Are fears permanent or temporary

Heartache: Movement is a step towards healing

Status: May 7th, 2020 5:41 pm

Every stitch in the chest, every stumbling of the heartbeat leads to trepidation and sweat, sudden pressure in the chest can trigger a panic attack: an estimated 100,000 people in Germany suffer from a heart neurosis, also known as anxiety, heart phobia or cardiophobia. They are worried that their heart is life-threateningly ill and suddenly leaves them in the lurch: a true fear of death from which those affected often increasingly withdraw from everyday activities - to the point of social isolation. It mainly affects people over 40 years of age, more often men than women.

Heart neurosis has psychological causes

The heart neurosis belongs to the anxiety disorders, i.e. the mental illnesses. Physically everything can be fine. Sometimes heart anxiety is the result of a triggering event - whether it is a harmless attack of dizziness or a heart attack, whether it has been experienced personally or in close family / friends. Unresolved conflicts - present as well as unresolved ones from childhood - have a beneficial effect. Parasitic sensations in the heart as well as reports from the media or from acquaintances about cardiovascular problems can then trigger various symptoms of heart disease.

Physical symptoms and anxiety lead into a vicious circle

The organism reacts to fear - automatically and unconsciously - with a typical stress reaction: messenger substances are activated that put the body on alert and produce physical symptoms such as dizziness, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors or sweating ("sweat of fear"). Fear of cardiac arrest or heart attack can make blood pressure rise or fall. In this context, doctors speak of a functional disorder of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Physical symptoms and the fear reaction to them rock each other up in heart phobics - a vicious circle.

Panic and "fear of fear"

Since cardiac phobics live in a kind of permanent alarm state, small things are often enough for them (a loud noise, nervous stress, a small infection) to stir up the cycle of fear: physical symptoms such as increased pulse, resulting in cardiac anxiety, resulting in strengthening Cardiovascular symptoms - up to and including panic attacks.

Symptoms of heart anxiety can be very serious

The thoughts of those affected regularly, if not constantly, revolve around their own heart activity. They keep listening to themselves, measuring their pulse or blood pressure. Supposedly perceived irregularities such as a brief queasy feeling lead to a fear reaction. Possible symptoms are

  • Palpitations / greatly increased pulse
  • Heart pounding
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (stumbling, dropping out)
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • Sweating, sweating
  • Fear of death
  • increased blood pressure
  • Tremble
  • Shortness of breath, hyperventilation
  • Chest tightness - chest pain that may spread to the left arm or back, lower jaw, or stomach.

It is significant that the symptoms often subside in the presence of a family doctor or internist.

Avoidance behavior and social isolation as a result

Out of their fear, those affected develop pronounced avoidance behavior "to protect the heart". They avoid physical exertion and check all activities to see if they could be dangerous to the heart. This usually restricts them more and more in everyday life. If possible, they no longer find themselves in situations in which there is no doctor nearby or in which they have ever had heart problems. For example, sports, excursions or travel seem almost impossible - unless immediate medical care is available on site.

Diagnosis by excluding organic causes

People with heart anxiety are usually more likely to see a doctor, but usually no organic causes of heart disease are found. There may be slight changes in blood pressure and / or pulse.

Heart anxiety can be diagnosed when symptoms of heart disease are present and no physical cause can be determined. After a detailed discussion of the anamnesis and examinations (resting ECG, stress ECG, possibly others such as ultrasound, cardiac catheter), the cardiologist or internist will make a diagnosis of exclusion.

Therapy of cardiac neurosis

In acute cases, the mere presence of a doctor can usually help calm you down.

Long-term psychological or psychiatric care is often necessary to get the symptoms under control. Admitting this to oneself is not easy for many of those affected. They feel misunderstood and labeled as hypochondriac, which can be an additional burden. Time and empathetic conversations are an important factor in treatment.

AUDIO: Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson (17 min)

Learn relaxation techniques

A first step towards improvement is often learning relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training. In this way, those affected can lower their general stress level and alleviate heart neurosis symptoms such as palpitations themselves.

Movement and psychotherapy for heart anxiety

In psychotherapy, heart phobics learn that the symptoms that occur are not imaginary, but are usually harmless and not organic. Cognitive behavioral therapy with movement therapeutic content is often helpful. The aim is to regain trust in your own heart. Those affected find out through medically supervised exercises that their heart can cope with physical exertion very well.

Sport strengthens confidence in your own body

Because rest and immobility are the real danger to the heart: permanent physical passivity increases the cardiovascular risk considerably. In this respect, returning to normal everyday life with light sports such as cycling, walking or swimming is vital.

Sport strengthens vitality and confidence in your own body. According to studies, exercise acts like a natural beta blocker, reduces stress and anxiety, and provides more mental stability. A guided, safe entry for those affected into a more active everyday life can, for example, also take place in the protected setting of a cardiac sports group.

Medication for heart anxiety

Experts take a critical view of drugs in cardiac neurosis therapy. If the symptoms are very pronounced, beta blockers can provide temporary relief. Due to the side effects, they are not suitable in the long term, nor are sedatives (tranquilizers) and antidepressants.

Ultimately, the only lasting help for those affected is to walk the path of fear with expert support and to regain trust in yourself and your heart.

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The Movement Docs | 05/11/2020 | 9:00 p.m.