The symptoms of atrial fibrillation might be mistaken for anxiety and vice versa.
Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib, is a common heart condition that affects blood flow in your heart. There might be a relationship between AFib and anxiety disorders.
Because AFib can cause heart palpitations, the symptoms might be mistaken for anxiety or a panic attack. Likewise, anxiety or panic might be mistaken for AFib.
Although anxiety doesn’t seem to cause AFib, people with AFib might be more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
Because AFib interrupts the flow of blood in your body, it can put you at risk of having a stroke or developing blood clots. However, with medical treatment, it’s possible to live a healthy life.
AFib can be caused by high blood pressure (hypertension), which can damage the heart. According to
However, more recent research suggests that there is a relationship between anxiety and high blood pressure. A 2019 review found that there is increasing evidence for comorbid anxiety and hypertension, meaning that both commonly occur at the same time.
This doesn’t necessarily mean anxiety causes hypertension, but there may be a connection between the two.
The study measured 412 people’s stress levels across 13 years and concluded that chronically high-stress levels could lead to a cardiovascular condition or event (like a heart attack).
Because stress and anxiety might cause hypertension, it is possible that they contribute to the development of AFib.
Anxiety might be more common among people with AFib. A
AFib is a kind of heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
The atria — the two upper chambers of your heart — beat irregularly and out of sync with the heart’s lower chambers. This affects the blood flow within the heart, which means that blood flow to the rest of the body is interrupted. Interrupted blood flow puts you at risk of blood clots and stroke.
AFib is fairly common. According to the American Heart Association, about
Atrial fibrillation may be temporary or permanent. It can also come and go. A type of AFib called paroxysmal AFib resolves on its own without medical intervention, but you may be prescribed medication or lifestyle changes to prevent future episodes and complications.
Yes. There are some similarities between the symptoms of anxiety and the symptoms of AFib, so you might mistake AFib for anxiety and vice versa.
Other common symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:
- chest pain
- intolerance to exercise
- shortness of breath
Some of those symptoms — including lightheadedness, dizziness, and shortness of breath — can also be symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks.
As with panic attacks, AFib symptoms might last minutes or hours. In some cases, the symptoms of AFib can last days.
If you experience these symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment with a doctor. A medical professional can screen you for AFib and other possible physical conditions. If you’d like, you can ask them to refer you to a therapist for anxiety.
If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing a panic attack, AFib, or a heart attack, it’s best to seek emergency care immediately.
Chronic stress and anxiety can affect your physical, social, and emotional health. However, finding effective ways to manage stress and anxiety is possible.
Stress management techniques can include:
- reducing excess stress by cutting back on commitments that are not enjoyable for you
- engaging in regular physical activity to
reduce stress levels
- trying yoga, which is associated with
- spending time in nature
- meditating regularly
- trying breathing exercises
- spending time with supportive loved ones
- engaging in fun, creative hobbies
- joining support groups
You might also benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. Therapy is a safe space where you can learn to process and manage your emotions in a healthy, effective way. You do not have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition to seek therapy — almost anyone can benefit from it.
The symptoms of AFib can be mistaken for anxiety symptoms and vice versa. Although chronic stress can affect your cardiovascular health, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that anxiety causes AFib.
If you think you’re experiencing AFib or are not sure what’s causing your symptoms, considering making an appointment with your doctor can be a helpful next step.