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Avatar universal

Strange "drop" feeling in chest

Hi. I have a fairly involved question, so please bear with me. I was recently diagnosed as having panic attacks by my primary care physician. I am 24, recently returned to college. Before I went to school, I had none of the problems I am about to describe.

My feelings of being weirded out first started when my left arm and hand started going numb. Doctor said it was due to neck spasms. Next, different things started to pop up. I definitely have panic attacks (periods of racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, tightness in my chest, nausea, etc) but I also have a strange feeling in my chest 95% of the day. It feels sort of hollow all the time, and every two minutes or so I will have a feeling like a "drop" or almost like a shock in my chest. I have had PVCs (all the time) for at least 5 years, and it almost feels like a more severe one of these. When I'm having this problem, I also have difficulty swallowing and can sort of feel the swallow going all the way down. The drop feeling is worse when I bend over or crouch down.

I went to the cardiologist last week and he did an echo and said I have a perfectly normal heart. He prescribed alprazolam for the panic attacks. What I can't make anyone understand is that even when I'm not having an "attack" I still feel icky inside. I take my pulse a thousand times a day and it varies from 58-85 when at rest, depending on the time of day. Also, I wake up in the middle of the night feeling like my heart is barely beating (super slow) and I can't breathe.

I have been experiencing terrible insomnia, mostly due to the fact that I am terrified I'm dying. There are sometimes periods of days with no sleep whatsoever (it's 4am as I type this!). My main concern is that I could have a heart condition that would not be easily identified just with the echo. I haven't passed out or had trouble exerting myself or anything, but when I feel this way I don't want to do anything but be perfectly still and I can't stop thinking about it.

It also seems to perhaps be connected to food. I used to love eating and look forward to it and my family really based a lot of our good times around meals, but now food sickens me. When I'm hungry I get the "drop" feeling, then I think if I eat it will go away, but it doens't and sometimes actually worsens. Then I think perhaps I need to use the bathroom, and I either will go and be sick to my stomach or not be able to go. I have never had problems with my bathroom habits before, but haven't been "regular" in over a month now.

I want so much for this just to be anxiety and for it to go away naturally. People tell me to think of something else and it's just my "panic attacks" but when you have physical symptoms that are very bothersome and constant, it's hard to just turn it on and off. Please let me know if there is anything else this sounds like, or if I should just trust my cardiologist and take my xanax and try to find some counseling.

PS - Additional info about the alprazolam. It's only .25 mg, and I've taken it twice. The first time it didn't seem to do much. It definitely calmed me, but didn't help with the hollow chest/drop feeling. Tonight I took it and actually experienced some relief. I was able to go out with friends and be very productive. However, once I went to sleep I kept waking up and my heart rate was very low. I don't know if this is because of the xanax, but it was very scary and has kept me awake.

I'm sorry to post all this, but I have been to the doctor multiple times and they are very helpful but I never leave fully satisfied. I'm really scared and this is interfering with my school work and social life severely.
66 Responses
221122 tn?1323011265
HI there.  First, let me say I am sorry that you are going through such a rough time.  Of course, doctors CAN miss things, however, at this point it will be up to you to do what you need to do to get better.  I have been through HORRIBLE symptoms that no one else had and definitely thought I was dying.  Your mind can convince your body to do whatever it wants and that is a fact.  When I was in my twenties, and used to read medical books before the internet, I was reading about meningitis and as I read the symptoms, I started getting them.  I felt everything and was convinced I had it.  I didn't.  This has happened a lot over the years.  Anxiety can cause the weirdest symptoms and it is very hard to ignore them.  Sometimes a physical symptom starts the whole vicious cycle.  

I don't know what tests your doctor did, but if you want a second opinion and need to go to a cardiologist, that might help.  It will, at the very least, almost convince you you are okay.  Once that happens the battle begins.  You can always come to this board for support. Most of us ended up with anxiety due to our heart malfunctions or other various disorders.  I am a nurse with a good job and most people have NO idea the battles that go on in my mind daily.  I have tons of co-morbidities, as well.  I'm still here!  Good luck.
Avatar universal

If your doc didn't give you a Holter monitor to wear 24 hours, you didn't really get a proper exam.

