Feeling Helpless

Last March after getting over the flu, I had a incident of tachycardia that converted to afib. I stayed overnight in the hospital and had all the blood tests, chest xray, ekgs, heart ultrasounds done. Nothing showed up. The cardiologist put me on Cartia XT 180mg and Flecanide 100mg a day. After 6 mo, I went for a check up where he told me I would need an ablation or be on meds for the rest of my life. The thing is...there is (that I know of) no known heart issues in my family and I have never experienced any heart problems my entire life. The kicker, of course, is that I am a 28 year old. i went to get a second opinion from another cardiologist who took me off my meds and said it was most likely a lone incident brought on from the flu.

It's been almost a year and I have not had an incident like that again. However, I have been a giant ball of anxiety. I was terrified until I switched cardiologists because my old one made me feel like I would die in my sleep or if I went out on a hot day that I would be shocked into afib. The new cardiologist put me at ease for the most part but I still struggle with anxiety. Sunday was my last straw. I basically had an anxiety attack and went to the er. During this time, the er doc gave me ativan and I calmed right down. I saw my regular doctor today and we decided for me to go on anxiety meds because I am terrified to do anything that will raise my heartrate. I took my first dose of Lexapro and a few hours after starting having some really scary side effects. I am at the er now and I am terrified. The dr thinks its just anxiety and not an allergic reaction but I can't seem to calm down. I am terrified I am going to die. I am happily married to my best friend and have 3 kids and I just wish I could be normal again :(

Has anyone had a similar experience with af and anxiety? Or even Lexapro and panic/anxiety?

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21 Replies

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  • Yes it seems likely it was an isolated viral induced episode.

    Now the priority is working on controlling your anxiety with mindfulness, exercise and maybe drugs.

    You can always get a 7 day monitor at some time in the future to see if you are getting recurrent af

  • I am really hoping to get in to see a therapist. I have always been a little on the anxious side, no matter if I can try and rationalize with myself or not, so the afib incident really set me off. It just certainly didn't help to have my first experience with a cardiologist who didn't listen to what I was saying or try and reassure me in any way and then threw ablation at me. If it was a one-time deal, which he had told me, why would I need my heart zapped to fix it?! I really like my new cardiologist.

  • Hi, the key thing is that AF is not a life threatening issue. However. it can give you scary symptoms and make you dread the worse. You say you have a healthy heart, they think it was lone AF and you have an amazing family - all great news! The fact you're addressing the anxiety is great too. By the sounds of of this one event is reducing your quality of life. Easier said than done however i would be:

    1. rationalising my fear - what's the worse that can happen?

    2. Preparing - what do I do if it happens again? Is there a pill in the pocket solution? What can i do to prevent the flu and what to do if I get it? Eat well, exercise, reduce caffine, alcohol intake

    3. Reduce the anxiety - get support with mindfulness, CBT, relaxation techniques

    4. Enjoy life. Don't let one episode reduce your fun and enjoyment. Hopefully time will be a healer and the more you do the more your confidence will improve and the more your anxiety will reduce.

    5. Use this site for support and to gain more knowledge.

    Good luck.

  • The new cardiologist actually has an afib diagnosis himself, so when I first saw him and was crying and obviously scared and distraught, he was very reassuring. He had had it from age 2 and was still quite alive and fine.

    I think the worst part for me is that I am able to rationalize how ridiculous it is to be scared or think the worst. I know I am okay. I know there is nothing wrong with me.

    Thank you so much for your response.

  • Your mind is a very strange and powerful thing. I struggle with anxiety and no matter how much I tell myself everything is ok I still end up worrying! I'm starting CBT next week and am really looking forward to it.

  • Underlying all AF anxiety is the belief and worry that 'I have something wrong with my heart = this is serious and life threatening'. That can lead to existential anxiety - well known after a traumatic even and I define trauma as any event that you find it difficult to assimilate and process.

