AF Association
13,996 members16,918 posts

Panic attack or AF ?

On two separate occasions recently my heart has begun to pound and pulsating sound in my ears...The first being a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to play my music instrument at a concert.I had been invited on the stage to play but as it got nearer the time my heart started to race and ears felt as felt they were going to burst.Consequently I didn't play and people were disappointed and surprised.I made some feeble excuse....The second incident was last night when in a work meeting and it was my turn to speak again these symptoms.No one noticed by the way what was happening to me thank goodness for that although my face was burning...

It reminded of past experience when in situations that overwhelmed me but was now just a distant memory until recently...Is the diagnoses of AF correct or is it panic attacks.What is the difference...

I have never felt comfortable being the center of attention and I used to feel these uncomfortable feelings when younger taking exams or performing in public etc.However,this diminished as the years passed and my confidence increased as I became more proficient in playing and speaking in public....arrrr but its back.can anyone advise please.c

12 Replies

Hi Caromia, I think maybe there are two things going on but you are right to wonder. Many people with AF are or have been fobbed off by their doctors as having panic attacks. I know a young man 30 something who trains in the gym a lot etc who as been so diagnosed and I keep waiting for him to have an attack when I am about so I can check his pulse as I am sure it is AF.

You have to remember that if you have been diagnosed with AF it is because this has been picked up on an ECG at some time. This is the only way to record it with any confidence. Strangely the treatment may be similar as beta blockers to slow the heart work for both.

We haven't met yet so it is difficult for me to say but I would bet good money that what you are finding is that the AF is causing some anxiety in itself and this is maybe tipping you to panic attacks. One of the things that I worked hard to flag up for some years on various committees discussing treatment of AF is the very real need to provide support for the mental side of the condition. I try not to say psychiatric care as this sound rather OTT but many people with AF do have real difficulties coming to term with their condition and as we know stress only complicates it.

As I have always said I am not medically trained, just had a long time in the AF game. Hope that helps.


1 like

Hi Bob. You are very astute and I take on board your comments.....If you are intuitive we ascertain a persons persona readability quickly ....Your perception is accurate...Regards...c


I acknowledge and respect Bob's comments - obviously those of an informed observer - but hope I can add my own thoughts on caromia's problems. Like caromia, I have (for some reason I have never really understood!) put myself up to sing, play, act and speak, in public and she describes the anxiety this can provoke, perfectly. For me, this was the onset of a panic attack - pounding heart, the instinctive need to take flight, what if this or that happens and so on. It happens to a lot of people. However, as Bob suggests, there can easily be a link with this and AF. After all, I have AF now so was it lying 'dormant' and aggravated by these 'anxiety' spells and waiting to break out into full AF? Who knows? It seems to be yet another imponderable connected with our problem. I do know that now, I avoid playing or singing for people in public's someone else's turn now!


Oh very interesting,I trained as a musician from the age of five....Playing in many concerts on stage in front of many people for many years probably like yourself numerous exams to cap and gown level...Always with the heart pounding and after an event I would have to sleep for a couple of days....This was always attributed to me being an artistic and sensitive child....However,over the years I became more confident and this very rarely happened...Until this last couple of weeks as I explained in my posting ....I now play for pleasure and where I studied classical music my repertoire has diversified .There is no pressure on me now taking exams any more and so what if I play a wrong note who cares or even notices anyway...So Dadog this sensation came completely out of the blue... I play an instrument in a group most of the time so shall carry on doing so for as long as I can...

I am not a depressed personality quite the contrary I enjoy life immensely...Yes this B----y Af puzzles me as I like to know the ins and outs of everything and as yet I am not clear on the prognosis...Keep up with your music Dadog...If you have a talent share it and allow other people in to enjoy your amazing gift...Take care my friend...