Heart arrhythmias definitely cause anxiety, but it's not certain whether anxiety causes heart arrhythmias. So don't go blaming yourself.

It may turn out to be unrelated to the heart, but to the stomach or even lungs. If your heart comes up clean, see another doc until the unusual  symptoms are resolved. If everything comes up clean, find an alternative to the Xanax. It's a wonderful short term remedy, but long term it only makes matters worse.

Best of luck,,,
612551 tn?1450022175
Sorry to read you're having such a hard time, but do observe you write well, especially considering you stress and the hour of the morning you say you are making your post   4 am.   This is a good "sign" in my mind.

When you say you feel hollow, I think that can be caused by your breathing, or not breathing, i.e., taking shallow breaths.  Try to take slow deep breaths, not hyperventilation type breathing, just deep breathing.  This can help too with stress/anxiety, but I suppose you must know that, but be sure you do it.  I think it helps a lot.

Give your medications time to work, some take days, even weeks to start to give the desired effect.  I think this is especially true of medications for depression/anxiety.  I am not an expert as I don't take any of these medication, but others in my immediate family do and I know some have had a two week, or there about, wait interval before any affect was felt.

I agree with the more in depth cardio-testing, but your problems sound to me to be strongly affected by your emotional state.  Keep taking your medications.

Finally, this post, you use the handle "appstudent", do you want to share what the "app" stands for?  Just trying to get to know you better.

A friend "pulling" for you,

Avatar universal
Hi-I am also a nurse and have struggled for years with "some sort of heart problem" that doctors told me it was just anxiety. They did an echo, a couple halter monitors and several EKG's. Nothing, fine, perfect nothing wrong. Well guess what, I struggled for 11 years with this. I experienced a racing heart and I KNEW something was wrong. After becoming a nurse I started talking to another nurse who had the same symptoms as me. She recommended her cardiologist. The cardiologist believed me and devoted herself to finding out what was wrong. She repeated all the same tests as before and came up empty handed. We decided to do the medtronic reveal and had the cardiac device implanted in my chest and I could record when I felt the symptoms. It turned out I had AVNRT and I just finally had an ablation a little over a week ago. I've felt great ever since! Hang in there and don't give up!
221122 tn?1323011265
Just a little side note.   Medications work differently for different people.  This is just the way it is.  I have been on a low dose of Xanax for 21 years and it helps me tremendously.  Also, something to consider, if a doc puts you on an anti-depressant instead, and you're trying to get insurance, they consider you higher risk.  This is awful, because I have been tried on SSRIs and the like for fibromyalgia.  Thank goodness none worked or I would be struggling right now to get coverage.  For some reason, no one cares about Xanax......yay me!
Hi RNRita.  It's been a LONG time.  So I have Xanax and that is the only thing that works for me.  The SSRI's made me feel even worse.  Thanks for the post about being on it for so long because I wasn't sure what I was going to do for my Panic long term.  You haven't had any issues being on it for such a long period of time?
Avatar universal
Thank you all for your responses. It means so much that you would just take time out of your day to try and help out a freaked out college student! (Appalachian State in NC, which is why the handle is appstudent.)

An update on my condition: I went to the ER this morning after waking up multiple times with the hollow feeling in my chest and trouble breathing. They did an EKG, chest x-ray, and blood tests. The  D-dimer (which apparently indicates clotting or something, best I could understand) test came back at 240, so they then did a CT scan to rule out pulmonary embolism. Talk about a panic attack! Everything looked ok on the EKG, x-ray, and CT, though. The ER doc actually suggested anti-depressants to avoid the full-time anxiety I seem to be experiencing. I do have a follow-up with a pulmonary doctor next week, though, so I'd like to get his opinions before going forward with treatment.

