May 09, 2024

Can Anxiety Cause Abnormal EKG?

EKG Reading on Monitor

Many people experience anxiety, either as a temporary condition or an ongoing disorder. If you’ve been affected by it, you know the symptoms, which can include rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, tense muscles, and digestive issues.

Anxiety can also affect your heart rate and rhythm. Consequently, people scheduled for an electrocardiogram (abbreviated as ECG or EKG) sometimes ask, “Can anxiety cause an abnormal EKG?”

This article answers that question.

How Anxiety Affects the Heart

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. However, many people report symptoms related to their heart. Changes in heart rate, rhythm, and sensations can include:

  • Fluttering sensation. You may feel like your heart is twitching or fluttering as if there’s a butterfly in your chest.
  • Pounding. It may seem like your heart is beating with extra force. Some people report feeling or hearing their heartbeat in their ears.
  • Irregular heartbeats. Anxiety can cause the sensation that your heart is skipping or adding beats, slowing down, speeding up, or having odd pauses.

People who experience anxiety may be understandably concerned that these perceived changes in heart function may skew their EKG. Then, that concern can increase their anxiety, feeding into a vicious cycle in the days or hours before their procedure.

Anxiety and EKG Results

Some forms of anxiety, like panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), can affect the electrical activity in the heart. Minor temporary increases in stress and anxiety during an EKG may or may not affect the heart. In many instances, the unusual sensations a person feels don’t translate into changes captured by the test.

How to Approach an EKG if You Expect to Be Anxious

It’s helpful to know that healthcare professionals, generally, and heart specialists in particular, understand that anxiety can affect a person’s vital signs or EKG results. Still, it’s a good idea to tell your doctor that you have (or believe you have) GAD or expect to be anxious during your procedure. They’ll note that so that your results are viewed from that perspective.

Telling your doctor about odd heart-related sensations is also crucial since they could be caused by something other than anxiety. Conditions affecting the heart include atrial fibrillation (AFib), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), heart valve problems, and others. If you have one of these issues, it’s vital that your doctor diagnose and address it.

How to Reduce Anxiety Symptoms

Whether or not anxiety affects your EKG results, many people find it unpleasant to be stressed before or during a procedure. You may be able to reduce or eliminate your symptoms as you prepare for and undergo your EKG using techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and mindfulness.

Simply focusing on a particular practice means you’re spending less time worrying about your test results, which is a helpful step in the right direction.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Anxiety and Electrocardiograms

Anxiety disorder or temporary anxiety can potentially affect EKG results. However, you can take much of the stress out of the situation by discussing it with your doctor and practicing relaxation techniques before and during your procedure.

Talk with your physician about your anxiety. If you don’t have a Baptist Health physician, you can use our online provider directory to find one. Find a doctor today.

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