    It is NOT life threatening and good advice above,

    You may have further episodes, you probably will NOT. If you do my advice would be to see an Electrophysiologist - who is a specialist cardiologist who focuses on electrical problems which arrythmias are. The specialiasms are - structural - vascular - electrical and there are 'general' cardiologists. My advice would be to always go with the specialist advice which means doing you homework and knowing the background experience of your doctor.

    For information - go to the AFA site - the US version differs slightly from the UK site but both have excellent information. KNOW YOUR ENEMY!

    There have been a few young people who have posted on this forum, the youngest was 18 to my certain knowledge so AF is not unknown in young people. Elite atheletes and fighter pilots are also prone to AF so it doesn't mean you are unfit or unwell.

    Anxiety goes with the territory with AF - and there is a good physical reason why this happens but we exaggerate this with worry thoughts so your priority is to get those under control with CBT and get some help for the panic attacks.

    Yoga, Mindfulness, simple breathing exercises, Counselling, exercising, music, art, watching a good film - basically doing anything that helps you to relax and enjoy life is the antidote - the endorphine effect!

    Eat healthily, avoid excessive alcohol & other recreational substances, limit caffeine intake, sleep well, reduce stress and exercise moderately and you may live to 128!

    Have a happy, fulfilled life. xx

  • PS - like any medication anything you take to relieve a symptom, can cause the symptom so some meds for anxiety can cause anxiety.

    If you can go down the Mindfulness route you will soon start to feel in control - but you need to be prepared to work at it and help yourself.

  • I am not sure if it's a thing but I am hoping to see a therapist who specializes in anxiety/ptsd and hope that it helps because after last night, I don't think meds will help as much as talking to someone.

  • Hope so . Good luck.

  • I really think that will help, I do hope it does because it is miserable living like that when you should be enjoying the best years of your life.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on - always support here. xx

  • So sorry you are having an anxious time which is understandable after your exoerience and original medics comments. Anxiety is quite a feature it seems where arrhythmias are concerned. I try to practice mindfulness and have benefitted from being referred to a clinical psychologist specialising in health related anxiety.

    Have a word with your GP about a referral, I preferred this option to anxiety medication but that is not to say don't have meds as the right ones can help.

    You will get this in perspective and the good news is you have a sound heart with all tests showing a healthy one. Your original episode may well have been an isolated incident.

    We are all here to support you and understand your concerns, we have all been there to a greater or lesser extent and still here to tell the tale.

    Be calm all will be well. X

  • Hi

    I found this website helpful

    nopanic.org.uk/panic-attack/

    there is a calming recording you can listen to if you are having an anxiety attack. It focuses on your breathing. I have used it a few times and it worked.

    Also anxiety can make you feel quite unwell. I felt terrible until I saw an endocrinologist this week who was very reassuring. I instantly felt better. Seeing a cardiologist monday

    Keep well

  • Oh yes, when I had my first bout if AF I was going through a stressful turbulent time. It came on after having a good day crazy eh. But because I was not in a good place, my anxiety , stress levels went through the roof, I wiyly be checking my pulse etc, scared u was going to die etc... 2 and a bit episodes later less than a year on things are looking better, still get anxious but everything is work in progress, and the key is to keep working at it, accept, get help, and keep posting. Family and kids are wonderful focus on them.

  • Until I switched cardiologists, I would spend the entire day trying to sit still and check my pulse constantly. I was a complete wreck. I've definitely improved from that, but when I start to stress, I definitely get more anxious and it's so hard to stop the brain from going a mile a minute! It's definitely a work in progress. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this.

  • Hi. I had AF episodes for 16 years before having an ablation. They were very rare (one every several years) at first and then became more frequent. I had an incompetent GP who did not understand that pill in pocket medication was required to stop the AF. My episodes were always about 12 hours in duration and then stopped again without medication. But I finally found a competent doctor and was prescribed flecainide as pill in pocket. But by then the episodes were happened every week or so and I had the ablation.