But thanks again for all the help and encouragement. If you have anymore comments, please feel free to tell me anything. I appreciate the opinions and expertise.
Avatar universal
I am going through the same thing. ALMOST WORD FOR WORD. I am 25. I have been cleared by cardiologist. Still going for more tests. I think the drop in chest feeling is related to stomach problems.
Avatar universal
So i know EXACTLY what your talking about. Except i would always describe it as "heart hiccups" when it first started. I was terrified when it first began two years ago. My head would swim, and my fingers and toes would tingle. Very unpleasant. It all started when i was 16, after my very first great big panic attack (hooray) the palplatations started and i was sure i was dying. I went throught the heart monitors and blah blah blah, but it never went away. It was all day every day. In the ER you could even see on the little monitor when my heart would do it too. But it truly is stress, at least in my case and possibly yours. After about a year they went away until recently my mom was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and what do ya know? They're back lol But the amazing part is this, and i hope it works for you. I did this breathing excersise just ONE time and got it under control. Breath in 8 seconds hold for 3 and out 8 seconds. And during that focus on one paticular muscel in ur body at a time and tensing it and untensing it and then moving to another. If what ur experiencing is the same as me, this should work wonders. I still struggle very hard with my panic attacks, but having the heart thing under control makes it a bit easier.
Avatar universal
I also forgot. The part about waking up in the middle of the night with ur heart barely beating. I do this at least 3 times a week. I sympathize very much because it is very scary when that happens. I will just bolt stright awake middle of the night absolutly sure that either i wasnt breathing, or that my heart is stopping. It makes bed time a very miserable thing. I usually have to do things right before bed to make myself exhausted enought to not care enough to worry. its almost one  am for me as it is and i know im not even close to being comfortable enough to sleep. When my mom stays in the hospital because of the cancer, and i stay with her, is the only time i get a peaceful sleep. Which sounds awful i know, but its true.
Avatar universal
I just googled 'heart dropping feeling' and came up to this post - man that is exactly what I get a few times a week!  I have had situational panic attacks for about 7 years now (I am 27) and was prescribed propranolol by my doc (I also have pre-hypertension thanks to genetics, so my blood pressure can be high). The propranolol (a beta-blocker) works wonders for preventing attacks, or lessening the attacks when they happen - it works wonders for me!  They have actually been researching it for PTSD in veterans.  Since taking it when i have attacks, or when I think they are coming on, I have gone from having the exact same symptoms you were talking about (waking up all night, etc), to rarely needing it - the fear of having a panic attack can bring one on, and knowing that you physically can't have one is a huge help!  I still get mini-attacks though, such as today, which only last for a few mins (and I get that heart-dropping feeling).  I am wondering if I should be going on something full time or not - but it helps knowing that others have similar issues!
503418 tn?1231098736

i've been having several things going on myself.

from palpitations to racing heart to the heart drop feeling to insomnia to shortness of breath plus many many more. the most worrying though is my chest pains which come in all sort of places but mostly on my left side. i've been doing cbt for 2 months and
my psychiatrist thinks it's anxiety .

nice to know others go through the same.

hope you feel better
Avatar universal
Has anyone got diagnosed of these symptoms to be related to stomach problems. If so what kind of stomach problems cause these feelings? I go through these problems now and then, once a month and sometimes few times a week. It seems to be so random. I am trying to observe the food, environment to isolate what makes it to come back more frequently.
Avatar universal

AMazing...i googled "feeling your heart drop" and it led me here. What is crazy is that in 2007, when i was 23, I was diagnosed with anxiety too. It all started with my left hand going numb in the middle of the night (every night) for a couple of months...next thing you know I was having anxiety attacks and feelings of "dying". My doctor prescribed me an anti depressant too..which i took for only a week before discovering I was pregnant. Which was perfect because the meds the doc prescribed, "Lexapro", were making me feel "dead". Very different from feeling like I was going to die...the dead feeling was more of a suicidal feeling...i felt so dead inside, I wanted to die, sort of thing. SO once I found out i was pregnant, I no longer took those meds. The next part of my story may be hard to believe for some... but never the less it happened... I prayed to God to make my anxiety go away. ANd it did. I never suffered another anxiety attack after I trusted God to take it away. I was the happiest person alive..until recently (3 years later). I have been having a tingly feeling in my chest and have felt my heart drop a couple times (for no apparent reason) I can be sitting down perfectly still doing absolutely nothing and thinking of absolutely nothing nerve wrecking and my heart will all of a sudden drop. So I am concerned again. But I think I will pray about it...it took for me to write this and read it to myself to realize the solution has always been with me : ) If this has anything to do with anxiety I know how to handle it.

