AF and anxiety

Hello to all fellow sufferers of AF. I have had Paroxysmal AF for 18 years and it has manifested itself in many different forms. I have had 5 ablations and I would say that only the first one really made any kind of difference. In fact the last couple of ablations seems to have made the AF worse, it takes longer to revert and can include frightening episodes of a 250+ pulse at times. I have now been told that the only option left to me is an AV node ablation. I have resisted this for a long time, because I don't want to be dependent on the pacemaker, and I know from my conversations with doctors that the AF will still continue and that this can cause an enlarged heart. When I do get an attack it is often linked to anxiety about something going on in my life, and I wonder if others have found AF worse if they are stressed?

41 Replies

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  • Absolutely, it’s the worst thing for me and I wish I knew how to control it. The AF makes the anxiety worse, so a double whammy! Tricia

  • Absolutely it does.

  • If I get stressed or anxious it will trigger an episode of AF and of course once I’m in AF I get more stressed and that makes it worse. Before AF I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks and I think this might have been a contributor to my developing AF. I found Mindfulness and meditation helped me get over the panic attacks in the past and is enormously helpful now in managing AF stress.

  • I know that feeling. I am trying with Mindfulness, and I have always prayed.

  • Certainly my AF was triggered by anxiety and grief.I have Paroxysmal AF for 3.5 years.In the few months before diagnosis, I had lost my father in law,my adored mother ( from heart disease) I was main carer for both.Put my symptoms down to grief,then mother in law died almost straight away..they had been married 60 years.. The n my father had massive stroke.my parents had been childhood sweethearts and married 57 years. He had had heart disease, bypass op etc....long time care... Then sons girl died aged 23..then this year my father and there had to be an inquest cos of medical negligence. I can directly chart my worst symptoms to each period of stress,as well as the above work has gone through massive change.I try and keep positive, I swim which seems the best gentle exercise and pool has a defibrillator, I try and go with the flow and ride it out. I was given 2 mg box of diazapam by my gp for occasionall use,but have not used this.Worth trying things like meditation, lots of people here seem to find it good.I can't get the knack itself!

    Hope you find a ' settler downer" for yourself ,I'm sure you are right,there is a connection. Take care xx

  • Thank you for your reply - what a lot of sorrow for you, no wonder your poor heart developed AF. I have and still do meditate, but often a stressful incident is just too fast to control. Best wishes xx

  • I have been noticing those that suffer with anxiety seem to get the 250+ heart rate during episodes because it’s unavoidable to panic and make the condition worse.

    Not helped by the time it takes an Ambulance to arrive these days and that I live alone so my only other option is to drive myself to the hospital which on occasions really would not of been a good idea.

    This AF really is the worst condition somebody with anxiety could get, it’s on the mind non stop.

  • Very true

  • It is on my mind 24 7 too, I have never thought of anything else but AF and TIA for the last 9 month since I had a TIA in feb and was told I had AF, it never goes away.

  • The ambulance itself makes me stressed, especially when you have to go all through everything to different crews. My heart rate soars if I attempt to move when the attack has been going on for a few hours.

  • I fully agree with Tako2009 and would encourage you to actively seek a class or group where you can practice meditation and relaxation to gain some control. Plus meeting others is a good distraction.

  • Yes, maybe a class would be better, I usually meditate alone.

  • Yes much worse if i am stressed. Thats the only time i seem to notice it.

  • Thank you.

  • Hi Melleray :-) anxiety can definitely contribute to my P-AF episodes. The AF raises my heart rate and my blood pressure goes haywire, the body responds with more anxiety/ fear contributing to the symptoms the AF is causing so it becomes a vicious circle with episodes that last for hours .

    I now know I must try to avoid situations that make me anxious and If I find myself in a stressful situation I do breathing exercise and use distraction to calm myself down and try to avoid an episode . If I have an episode I know I must lay down ,relax and stay calm until it passes (I won't go to hospital unless I have chest pain, I know it would make me more anxious. I'm not advocating others do the same we are all different ) .

    The medication I am taking in the form of beta blockers help to keep my heart rate down so with those and and my staying calm strategy I have my AF under control and a good quality of life.

    I don't know how long this will last, years I hope now I have adopted a new lifestyle of no alcohol/more exercise/ good diet/weight loss .

    I hope you are able to resolve your AF problems soon...

  • I always go to hospital, mainly because of the 250+ possibility. I had an episode last Christmas day after all my guests had gone home. It had been a busy day, but ok, and I sat down with a glass of wine to relax and bang. Ended up in A&E on Christmas night.

  • Anxiety - absolutely. Ask your GP for referral to some form of counselling. It can only help given your recognition that anxiety is a trigger. Best wishes.