I agree totally with Bob. Had AF for 10 years before it was diagnosed as AF. That is because I had a seizure and ended up in the ER and was just sitting there and my pulse went up to 202. For 10 years I was treated for anxiety. Nothing ever showed up on an ECG. I wish I had been more persistent and insisted that they put me in the hospital and observe me over a period of days way back when all of this started. AF is different for everyone and I do not know two people who are even on the same meds. I was taken off of all heart meds after having a cryo-ablation done and not having an episode for 6 months. I do have skips and extra beats now and again but no episode. I am on a heart monitor now for 2 weeks to see how my heart does with out the meds. I wish you luck, but, I agree with Bob, my opinion is that if you persist in getting to the bottom of all of this the better off you will be. Take care and good luck, Michelle

1 like

Hello Michelle and thank you for your concerns.It was possibly 18months ago that PAF was diagosed I am now and on a cocktail of bistropo,l Flacenaide and Warfarin.It has taken me until 8 weeks ago to persuade the medics that I should be on Warfarin...I have had excellent teachers which include a team of ladies and men of integrity, among them.Bob,Ian and the Stand.I well remember those early weeks on this forum Bob correcting my spelling of Atrial Fibrillation at the time I couldn't even pronounce Atrial Fibullation never mind spell it but all these many months later it trips off my tongue as easily as saying Demi-Semi Quaver...My understanding off my condition was Zero...

Amazingly i would never have realized the need for Warfarin as like many others on this forum was told I was a low risk of a stroke...

Still my the medical profession[ even though I spent altogether a week in Hospital and the AF was seen on an ECG ]are saying they are not sure I have AF which is utterly amazing and puzzles and confuses me...

I hope the above contextualizes and gives a clearer understanding of the situation.......Take care and thank you once again for your concerns...C


I have a very similar problem but mine is going on holiday. Iwas diagnosed in july 2011 3 months later whilst on holiday in Ibiza I was rushed to hospital with very low BP& was so ill had to cut short the holiday &make our own way home.(which is another story)since then on4 occassions I have had to either cancel a holiday or cut it short.(all in the UK) guess what,wehave a holiday booked for next week & have just started wih the same symptons ie 2 AF episodes this week & now sever tummy ache & loss of appetiteThe wife is not very happy.


Reme I feel for you...Get me driving a camper through the Rockies or Northern Spain not a flicker BUT on that stage can and still terrifies me that a bit strong I know perhaps Fazes would have been an alternative word...

Next week you will be fine I promise .Just be calm and confident the fear of it happening is what makes it so daunting....Give yourself some affirmations....You will have a lovely time.C

1 like

Hi Caromia

It is better to try a holter for few days just to be sure and if you are lucky it may record these episodic and hope they are not AF

I had been diagnosed as panic attacks for ten years earlier when I was not aware of anything called AF , I don't blame doctors because they put me on holter few times but I was not lucky to record any episodes during those short time records

Actually my cardiologist prescribed for me medication to treat panic attacks for six months and I did but nothing changed , then I got it recorded where he stopped the medication , why don't you try that ?

AF cause panic and it maybe other around , but for me it is the first one for sure

Wish you well soon


Well hello again Maitha,I have been following your recovery progress with great interest and I do hope you are now feeling better and on the way to recovery...

I have had 4 halters but no PAF seen cardiologist says my heart runs smother than his...

take care my friend and get better soon.C



This is an interesting problem. Diagnosis of each and every episode of palpitation or panic attack could be recorder when they happen and an objective review of the evidence could be undertaken by your GP or EP consultant.

Have you ever thought about getting an AliveCOR heart monitor to attach to your iPhone.

They are fantastic devices and and very easy to use. I use it personally and now able to capture every AF event and email to my doctor. It can record easily by pressing the monitor on your legs, or rest your fingers on it or as I do press it on to the left breast are about 4 cm under the left nipple region. Comes with easy instructions and the recordings are very clear. You also have the quick facility of recording your medications, exact diagnosis or history and any symptoms at the time if the recording of your event. They can record for 39 seconds, 5 minutes or a time you choose, or continuously. It's important to also record normal sinus rhythm also to show its possible sudden onset AF.

The AF Association have been promoting and giving free heart monitors. Take a look at this link.

I used to use a handheld ECG but had terrible problems getting the ECG data to my EP cardiologist. I have abandoned that devise and now use the AliveCOR heart monitor and the almost total seamless process it offers to get your a ECG data to your cardiologist.

Good luck


Thank you for your constructive advice.Caromia


You may also like...