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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?1323014865
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?1450025775
COMMUNITY LEADER
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,
Jerry
  

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?1323014865
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!
1 Comments
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?1231102336
hello,

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.
thanks!
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