Similarities, differences, and links between AFib and anxiety attacks
So many common symptoms of atrial fibrillation resemble classic anxiety symptoms that characterize panic attacks: heart palpitations, chest pain, muscle tension, and sweaty palms that come with an adrenaline rush are good examples.
Luckily, these symptoms are generally short-lived, whether it’s an AFib episode or a panic attack. However, in order to treat your body properly and sidestep potential complications down the road, it’s important to distinguish the two conditions.
Looking out for the telltale signs
AFib is notoriously tricky to diagnose on your own, but there are some signs that can help you tell panic attacks and AFib episodes apart. It’s important to keep in mind that the two syndromes stem from different sources: AFib is an electrical disorder that sends a mess of signals through the chambers of the heart, but a panic attack typically won’t have a physical cause. Rather, it’s triggered by events in your environment, stressful situations, or sometimes happens for no apparent reason at all.
Here are a few markers that can help you tell the conditions apart:
Rate of decline. Pay attention to the rate of building and declining symptoms. Since AFib is triggered by a sudden physical event (overactive electrical signals), AFib episodes typically hit suddenly. When the episode subsides, so will the symptoms, but the cycle tends to repeat until treatment is administered. With a panic attack, heart rate can start to creep up as other discomforts manifest, and after the attack hits a peak, heart rate will gradually return to normal as the other symptoms dissipate.
Nature of the heartbeat. The pattern or rhythm of a heart beat can also tell you what’s going on: a panic attack typically brings a constant rapid heart rate, while AFib causes an erratic heart rate. If your heart seems to be skipping beats, or speeding up then slowing down and speeding up again, it’s more likely that AFib is to blame.