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Utterly terrified of palpitations - I’m a mess

(57 Posts)
CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Sat 19-May-18 20:27:29

Sorry - this is going to be long.

Firstly I should say that I’ve suffered from heart palpitations to some extent for years - a combination of big thuds, small thuds, very brief flutters and on a couple of occasions slightly longer runs. They always seemed to appear for a few weeks and then I’d have a few weeks respite. Had a 24 hr monitor which didn’t show much other than a few ectopic beats, but sods law, I didn’t actually feel any palpitations when I had it on. I’ve been on beta blockers for migraines and anxiety for 9 years - not that they’ve really made much difference to the palpitations.

Anyway, at the beginning of March I suffered a big Pulmonary Embolism as a result of knee surgery and was rushed into resus and diagnosed (had a CT scan) after a couple of days of some breathlessness and then waking up and suffering from heart palpitations that didn’t stop for about 15-20 minutes. I was told that my heart was put under strain and admitted to the CCU (coronary care unit). I was in hospital for 10 days and discharged on blood thinners (will be in them for 6 months). I’ve been back to A&E a few times since discharge with varying symptoms and had ECGs, X-rays and blood tests but they’ve told me I’m OK and sent me home. I’ve also had an Echo done and it was normal and the respiratory team have signed me off saying my heart is fine and that I can put any ideas of long term problems as a result of my embolism out of my mind.

Funnily enough I didn’t really have any palpitations in hospital or at home until about 2 weeks ago when I started having some - runs of really being aware of my heartbeat, single thuds or a tiny (1 second) flutter and some things that I THINK are palpitations when my throat tightens momentarily and I have a rush of adrenaline, a bit like when you miss a step. I’ve been told by the GP that I have post traumatic stress and generalised anxiety disorder and that the palpitations are as a result of that. I’ve had plenty of other symptoms such as insomnia, chest pains (fortunately they soon to have gone - touch wood), feeling and being sick, obsessively focusing on my breathing, depression etc. I have just started seeing a psychotherapist but we’re still in the fact finding stage and haven’t actually started the therapy itself yet.

But I am in a mess - all I can think about is that there’s something wrong with my heart still and that I’m going to keel over and die at any second.

I was lying down earlier (they mainly happen when I’m lying down) watching the royal wedding - relatively calm and relaxed - when out of nowhere my heart started fluttering and wouldn’t stop. It carried on for about 15 seconds and I screamed for my husband. It stopped temporarily and started again for about another 10 seconds and then stopped and returned to normal.

I was absolutely terrified, completely convinced that something terrible was happening to me. Shaking, hot, just beside myself with fear. All I can now think about is when is it going to happen again, what does it mean, do I have a heart condition/damage they’ve missed?

I seem to be spiralling downwards and I don’t know how to stop it.

Does/has anyone else have/had flutters or palpitations like this?

Kate8989 Sun 20-May-18 05:59:14

I know this is going to sound obvious but I would book an appointment to see your GP. When it comes to something like your heart, best they monitor it and see what’s going on.
Your reaction to what happened sounds distressing, so you definitely need to see a professional to give you answers.
Hope you get sorted x

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Sun 20-May-18 07:21:27

I’ve been to the gp, and A&E who both said anxiety - admittedly not since the one I had yesterday, although I did phone up the BUPA helpline and spoke to a nurse who said as long as they weren’t going on for minutes, happening regularly (so every few minutes) or having other symptoms alongside the palpitations (feeling faint or fainting, out of breath, pain) then there was no cause for concern.

I will speak to the GP again though, am wondering if I should try a 24 hr monitor again.

swingofthings Sun 20-May-18 07:24:58

Heart palpitations are very common even amongst healthy people. My OH couldn't be healthier, no anxiety and he's had it for many years. He's been investigated and told that as his blood pressure was good, it was something to keep an eye on it but no treatment required.

Like you, he can go weeks with nothing and then it hits him out of the blue. He knows there is a link with alcohol. He doesn't drink much at all, but on occasions, he will have a bit too much, and sure enough, he will get them, but it's rarely just afterwards, it can be a week, or even more before they are triggered.

In you case, it is very possible that they are linked to your anxiety but as you say, they will forcibly occur as you are going through an anxious event but hit you some time later.

If you were under the hospital care and they looked into it, I would be reassured that they have assessed that they were not dangerous and like my OH just require monitoring. In your case, it's a vicious circle because the more you have it, the more anxious you get, the more anxious, the more likely to have them.

My OH says they are quite scary, so I really sympathise.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Sun 20-May-18 07:32:34

Thank you swingofthings - yes they’re unbelievably scary, I was always somewhat scared of them when I used to have them (before the embolism) but now my fear is at another level.

QueenoftheNights Sun 20-May-18 19:01:32

I think you should focus on the psychotherapy and similar- CBT etc if necessary. This is a MH issue.

Your rational mind isn't working; youve had the all clear after the blood clot so you need help with your anxiety.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Sun 20-May-18 19:44:56

My rational mind knows you're right Queen unfortunately rationality isn't winning the battle at the moment. I'm going to be treated with CBT and EMDR and am hoping beyond hope that they make a difference.

