AF Association
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Recognising the effect of anxiety within AF

Reading Richard75's recent post titled "Light at the end of the AF tunnel - a success story" has really opened my mind about the role of anxiety within AF.

Prior to my AF, I was lucky to have never suffered from anxiety, stress or depression. And so my latest theory is that all of the worry I have experienced since being diagnosed with AF has activated my anxiety response, and could explain a lot of my strange symptoms of late, some of which don't seem to fit with AF.

My thoughts have further crystallized this evening when I went for a gentle bike ride. My heart stayed in good rhythm aside from the occasional thump of a PAC or a PVC. But as my HR rose with exertion, so did my adrenaline. Within 10 minutes, my entire body was humming with adrenaline. Not quite as severe as a "fight or flight" situation, but unpleasant and disturbing nonetheless. I got home after 30 minutes and my heart was still in good rhythm, although it took some conscious effort to not let the anxiety take over and send my heart racing (deep breathing, lying down etc).

The bit that I struggle to comprehend is that this response is entirely subconscious. I don't get on my bike consciously thinking that I am going to have a problem, but it seems my subconscious does.

Of course, this could all be complete nonsense and someone is going to tell me that my underlying AF is causing the adrenaline release. I plan on getting my GP's opinion on this tomorrow, and from there, look at how I can eliminate or learn to control this subconscious response.

Would love to hear if anyone has any thoughts or experience on this subject.

14 Replies

I understand what you mean regarding the anxiety.

Regarding the raised heart rate staying raised after exercise I wonder if it might be Atrial Tachycardia not AF.

The reason I suggest this is that your experience on the bike sounds similar to what happened to me a few months ago after a fairly strenuous walk when my heart would not slow down when I stopped.

I was stuck that way until I had an ablation 10 days ago.

An ECG will prove it one way or another.



I think Pete may well be on the right track a with his reply. I get bouts of atrial tachycardia also.....had several weeks of it continuously in april/May...120/130 bpm Confirmed in A&E...then turned into AF and DCCV

Have had many bouts since of shorter duration. Latest one this weekend after hosting hectic family get together.

( am on list for ablation 4)



Thanks, I shall look into it. That one hasn't been mentioned to me by any of my doctors, but I shall have a read about it.


I have had similar experiences on the bike, in fact my first AF experience (although I didn't know it at the time) was overdoing it up a hill. My tip for what it's worth is get more used to picking up the body's messages and don't cycle if you get that response. I stopped, took on a raft of new lifestyle measures including an hour in the evenings totally relaxing with exercise, mindfulness and prayer. After 2+ years of that I started cycling again and walking up steep hills and feel absolutely fine. Good Luck!


I think anxiety plays a massive role. I've had so many strange sensations since discovering I have AF. Many have come and gone, disappearing once I've reassured myself that they are all in my mind. It's hard to constantly be keeping your nerve with these things, but in my experience many of my symptoms are in my head, bar the palpitations, which I'm sure are also precipitated by anxiety and stress.


Pikaia, your post is very interesting to me, and I'd like to hear more about those strange anxiety-related sensations. Would you be willing to enlarge on this please? Thanks!



Hi everyone, been to the GP this morning. Had a really long and good discussion about options. The result was that I am now on a 3 day course of diazepam to test the notion that my symptoms are anxiety. Have had the first pill and already feel a world better. The fog has cleared and I feel normal again. Fingers crossed.


Before I knew I had AFib I would occasionally get bouts of nervousness/anxiety that seemed to have no relation to what was going on in my life. Then one day it occurred to me to check my HR, only to find it speeded up. My own theory is that the rapid HR gave the feeling of nervousness rather than the other way around.


Afib is very anxiety inducing until you read up on afib and learn everything you can about the condition. Once you've educated yourself about all things afib, you'll learn to let go of the anxiety and just rest and relax when you're "fibbing" until it passes.


I was amazed how anxious I got! I am not normally an anxious person AT ALL and it really felt like the rug had totally been pulled out from under me. Luckily, I got used to it and am much more cavalier about it now.


I have the same issue. It seems that anything that causes my body to release adrenaline causes me to have skipped beats. So I automatically started to associate physical effort with discomfort. Thus I avoid anything that gets my heart rate up beyond a certain point.

Gentle bike riding is ok but if I needed to tackle a steep hill I would avoid it when possible. The fact that I was on beta blockers for a long time since years before my cyro-ablation made matter worse because I would often feel faint when over exerting myself. The beta blockers made my heart beat slower so it was not able to keep up with demand. This further caused me to avoid physical activity.

Now I fear that I have developped some anxiety towards physical activity which I am trying to overcome.

When I get ectopic beats I try to relax and help them pass. I try hard not to feed the anxiety more about it. Instead I try to focus on my breathing and try to do some breathing exercises to help me relax. I now understand that anxiety has a huge impact on how we feel.


I've just claimed I'm not anxious and you had to remind me that I can't take my own blood pressure. My BP goes up just thinking about it! My BP is fine and it doesn't bother me when the dr does it.

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Meditation and simple breathing techniques might well help. That's what I'm trying! It is worrying when one has always been pretty healthy, not been overweight etc etc!

Good Luck!


I have just got back from seeing my specialist told her about my anxiety, as like you never been a person to let anything get to me or have anxiety but I get it for no reason at all. She said she thinks it is just the way I am, I dont agree never had it before.


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