  • Yes, thank you, I am going to try and get some counselling

  • I seem to get Ectopics and Tachy it when I relax after a stressful event.

  • Yes, me too

  • I feel that stress and anxiety from my husband’s health and all the medical bills brought rapid aflutter/afib on. Never had a problem before except occasional palpitation. So I say yes. It is easier said than done to control anxiety/panic attack but I do work on breathing. Wish you the best

  • Thank you, I'm sure you are right

  • I believe my afib began due to anxiety attacks which I have had on and off since 2002 ,, in 2015 I had what felt like the worst day of my life with a sense of worry and doom,,,just tied in knots for no obvious reason,, the afib fist appeared that evening with a pulse over 200,,,ambulance ride and 5 hospital days set me off to control my afib and learn to banish my anxiety,,I went for counseling and behavior modification as well as going on warfarin and lopressor,,,it took about a year but I mostly am ok now,,,neither is totally gone but I am so much better,,controlling those anxiety issues is super important and getting help sure helped me

  • Sounds very familiar and I truly sympathise. Glad to hear you are so much better. Thankyou for the advice

  • The 2mg of diazepam will help immensely with the anxiety during AF -- it will calm you down within 20-30 minutes. Your doctor prescribed it for this reason. Please give it a chance.

  • My doctor has just given me a drug to reduce anxiety, but it piles the weight on and makes you sleepy so I am not going to take it. I have some Diazepam and will try that next time I have an attack.

  • I believe anxiety/panic attack actually developed my afib. Though EP and cardiologist both said no, but I have a feeling that if I didn’t ever have anxiety/panic issue, I may not have developed afib.

  • I think that about myself. I used to get extremely anxious when my eldest daughter started going out with her friends in the evening. I would tremble until she was safely home. This went on for years and I am sure it contributed to the onset of AF.

  • I have PAF and a stressful job. Strangely, my episodes tend to start when I get home from work and am relaxing.

  • My episodes usually start after the crisis is over too. Thankyou

  • The only thing that really seems to have worked for me after very similar experience is Magnesium. I take solgar Mag cit. (amazon). I have been on every drug except amiodarone, nothing woorked. Several ablations. Another good effect is that my back pain has also improved vastly. My cardiologist is reluctantly impressed too. He calls it 'The Continental Method'. Dont care it has certainly worked for me. My fitbit alta hr shows my resting heart rate is 72 (pacemaker setting). And no extreme tachy. Just normal. Sadly I fear my heart and lungs are damaged now and a bit limited but so much better.

    Best of luck.

  • I too have started taking Magnesium as it was highly recommended by several people on another forum.

  • Just realised that I am taking the same type and brand of Magnesium as you, I buy it from H and B. The tablets are so big that I cannot swallow them whole and cut them in half. Also, my stomach only seems to tolerate half a dose.

  • Thank you to everyone who kindly replied to my post. It really does help to know that there are people out there who totally understand and know what it is like to suffer from AF and anxiety too. It is so good to hear your experiences and what has worked for you.

  • From what I've read, stress is a very common trigger for AF, and it certainly is for me.

  • Me too .

  • Yes I do agree that all medical ailments worsen with stress. My AF is accompanied with low blood pressure so I often feel faint and nauseous during an episode. These happen either when I am unwell or under stress. I can usually feel signs that I need to stop and rest but that can be stressful if I am not able to. Sorry to hear your ablations have not been helpful except the first one. I have only had one done and I think it helped. Good luck with future ops.

  • i also usually suffer low blood pressure when my AF starts, and depending on how low my bp is i feel faint and nauseus. Mine also seems to be triggered if i feel unwell or stressed or am or have been very busy and have become overtired. i also feel signs of needing to rest, feeling as if my body's under pressure and if i don't stop and lie down to calm, close my eyes and relax i may collapse. It makes me anxious if it starts when i'm at work and have to carry on, but i just do. I take a flecanide pill, begin discreetly deep breathing and retire to the ladies for 5 minutes or so to calm myself, so far it's helped thank goodness.

  • Hi

    Anxiety certainly plays a big part in my AF too, as does indigestion & always seems to rear it's ugly head just as I am trying to get to sleep at night. I too try mindfulness/meditation. Have you come across the Calm App (which can be downloaded for free) & it's community on Facebook? I find it a very useful tool when I am anxious or stressed. It also has sleep stories, which helps you to drift off peacefully 😌😴

    Best wishes Ally

  • Thankyou so much, I will certainly give it a try.

  • I am very late to this thread but felt I should mention SSRIs

    I was prone to crippling anxiety and panic attacks

    Sertraline has transformed my life. I have taken it for 7 years continuously without any problem that I am aware of.

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