There are so many things adding to my anxiety at the moment - am going on holiday to Turkey on Friday (booked way before I got ill** - really wish I wasn't going but DD and DH are so excited, and it would be giving in in a way if I didn't go) and although I've sorted insurance out and made sure I am covered I'm still worried that I'll get ill again whilst I'm away or when I'm on the plane (hate flying at the best of times). Plus I've got a procedure tomorrow to remove a filter they inserted in my vein (the big one that goes down your middle) when I was really ill to prevent any more of the clot in my leg reaching my lungs. It wasn't a nice experience when they put it in and I had some palpitations during the procedure, but I knew it was potentially saving my life so was eager for them to do it, now I am just scared and anxious.

Eugh, this is crap sad

mineofuselessinformation Sun 20-May-18 19:57:06

I have palpitations at times, and had a spell where they went on for five days. I was utterly terrified and took myself to A&E.
I think recognising that stress is a trigger (even if you don't feel stressed at the time) would be helpful to you, so I'd keep going with the cbt.
You could ask for a holter test (24hr monitor) if you feel really concerned.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Sun 20-May-18 21:13:54

Wow Mineofuselessinformation, that must have been very scary. I'm assuming they put it down to stress/anxiety?

I've gotta see the GP this week anyway to get some more blood thinners so will speak to him/her (whoever I get to see) about it.

jinxedit Mon 21-May-18 18:56:45

I so so sympathise with you.
I’m currently under investigation for palps - and funnily enough had a huge run of them last night, they were on and off every few beats for nearly an hour.
I took myself to a&E as was terrified - all came back okay and sent me home. Said if it happens again to come back, they wanted to catch them but typically we didn’t.
Awaiting cardiology appt which I’ve been told to just wait for that but I, like you, am picturing myself keeling over at any moment!
Horrid feeling flowers

WeAreGerbil Mon 21-May-18 19:01:44

I had them too, still do sometimes, they're horrible when bad, I felt like I was going to die. All tests okay though. I was told if I felt faint, dizzy or chest pain with them to be concerned.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Mon 21-May-18 22:23:12

Oh jinxedit I'm sorry, that sounds really shit and scary, it doesn't matter how reassuring A&E are it is almost impossible not to be scared. I really hope the cardio team can put your mind at rest.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Mon 21-May-18 22:26:13

Exactly WeAreGerbil - you really do feel like you're time's up. It seems quite a few of us have them. I used to cope, but recent events have sent me spiralling.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Mon 21-May-18 22:26:47

Your time's up

robotcartrainhat Mon 21-May-18 22:32:13

Its the panic and the stress that are the bigger issue for you! Like they said when you rang them up, having a fast heartbeat for short bursts will not actually harm you.
I have SVT which means my heart randomly speeds up sometimes to the extent I have to sit down because I become breathless. I have a mild form of it which means it only happens for a few mins at a time and only every so often, like once a month. Im not on any medication and no medical professional is remotely concerned about it really. Its just an electrical fault in my heart. Cant actually harm you.
Feels uncomfortable and makes me a little anxious but actually does me no physical damage at all. I know SVT is a little different to palpitations because it is not caused by anxiety and the heartbeat is regular just fast but I can relate to the fear heart stuff can cause.
Try not to worry because sadly worrying can cause your heart to speed up so its a vicious circle flowers
Really though try and tell yourself that this cannot harm you and is panic related.

(And maybe its worth looking into SVT as something it actually could be... I kept being told I was having panic attacks initially even though I knew I wasnt as it was a problem I had had since childhood)

WontBeUsingPassMyParcelAgain Mon 21-May-18 22:39:05

I sympathise with you. My dh died of a hereditary heart condition five years ago. My now ten year old ds gets lots of bouts of palpitations and dizziness. He is checked every year or two and the consultants think it is probably linked to another health condition or anxiety. However, the fear I face every time it happens (hopefully whilst being extremely calm and serene towards ds1) is hard to live with. We are human and when we have been through a traumatic event, it is natural for us to leap to conclusions. I hope you can get some support soon.

Enidblyton1 Mon 21-May-18 22:43:51

Cuppa, I want to try and put your mind at rest a little. I've had both anxiety induced palpitations (years ago, when a close relative was ill) and purely medical palpitations (which have now been largely cured with a cardiac ablation).

The anxiety palpitations were far, far worse. I was convinced I was having a heart attack - because I would also suffer from chest pains, breathlessness, headaches etc. I didn't have counselling or CBT, but some massage therapy, which helped a lot. If it happened again now, I'd definitely have CBT.

On the medical side, it sounds like you've had extensive testing on your heart, which should rule out any physical problem. But I understand why you still feel concerned - because you still have symptoms. Even though I've had a cardiac ablation, I still have a slight flutter and a small nagging doubt that the consultant hasn't spotted some extremely rare heart condition! Logically, I know that the chances of this are practically zero after all the tests I've had.

There is no harm in asking for another 36 hour monitor - in the hope you can capture a palpitation whilst wearing it. But I urge you to also seek some form of therapy to help with the anxiety.

