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Forum Name: Cardiology Symptoms

Question: Chronic Anxiety and Obsessively worrying about my heart


 greenstone312 - Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:41 pm

Hello. I am a 21 year old non smoking male. I have had Generalized Anxiety Disorder for over a year and a half and also have panic disorder. After my first panic attack i have worried excessively about my heart, thinking its going to give out any second and I will die suddenly. This has ruined my life but i am making tremendous strides in managing my anxiety with therapy and Xanax taken daily in low doses .25 MG.

The probelm is, i am obsessed with my heart, my blood pressure, what i eat and so forth becuase I am so afraid something bad will happen to it. So i would like to know what you think about my chances are rationally since you are the doctor.

I have been active my entire life in sports. Football, Basketball, Track, Cross Country and Soccer. I have never felt faint or dizzy or sick playing these sports. My blood pressure average is around 115/75. My cholesterol levels are good its 185 total my HDL is 60 my LDL is a little higher than I would like at 116 and triglycerides are 50. I have never smoked or drank, ever or taken any kind of drug. I drink one cup of coffee maybe 3-4 times a week. I have had 2 EKG's which the doctor said looked "excellent", i have had two physicals in the past year, both times the doctor said that my heart sounded very strong and normal, no murmur or anything. There is no history of heart disease in my family except my grandfather died at 55 of a heart attack but he was a heavy drinker and smoker and did not control his diabetes. My dad is diabetic and had high BP and cholesterol but that was due to his diabetes all his numbers are in control now from what his doctor said. My mom had no history of heart problems on her side of the family. Most people in my family have lived well into their 70's and 80's. My anxiety has just got me thinking im going to break tradition and die any day now suddenly of some heart problem. I am also terrified to play sports that i used to play because I am afraid i might die. What are the chances that will happen given my history? MY heart rate exercising is around 120-140. Can a healthy heart handle that? For how long?
 Alexandra C, RN - Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:01 pm

Hello greenstone312,

From the information you provided, I can confidently say that you are very unlikely to experience any serious cardiac event. It sounds as though you are in excellent physical health. This is the most rational answer I can give you--but I think you recognize that the level of anxiety you are experiencing is irrational and unfortunately I think that this reassurance is unlikely to eliminate any of that anxiety.

My concern from your post is for your mental health. You mention that you feel that your symptoms have improved with therapy, but you are currently describing severe anxiety symptoms that clearly cause impairment in your functioning. I am sorry to hear that you are unable to participate in sports currently because of the severity of your symptoms. Anxiety is physically and mentally exhausting. There are many effective treatments available, it just sounds like your current regimen is not providing adequate relief.

SSRIs and some of the mixed-neurotransmitter antidepressants can be very effective in treating anxiety, panic, and obsessive symptoms. Please talk to your doctor about what medications will help control your symptoms better. In the meantime, you might eliminate those 3-4 cups of coffee a week. That's not a lot, but caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and some people are more sensitive than others.

I hope you will find a treatment that works for you soon, and can return to doing the physical activities you enjoy. Exercise will help keep your heart healthy for years to come and is also very beneficial for your mental health. Please believe that your life is not ruined. I know that you are suffering a great deal right now, but your condition is treatable. There is no reason to think that you will not overcome this. Take care.

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