But i am happy to know (as horrible as it may sound) that there are many others as crazy as me..or not so crazy haha...Remember that prayer can be very healing
Avatar universal
Let me first start this by saying how sorry I'm that at such young age you all have to go through this. I too have had my share of the same issues as you all have described for so many years. After so many tests on my heart such as EKG (at least 50 times, yes 50 times) echocardiogram (at least 5 times), holter monitor (at least six or seven times), thallium test and even an angiogram at age of 34 and after all these test, just about every single cardiologist came up empty handed as what was wrong with me. They all reverted to one thing as you all explained here and that was panic attack!! Guess what, it was not a panic attack! After visiting the emergency room so many times, I was finally told by an ER Doctor that I needed to see a specialist about acid reflux. After visiting a gastroenterologist several times and three different tests I was diagnosed with enlarged esophagus. What this meant was that my esophagus (the top of my stomach) had been widened and could no longer hold the acid in my stomach in place. Every time I felt the same symptoms as you all been describing (my heart dropping), it was due to the acid rushing up in my esophagus and coming back down. PLEASE BE AWARE, This is not a life threatening illness in any shape or form; however, if it is kept untreated, the acid in the stomach could damage the esophagus and eventually could turn into cancerous area. This why it is essential to fix the problem rather than taking tranquilizers to calm you down. Most doctors try to mask the problem by prescribing anti-depressant or tranquilizers to calm you down, but believe me, 99.9% of the time the issue is stomach and not heart. I too took at least five years anti-depressants (Laxepro and prozac and Lorazapam.. sorry for incorrect spelling) and they only masked my problems. Stop taking those medication and call your doctor to get a referral to a gastroenterologist and you’ll see how easy it is to fix this problem. There are two ways to deal with this issue once you are diagnosed. If you are overweight, you can lose some weight and that could resolve the problem or you may have to get a microsurgery done to help bringing the opening of your esophagus back to normal range. If you contact your doctor, I’m sure he/she will be able to explain this better.


Avatar universal
I had the same exact thing!  Couldn't sleep, heart dropping, waking up gasping for air....it was horrible and lasted for months and months.  I went to the dr. and she did some tests, gave me diazepam and said that its either anxiety or thyroid, and another dr. also said anxiety.  The xanax didn't do anything for me, I knew it wasn't anxiety, because #1 if it was, the xanax would've worked, and 2  there was nothing for me to be anxious over except what was wrong with me.  The tests came back that I was hypothyroid, so she prescribed me a very very low dose of synthroid, and told me to make an appointment with an endocrinologist to further diagnose.

The synthroid didn't help my sleep or heart dropping feeling, and I couldn't get into an endocrinologist for months.   So finally I decided to force myself to exersize, thinking if it was anxiety working out would make me feel better.  Well after 4 days of doing one hour videos at home, I got very sick!  I woke up one morning and my heart was going so fast that I told my mom to bring me to the ER.  I ended up there for a week.  Turns out I was extremely hypothyroid, and not on enough medicine at the time, so my excersizing while in that condition caused me to get rhabdomylosis, which is severe dehydration and when your muscles waste away and the potassium is too much for your body to handle.

The hospital also did all kinds of other tests just in case and my heart was perfectly fine as well as everything else.  They upped my dose of thyroid and prescribed me sleeping pills.  I am finally off the sleeping pills, I sleep fine and I do not wake up gasping for air anymore.  Once in a great while I feel a little drop in my heart but I think its because Im slowly increasing my dose of thyroid, they don't give you a large dose right away because your body and heart has to get used to it.

Anyway, just thought this might help someone.  I was going crazy not knowing what was wrong, and for a while was thinking maybe they were right and it was anxiety, but Don't let them tell you that if you have a feeling it might be something else!Be persistent!Sometimes I think Dr.'s take the easy way out when they don't know!  

