Saturday, February 8, 2014

Depression and Racing/Palpitating Heart

Depression causes many alarming symptoms. An oversensitive nervous system, flooded with negative adrenalin, can cause missed heart beats, palpitating or racing heart, even sharp chest pains. The first time we experience one of these symptoms can be a truly terrifying experience. We may fear we are having a heart attack. The symptoms are so disturbing that we live in fear of their return, and of course, they do return, and return more frequently the more we fear them.

A ‘missed heart beat’ is alarming. It feels as though your heart stops, followed a pregnant pause, then comes a thunderous thump when the next heart beat comes. Sharp chest pains can feel like a knife in the chest. Heart palpitations such as irregular, banging or accelerated heart beats may become our daily companion, while episodes of ‘racing heart’ where the pulse suddenly accelerates beyond the norm, often accompanied by an inability to breath, are frightening as well.

Because of these symptoms, many sufferers of depression live in terror that they are going to die from a heart attack.

It is crucial if suffering from depression to see a doctor. A doctor’s medical examination will be able to ascertain if there is indeed anything wrong with our heart, or, as is normally the case for someone suffering from depression, they will confirm that these symptoms are merely the result of anxiety/depression.

However, due to our heightened state of anxiety, our fears that we will have a heart attack may not abate.

When I read “Self Help for your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weekes, I was so surprised to see all of these symptoms listed, and encouraged by her assurances that these symptoms were nothing to fear once a doctor had confirmed I was physically healthy.

I put into practise her strategy of facing the symptoms, accepting them instead of fearing or fighting them, and I learning to live with them. Amazingly, after putting these techniques into practice, over time these symptoms faded in intensity and frequency, and eventually stopped.

I recall one particular incident when I was learning to live with these symptoms. (I was still recovering from depression.) My boss had arranged for the men of our company to play a game of paintball with the staff of another company. Note that paintball is not my idea of fun - being pelted by ‘supposedly’ soft plastic balls filled with paint is extremely painful and leaves rather nasty bruises.

Nevertheless, I went to play the game and I remember doing my ‘ninja-thing’ where I infiltrated the enemy lines and used stealth to hunt down the opposing players. I was walking through a rocky area overgrown with tall grass when an episode of racing heart afflicted me. My heart rate accelerated through the roof and I found myself unable to breath. Previously, these experiences had unsettled me greatly, but now that I understood that this was just a symptom of depression that would soon pass, I knelt down and waited patiently. Within moments my heart rate returned to normal and I was able to breathe again. I stood up and went back to hunting the opposing team as though nothing had happened.

These symptoms are typical of depression, trying to trick us into believing we are on the verge of dying, when it is merely an over sensitised nervous system causing these reactions.

Let us place our complete and utter trust in God, that He is in control of our lives and that there is no need for us to fear any of depression’s symptoms.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1 (NIV)

I would also like to announce that I have completely updated the pdf booklet of this blog’s articles, now re-organised into a more logical format. The file is about 1.1 meg in size. Permission is granted to print or photocopy this booklet for personal or non-commercial use. Feel free to give a copy to anyone who may benefit from it.

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  1. This is great information, Peter, and encouraging to hear. Thank you SO much for sharing it, as usual. This is such a ministry.

  2. You have a wonderful and much needed ministry.

  3. Peter, you always supply such good information! Blessings to you dear one. Thank you!

  4. That's so interesting that you should write this. When my family was going through a very stressful time, the doctor kept telling me that my heart issues were solely stress related. I didn't believe him for a very long time - until every test known to man ruled everything else out. This blog is so true - whether it's depression or anxiety or fear.

  5. The Lord confirmed some things to me through this. Last week I felt my heart racing as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. It was due to anger & fear. You know about my trial. I asked God to help me trust Him and I calmed down. Today the sermon at church was on forgiveness and I went up for prayer. Pastor commented that unforgiveness leads to heart trouble. Oh, to trust God completely and not entertain negative thoughts, you know? I'm working on this.

    Bless you,

  6. I just learned a lot here, thank you! I'll be you have learned and developed amazing emotional and mental control.

    And I did like your story about the paint-ball fight. Did you get some of the guys while you were 'behind enemy lines'?

  7. Wow, I had no idea! I've had my heart checked out because of these very symptoms, and I was puzzled and discouraged when the results were all normal. I was never told they were a symptom of depression. Thanks, Peter.

  8. Hello,

    My name is Cesar and I have been fighting depression and anxiety for the past three years.
    By the grace of God I do feel much better than three years ago, but I still struggle with unability to multi-task and concentrate. Sometimes I suffer from palpitations.

    Please keep me in your prayers.

    my e-mail is:

  9. Diet green tea made my heart beat raise because I had depression! did any one feel that before?

  10. I'm going through a major depression at the moment and have had palpitations for 3 days. I had an ECG at my GP's which showed a normal reading. It's really getting me down. Barely functioning.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      If the ECG and doctor's checkup have revealed you to be in normal health, then what is happening to you is simply a symptom of depression. Depression causes all sorts of strange physical, mental and emotion side effects, such as heart palpitations, missed heart beats, racing heart, etc. None of them can harm us. The most important thing is not to fear them or fight them. Have a look at these aticles:

      How depression/anxiety causes its symptoms

      Facing depressions symptoms instead of fearing them

      Breaking depression's fear cycle.

      Can you please download the book on this blog, and read the first ten articles or so? They will explain how depression works, the symptoms it can cause, and how we can change the way we respond to them, so that we can learn to cope with depression, and then recover from it.

      Free booklet on depression

      Hang in there, you can overcome this and return to a normal life again, free from fear and anxiety.

      God bless