    Your story of a cardiologist prescribing daily flecainide after only one PAF event strikes me as proof that none of us can trust doctors. Based on all the online literature I have read it made no sense for him to prescribe daily flecainide based on one episode.

    Flecainide is a potent drug with possible side effects and adverse long term impacts. Some people tolerate it well for decades but it should not be prescribed unless absolutely necessary.

    You may want to ask your latest cardiologist whether it is a good idea to carry flecainide for use as pill in pocket medication so that if you ever get AF again you will revert back to normal sinus rhythm within an hour or two rather than having to wait longer than that. The less time in AF the better as the evidence shows that the longer you are in AF the more quickly the problem can progress.

    So sounds like you have nothing to worry about except incompetent medical practitioners who prescribe drugs that you may be better off without!

  • The first cardiologist is the same one that saw me when I was still in the ER and he had said that he would have me on meds for about 3 months and if I was fine, then he would take me off of them. When I returned and he completely changed his tune saying it was either an ablation or meds for the rest of my life, I immediately found a new cardiologist, whom I do like a lot. He took me off of the meds and I have Cartia and Flecanide for the pill in the pocket approach if I do have an episode.

    The nurse I had in the ER (for the episode) really made me feel more scared than I should have been. She said to have someone start my car if it was a really hot or really cold day because the shock to my system would set the afib off. Even the first cardiologist was like shaking his head in disbelief that she would have said something like that.

    When I went to the ER on Sunday, the doctor I saw was very surprised the first cardiologist put me on Flecanide too. He said that it shouldn't be taken unless absolutely necessary.

  • Hi. id be inclined to report what the cardiologist did to the medical association in your country. They have to take policing incompetent doctors seriously. 😀

  • First of all Lexapro is the worst. I was on it about 11 years ago. I had been on a small dosage of paxil and was doing fine, however, the Dr. felt the Paxil was not good for my heart I tried the Lexapro and had the same feelings as you. Have been taking a small dosage of Zoloft since then and I am fine. As far as the AFib is concerned perhaps you should get one more opinion and maybe that would put your mid at ease.

  • I was really hoping the Lexapro would help and now I'm scared to try a different medication. Ah, anxiety begets anxiety. I still really want to go see a therapist. Perhaps that alone will help without the need for medication. It certainly has been very helpful to hear others who have experienced afib talk about it.

    The cardiologist I have right now is one I trust and I am really happy with. He told me that I may not ever have another episode in my lifetime or I may only have one if I have the flu. His staff is really nice and I felt a lot more comfortable there. The first one was really short, didn't listen to any of my questions or concerns, and seemed to really want to push the ablation. I would gladly have one IF it was a last resort and I had had multiple afib episodes, but I have only experience it once and a procedure seemed a bit rash!

  • Talk therapy can never hurt - does not even have to be long term. Hope you find your way. I will be here if you want to talk.

  • Your case sounds just like mine after a terrible bought of Vial Flu while overseas . Echoes and xrays found my heart and Lungs we good also - The early months i was in and out of hospital with the AF Palpitations almost weekly - i had amazing team if drs - they tried leaving me to my own devise under supervision but i kept getting AF they also said that i had flutters as well which were more troublesome - So they gave me the shock treatment which was great to feel my chest lovely and calm... this last only 24 hrs - from there it was decided that i needed to have the ablation... I was a little nervous it was all explained to me that the heart has electrical currents and when they go haywire causes the heart beat to misbehave - the needle went in my groin and don't know where it went from there but i said when are you going to get to the heart - the Dr Said we are in the heart and are about to perform the ablation..that was it the drs were really positive and said they had found the current that was causing the problem. immediately i felt really good to sit up and feel my chest nice and calm - not like an exhaust backfiring...I was taken off the heart but remain on the following meds my blood thinner is Pradaxa ( Dabigtran) - Furosemide for fluid - I have had about 6 episodes in the 18mnths which only lasted about 1hr... so i think you have to keep asking questions... lots of the meds cause side effects - up to this event in my life i would only take Paracetamol if i absolutely needed it....Keep sharing .

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