesium and potassium, since the lack these substances can cause symptoms characteristic of autonomic dystonia). If all indicators are normal, you should contact a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. nine0003

Main symptoms of autonomic dystonia

Common symptoms of this disease are palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, shortness of breath, trembling, hiccups, coughing, bloating, abdominal gurgling, frequent diarrhea or frequent urination.

In some cases, there are pains in various parts of the body or organs, a feeling of heaviness or tension in the body. Symptoms may also be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, restlessness, helplessness, fear, and even panic attacks. nine0015

Symptoms may be caused by overwork. The body reacts to overwork in the following way: cardiac activity is activated, stress hormone is released into the blood in large quantities, the liver produces glycogen, which is then converted into glucose, providing the body with energy. Breathing in this state becomes rapid as the lungs require more oxygen, the muscles tense up in preparation for physical action if necessary, and perspiration increases to cool the body in case of physical action. nine0015


Psychotherapy is an effective method to reduce symptoms of autonomic dystonia. The psychiatrist or psychotherapist pays attention to the symptoms characteristic of each patient. Therefore, the methods of treatment may differ. Some patients will need medications, others the doctor will recommend relaxing exercises, help balance the daily routine, stabilize the psycho-emotional load.

The course of psychotherapy can last from several months to several years. The duration of treatment depends on the individual characteristics and life experience of the patient. In the process of treatment, the doctor studies the mechanism of manifestation of the disease and takes measures so that the symptoms become rarer and weaker, and finally disappear. In the event of a return of the disease, a person who has been helped by a psychotherapist to understand the mechanism of the onset of symptoms will be able to cope with them on his own. nine0015

Trust and mutual understanding between therapist and patient are essential. This is the key to successful treatment.

Rules to follow daily to get rid of autonomic dystonia

- Exercise regularly. Physical activity reduces internal tension, limits the amount of adrenaline and increases the amount of endorphin in the blood. Physical activity can be chosen depending on your physical condition and sports preferences. nine0015 - Remember to get enough sleep at night . Unbalanced sleep and wake times can destabilize the nervous system.
- Find time to relieve emotional stress. Go for walks in the fresh air, tea in a peaceful atmosphere, do relaxation exercises - do everything that calms and relaxes you.
- Participate in activities that stimulate creativity. Dancing, singing, going to the theater, listening to music and other similar activities will help get rid of the negative emotions accumulated during the day. nine0015

To assess your emotional state at a particular moment, take a psychological test. Vivendi Medical Center specialists invite you to seek help in a timely manner so that the treatment is most effective and requires less effort.

Heart beating, tail shaking: are you prone to panic attacks?

As far back as the end of the 19th century, S. Freud described states of sudden anxiety with disorders of cardiac, respiratory and other somatic functions, not caused by objective factors: “anxiety attacks” (English). "Panic" was considered a type of anxiety with sudden onset and high intensity. The word itself comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of herds, forests and fields Pan. According to the legend, Pan, a goat-legged, furry, suddenly appearing, plunged a person into such elemental, causeless horror that he rushed headlong to run, not understanding the road, through the mountains, along the edge of the abyss, not thinking that the flight itself could be dangerous and threaten death. nine0003

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of patients with PA (panic attacks). This is due to the unstable socio-economic, political situation in society, as well as the psycho-education of doctors to whom such patients turn. After all, the symptoms are not only fear and anxiety, but also somatic - increased pressure, increased heart rate, headache, shortness of breath and others. It could all be a panic attack. Doctors are trying to help, but to no avail, as they treat for their symptoms. Patients often "get" to the therapist with already impressive medical records. nine0003

What is a panic attack?

Panic disorder - a condition characterized by the sudden onset of panic attacks and the expectation of their occurrence.