Avatar universal
I thought I was ALONE. I too am going through the same feelings.
This started 1 month ago. I am 56 Years old. First time was after a minor confrontation with my boss (and I do mean minor). It felt like I ran out of air and had to consciously remember to breathe. I have to take ambien to sleep nightly. I am constantly checking my pulse. I take avodart & flowmax.
Any suggestions? Is there a name for this condition? Are there meds out there?
Avatar universal
Oh wow, this is crazy. I searched yahoo and found this post. I thought I was the only one in the world experiencing this. I'm a college student too, although I just turned 31. I'm at the end of my teaching program, and it's very stressful. I've been experiencing the heart dropping feeling and the waking up at night for a few months now. I thought I was dying, seriously.
I also have high blood pressure, which makes my anxiety worse, because I feel like I'm always on the verge of death, even though it's under control. I had debilitating anxiety about 3 years ago and went though therapy to help me leave the house again and drive. It only lasted a few months, but it was the worst time of my life. I felt wonderful for about 1 year, and then it's started to creep back. I'm not nearly as bad, but my fear of death and thinking that I'm about to die, or that when I go to sleep at night I'm sure I'm going to never wake up and never see my daughter again, is almost constant. I'm not on meds, and I'm afraid to go on meds. I have a huge fear of allergies, and I think I would feel worse. The only added symptom I have is that my face gets very hot and red, which is a symptom I get when i'm having an allergic reaction, but I know it's from the anxiety.
I wish there was some way I could cure this. My mind is constantly racing. At least lately I've been in control of my dizzy episodes. Those were very severe and part of the reason why i didn't leave the house or drive for a while. I've had countless heart tests and everyone tells me my heart is very healthy. I just need to get that into my head...
Thank you, and everyone else for posting this. Knowing that I'm not the only one makes me feel better.
Avatar universal
im 39 and having the same exact problems. after going to the er and md several times ive been diag with anxiety, stomach ulcers, and acid reflux. i thought i was crazy with this dropping feeling in my chest. no meds seem to help. added to your symptoms i have the feeling something is stuck in my throat and it seems hard to swallow. it happens more so at night, but can happen all day. thnx so much for all the info !!!!!  i feel better just knowing im not alone...
Avatar universal
I am 21 and have exactly these symptoms. After having every test going for my heart I was diagnosed with anxiety and given citalopram but on the advise on my uncle, who is a chemist, didnt take them and just doo an hour of exercise everyday. It has helped with my panic attacks but the "hollow heart beat" i get has not gone away. I may well try to see an endocrinologist to see if hypothyroidism could be it as my dad has been on thyroxin most of his life. I am studying biology at university so spend everyday looking at horrible diseases and find it very easy to convince myself im dying especially in an attack where that is all you can think about. really glad i found this post though to know a lot of people suffer these symptoms, and we are all still here :-)
Avatar universal
hey, great to read this thread, i feel the same way as others have stated above and also this is very informative. I started having panic attacks around 21 years old and pretty much had them under raps unless something worth panicing happened. Although sometimes I feel strange or irregular heart beating due to anxiety or whatever its really gotten outta control recently, long story short my girlfriend fell asleep ontop of me and i was asleep aswell i woke up suddenly with my heart pounding and i freaked out lol, next thing you know i had a anxiety attack and ive been struggling with anxiety attacks off and on now for the last couple months, i dunno if its in my head or what sometimes ill be sitting doing nothing not anxious or anything just reading or whatever and ill get that heart "drop" feeling as if my heart takes a really big BEAT, its wierd but also i have noticed an increased heart rate and all this combined im looking into getting the holter monitor for 48 hours i hope, i also have bad vascular blood flow so that makes it worse for me when the anxiety hits i think all this crazy **** and its just terrible, also im living abroad and emergency services suck in the third world and that scares the **** out of me, if i didnt have my girl friend to calm me down and help me god knows id be on the first flight the **** outta here, but anyway glad to hear about others and the information and experiences was great to read, sorry my grammar is so bad i just write to quick and dont care. anyway good luck to all of you, i DEFINATelY feel your pain take care guys
Avatar universal