I was amazed how many of my friends admitted suffering from chest pains/palpitations when i told them about mine. It's surprisingly common - both anxiety induced and physical.

Good luck flowers

Tumsnet Mon 21-May-18 22:54:24

Sounds a bit like Atrial fibrillation? My mother used to have this but it has settled a bit in recent years. See your GP for a cardiologist referral.

RubberJohnny Mon 21-May-18 22:54:56

Have you had your bloods taken? Specifically selenium and magnesium levels? They are both linked to anxiety and palpitations when levels are low. Most of us are lowish in these two but for some, through diet choices or limitations ( veggie / vegan etc) also the soil some of the mineral rich foods were grown in are not good so the plant will not uptake anything from the soil, they are therefore deficient in the things they are supposed to be dietary sources of so we think we are eating nutritious foods but we aren't.

I'd really get some bloods done. Too easy to think the cause is heart when it's really a nutrient deficit.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Tue 22-May-18 08:16:56

Robotcartrainhat - yes, it's a vicious cycle - just trying to adjust my response to it to try and reduce the anxiety, hopefully the therapy will help with that.

WontBeUsingPassMyParcelAgain - I'm so incredibly sorry about your DH, I can completely understand why your are so worried about your DS (we obsess about our kids health at the best of times) but I'm glad to hear that they're keeping a close eye on him and nothing has shown up so far.

Enidblyton1 - you've had a rough time with them sad Yes, there really do seem to be a lot of people who suffer from them. My husband gets them (including the occasional fluttering for a few seconds) so tries to reassure me, and some of my friends have had them.

Tumsnet - you think I have atrial fibrillation? Christ, I hope not!

Rubber - I've had tonnes of bloods taken recently but not for those, I'll ask my GP.

One thing I'm wondering is that when I had the longer fluttering I was on a different blood thinner (had to inject myself with delteparin for a few days to prepare for having my IVC filter taken out yesterday - not a pleasant experience) and one of the side effects can be an irregular heartbeat (something about potassium levels).

TheVanguardSix Tue 22-May-18 08:29:22

I've skimmed through this... well, more than skimmed (skimmed sounds so nonchalant given your serious issues).
OP, my mum had a PE years ago. I totally sympathise with the fear you are experiencing. Mum also has palpitations/AF.
Atrial fibrillation and PEs are good bedfellows. Your PE could have occurred because blood may not being pumped out of your heart correctly, thus causing it to pool and clot. I am not a GP or medically trained but given my mum's long-term problems with AF and her PE, I am thinking you should explore AF and be referred to cardiology, specifically seeing a cardiologist who specialises in electrophysiology.

My questions are: Are you currently under the care of a consultant cadiologist AND pulmonologist? You really ought to be having reviews with a cardiologist, given your history, especially because of the pulmonary embolism. This is beyond your GP's scope. Your GP can certainly monitor you and support you. But you must get plugged into cardiology (electrophysiology).

It's easy to write this off as stress and/or a nutrient deficiency. But given your history of PE, I would absolutely have this thoroughly investigated. Good luck!

TheVanguardSix Tue 22-May-18 08:31:05

BTW alcohol is most certainly a trigger. If you can cut it out entirely, this will help abundantly!

JoyTheUnicorn Tue 22-May-18 08:37:50

I get this, and it's almost certainly anxiety.
I've been on sertraline for a few months which has helped, I had propranolol before which didn't really help.
There is an anxiety forum called no more panic which I found helpful, there's a huge long thread about weird heartbeats, which was very reassuring.
I still get occasional weird feelings (the throat thing followed by adrenaline rush sounds very familiar), but I'm getting better at rationalising it and doing some breathing exercises and mindfulness to distract away from it.
Obviously if you're concerned go to your GP, but I would try some mindfulness and some sort of MH intervention.

CuppaTeaAndAJammieDodger Tue 22-May-18 09:04:44

Thanks TheVanguardSix. Yes, I believe that Afib can cause blood clots due to blood pooling in the heart. In my case the clot was as a result of major knee surgery - they actually found the original DVT (well what was left of it) behind the operated on knee. I was under the cardiopulmonary team from the Papworth (one of my consultants being the British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiopulmonary Medicine) who have signed me off after reviewing all my test results inc. multiple ECGs and an echo. I was also on 24/7 heart monitoring for 10 days straight which didn't pick anything up.

JoyTheUnicorn - I'm just starting therapy and am really hoping it helps. Mindfulness is helping me get to sleep but I will start doing more during the day to see if that helps.

Rainydaydog Tue 22-May-18 09:17:53

I get palpitations sometimes and recently i had some quite bad ones with the sort of chest pains you describe. I did go to the GP and they gave me an ECG which was normal. I was feeling quite stressed at the time and also drinking a lot of coffee. I've cut back a lot on caffeine and trying to relax and this seems to have helped a lot. I've since read that cutting out caffeine can also help with anxiety too. I'm also trying to cut out sugar
, another thing that can contribute to anxiety apparently. I'm doing that more for general health but hoping it has a positive effect on my mental health too.
In your case I can really see how your health problems have increased the worry. Hopefully reassurance from your doctors and your CBT will help you get through this.

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