Panic attack (PA) is a painful attack of intense anxiety for a person, having a sudden onset, lasting several minutes (approximately 5-10), accompanied by a strong fear of death, going crazy.
In the structure of PA, general (hot or cold flashes, paresthesias) and vegetative symptoms are distinguished: palpitations, sweating, chills, a feeling of internal trembling, difficulty breathing (dissatisfaction with inspiration, inability to inhale deeply), tremor, pain, discomfort in the chest, nausea, dizziness, weakness, fainting, uncertainty when walking, insomnia, feelings of derealization, depersonalization. nine0003

The most common fears experienced during a panic attack are the fear of death, the fear of losing self-control, and the fear of going crazy. Patients are often sure that a catastrophe is happening in their body or psyche: myocardial infarction, stroke, schizophrenia. Thinking during an attack is prone to catastrophizing. Between panic attacks, the patient is critical, reasoning, understanding that no one has died or gone crazy from panic attacks, but during an anxiety attack, all these defensive statements disappear. nine0003

It is important to mention that panic disorder occurs under circumstances not associated with an objective threat, i.e. PA is caused by an intrapsychic (intrasubjective) unconscious conflict.

Patients often define PA as suffering that cannot be expressed: those who have not experienced it cannot understand. This is not from a lack of verbal categories, but from the experience itself: the patient knows that he will not die, but he is afraid of death, he knows that tachycardia is not a heart attack, but the fear that the heart will not survive does not disappear. nine0003

Another feature of PA is that a person begins to fear its onset and turns on restrictive behavior. For example, he stops leaving the house or, on the contrary, tries to be in public, avoiding potentially dangerous situations that could take him by surprise. Sometimes PA is provoked by flashing bright, colorful pictures, for example, in supermarkets, where there are a lot of shop windows and labels.

Common causes

  1. The main cause of panic disorder is repressed psychological conflicts that do not find a way out. And they are not conscious, and therefore cannot be resolved by a person for some reason. Opposite aspirations and desires can coexist in the brain. The classic of the genre is the eternal struggle between the conscious “must” and the unconscious “want”. nine0077
  2. Panic attacks are often based on psychological trauma. There were such computer games of the early 90s in which a character runs through dungeons and jumps over spikes, fiery rivers, and fights monsters. And he has multiple lives. "Stock of lives" with each miss is reduced by one, but after a second you can continue the game. The problem comes when you use up your last life. Sad music sounds, a red inscription pops up on the monitor: "Game Over". The psyche works in a similar way: you can get into traumatic or stressful situations, one after another, and without much consequences. Until the last drop overflows the cup. An analogue of the message "Game over" can be a panic attack. nine0077
  3. Distress may also be the cause of PA. Any long-term stress (instability at work, recovery period after surgery, retirement, and even pregnancy) can slowly deplete the body. And the body may need more care and attention. However, for various reasons, the mind can ignore the basic needs of the body, such as rest. And then the stressed body may have no other way to draw attention to itself, except to “tear off” the internal “stop valve” and cause a panic attack, forcing its “owner” to take care of itself. nine0077

Who is affected

PA occurs 1-2 times in a lifetime in almost everyone. But most often in people who are suspicious, impressionable, with a "fine organization" of the nervous system. People with a high level of responsibility, intellectuals, as well as those people who are involved in relationships and help - doctors, psychotherapists, coaches, consultants - are also at risk of PA.

The personality of a person predisposed to panic disorder is characterized by an integrated, but rigid (ossified, inflexible attitudes and rules) Super-Ego, whose instrument is a generalized sense of guilt. As a result, in response to unacceptable needs for dependence and love, as well as emerging anger and hostility towards others, unconscious anxiety turns on, transforming into a somato-vegetative symptom - a panic attack. nine0003

Differential diagnosis is carried out with such diseases as: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, ischemic heart disease, arrhythmias, mitral valve prolapse, pheochromocytoma, pathology of the vestibular nerve.


Panic disorder is treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication (antidepressants are highly effective). At the same time, the proportion of psychotherapy is greater.
The focus of CBT is teaching patients a set of cognitive and somatic skills to manage anxiety: cognitive restructuring of catastrophic beliefs, self-monitoring to continually assess changes in condition, and self-awareness as a therapeutic tool. The patient as a result of psychotherapy corrects myths about panic symptoms. He learns breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, learns to rely on signals about the safety of the state and situation, increasing his stability. nine0003

In many cases, one has to fight hard for every inch of peace. So, if the main cause of panic attacks is psychological trauma, then on the way to health, you may have to go through pain and tears. If panic attacks occur due to prolonged stress, then destructive established habits and beliefs will have to be revised.

Learn more