Hi. i read your article with great interest as a very similar thing happened to me while i was in my early twenties. it began after i started  a decorating business. After a few months of stressing about contracts, clients etc. One night after going to bed early going through the books i experienced a numbness in my left arm then a tight feeling across my chest i found it hard to breathe and was terrified i was having a heart attack, i crawled down the stairs (too scared to walk in case i overtaxed my heart) which by the way was fine untill this moment. after being checked at the local hospitals cardio unit i was told there was nothing wrong with me..Well that was like a red rag to a bull because i was the one who had experienced all those things and it didn't feel like nothing to me. So i went to my doctor the next day for a second opinion, he told me the same thing. I then went to various private doctors and ended up at the nation heart unit athe the london hospital wired up and running on a treadmill while several prominant heart specialists monitored my progress..The end result was the same. Nothing wrong with my heart..I was still experiencing  chest tightness and sometimes real pain which radiated down my left arm, i read every article there was ever written about heart problems and was convinced i was going to die suddenly of a heart attack. This went on for a few years in which time i lost my business, sanity and life as i knew it, this problem completely took over my life. I ened up seeing a shrink who gave me ativan, anafranil, valium and librium drugs at various times to try and control the panic.after five years of living like this i remember the turning point when one evening i was alone at home and  the pain and tightness started in my chest again. i "thought christ not again" i was so tired of this that i decided that i would either die or get better i cried as i banged my fist against my chest  trying to incite my heart to stop beating, it seems madness now to write these words but i do so to try and help you and anyone else who is having these problems. needless to say i didn't die so  i decided it was time to get well and beat this thing which was panic attacks, it's amazing just what the mind can do to your health if you let it get a hold of you.  I threw all the drugs down the loo, which i wouldn't reccomend as i went nuts, lost my memory temporarily and ended up on the streets as a tramp, about a month later a friend of mine found me and took me in, she nursed me back to health even spoon feeding me because my hands shook so much..after  that i started karate training which was very hard but i knew deep inside me that if my heart can stand the rigours of training this hard there CAN be nothing wrong with my heart,. So it proved. i'm now 58 and still very fit. So to recap. trust your doctors advise, eat sensible stop smoking and excercise, in time your fears will subside as you get healthier in mind and body. One last thing, the panic attacks will sometimes come back but they quickly dissapear when your mind , which is stronger and more focussed refuses to acknowlede them. They feed off fear so dont be afraid.. i hope this has helped someone out there> good luck. james
I’ll get random lo blood pressure 90/41 with bpm between 45-111
This all started after my 4 year hard alcohol binge. One night snsudden sharp, fast, 1 second long electric shock type feeling in my heart. Made me jump. Toss remote. Run to grab cayenne to help blood flow, hands shaking etc...since then this drop feeling. Random times. Especially rolling in bed fast.
Avatar universal
Hi This is exactly what I did. I visited the Gastro and he did an endoscopy and said there is nothing to worry. He prescribed some medicines for a 45 days. Didnt help much but for sure I have reduced weight and am feeling better. Surprisingly I have developed some neck pain and when I read about the spondylosis symptoms it says false angina attacks also come some times and has a feeling of hollowness.

I am visiting my gastro once again and will see whats up next. I am also trying to think positive always and keep myself busy to avoid those bad thoughts.
Avatar universal
I just randomly saw this when looking something up on google, but what you are describing is exactly what I had and still sometimes have. I am 20 and since I was 16 ish I have had terrible anxiety. I am 100% sure its anxiety. I would have the worst panic attacks then be completely fine and get what you are getting. I would think I was having heart problems. My dads a doctor and told me I was perfectly fine. After getting on zoloft I still had them from time to time but the major part of getting them to decrease was just simply saying to myself "I am having anxiety, there is nothing wrong with me, there is no reason for me to feel this way" because when I did not think that to myself I would panic so much that I could not even drive for awhile.  You really have to just come to terms with the fact that your heart is okay and that you do have anxiety that can be overcome even if it doesnt seem like it at the time. believe me its hard to get past the thinking you are sick or dying. I even wake up in the middle of the night where my heart seems like its beating slow it still scares me and I dont really talk about it much but I know for sure you have bad anxiety
Avatar universal
Hi,  I know it's after long time, please reply... I am having almost symptoms from last 1 year, none of the tests giving any results... Please let me know if anything helped you and how are you doing now ?
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