Mitral Valve Prolapse And Panic Attacks?

Janice has a question about mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks.

She writes to me, “Hi Adam – I’m curious to know if you’ve come across patients that have panic attacks and mitral valve prolapse? I’ve looked up the symptoms of mitral valve prolapse and I don’t see “panic attack” listed there, just anxiety. The reason I ask is my 59-year old husband was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe mitral regurgitation and I’ve noticed a very unusual, very anxious side to him lately. Is there any connection between this valve disease and panic attacks? Thanks, Janice”

Panic Attack From Mitral Valve Prolapse

So you know, Janice isn’t alone. I receive this question every once-and-a-while from patients and caregivers. Initially, my research did not suggest a direct connection between mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks. However, during the past few years more research about this co-occurrence has forced some members of the  medical community to take a position on this condition.

In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) has announced that it recognizes a connection between panic attacks and mitral valve prolapse. However, the AHA does not distinctly describe or fully understand the connection. According to the AHA, researchers suggest this heart valve problem can cause a dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system.

The more I researched the topic of mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks, the more I learned this topic is debated. Recently, The Journal of the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry, released a study which suggests that published results are insufficient to definitely establish or to exclude an association between MVP and panic disorder. If any relationship does actually exist, it could be said to be infrequent and mainly occur in subjects with minor variants of mitral valve prolapse.

Ultimately, this debate has caused many to consider an alternative connection between mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks. That connection is that mitral valve prolapse can cause heart palpitations. In turn, exaggerated palpitations can trigger a patient belief that, “Oh my god!!! My heart is about to jump outside of my chest!!! I must be having a panic attack!!!” To some extent, this alternative theory suggests that panic attacks are related to mitral valve prolapse but are not the sole cause of a panic attack.

Needless to say, a direct clinical connection between mitral valve prolapse and panic attacks seems rather obscure. Going forward, I’ll keep a look-out for more information about this topic.

Do you have anything to add specific to Janice’s question? If so, please leave a comment by clicking here.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

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  • Leslie

    Hi Adam and Janice
    Oh BOY! I could talk about this one all day. There is a very big connection between anxiety, panic disorder and mitral valve prolapse. I would like to see much more research done on this one. I also think panic disorder runs in families. My mother began to suffer from this when she went into menopause and it hit me in my thirties. I was diagnosed with MVP at age 35 (I always had a “murmur) and of course, just last year I had open heart mitral valve repair surgery. At the same time they found ASD (atrial septal defect, a hole in the heart) and fixed that. There is no question that I had more than my share of adrenaline coursing through my body and despite the fact that we were told it is all mental…IT IS NOT! How you deal with it is important and you can learn how to accept and calm your panic and anxiety…I suffered terribly in my thirties and even forties from this but through reading (many great books) and practicing was able to overcome it. Stlil, anxiety plays too large of a part in my life and fear has kept me from doing many things I would otherwise do. Fear of the fear! That is what anxiety is. This fall I hope to attend a 4-day intensive training seminar in women’s heart disease at Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN! This area of anxiety and MVP is something I want to really focus on!
    Leslie

  • Cliff Buehrer

    I began having panic attacts about the same time I was diagnosed with MR. I have seen some of the literature suggest there could be a relation. I lived with MR for about 10 years before self refering myself for surgery. The doctors could not agree on timing of surgery. Knowing something is wrong with you that could be life threating could possibly take a toll on you mentally and trigger an attack. That is my unscientific opinion

  • James Harper

    I also have been dianosed with moderate to severe Mitral valve prolaspe. I experience anxiety and panic attack at night, I wake up in the night with a sensation that I have drank 20 cups of coffee. I often cannot go back to sleep for several hours. J Harper

  • Ann Garcia

    Have moderate to severe mitral stenosis. I experience “panic attacks” but am able to observe myself while going through the anxity. In other words, I watch my reactions but do not actually feel panic. I believe it has to do with palpitations that make my heart pound in and out of my chest.

  • Mary Ferraro

    I was diagnosed with MVP at age 4 and had it repaired 7 months ago at age 52. I was plagued with fairly random anxiety attacks into my thirties from the time I was in junior high. Haven’t had one since 1994. I used to call it “my nervous stomach” but they were hugely awful and am thankful to God that they are gone. Various meds did help. My Dad had his MVP replaced several years ago (as did his brother) but my Dad still has random panic/anxiety attacks. In the acclaimed book, “Confronting Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome” by Lyn Frederickson, MSN, she lists “Panic or Anxiety Attacks” third on her list of the ten most common symptoms. It is a very readable and clear book. It helped me to understand so much about my body when I read it a few years ago.

  • Roshan Thaha

    I am 62 years of age and was diagnosed with MR about 12 years ago (Mild). Then abour 4 months ago it got critical (Prolapse) and I underwent a mitral valve replacement. Since then, my physical being has improved and I am much more energetic, but I now suffer more from stress and anxiety. I tend to worry about small things about my family, which I would normally have taken in my stride. Sometimes it is for no apparent reason. Several people I know who have had heart surgery say they had this same problem which they overcame quite quickly, and that it was mainly worry about their physical health, which is understandable. My anxiety attacks are frequent and for no important reason. My doctor advised me to get plenty of exercise by walking, which I do every morning along the beach; about 2 to3 Km at a steady pace. This, and the sea air helps me relax considerably, but the relief is temporary. The condition is not improving. I meet with friends socially every day,a nd this I find helps, again temporarily. I was a drinker and smoker but have given up both since my operation. I will check your site regularly to see if there are more people who suffer from this seemingly minor drawback, which does not seem minor to the sufferer. Any feedback as to how to cope will be appreciated. Thankyou.

  • Donna

    I was diagnosed with MVP at 21 and when under severe stress I have noticed I have palpitations. However, I have experienced the occasional panic attack. I am 48 and have not required surgery and hopefully never will.

  • Steve

    I was diagnosed with MVP about 4 years ago and this year had a bout with endocarditus and am looking at surgery in the next couple of weeks. I have anxiety nearly every night. I fall asleep but wake within the hour and am up for several hours after. This happens nightly until I am exhausted and finally sleep one night fully to go through it again.

    I am looking at doing the robotic minimally invasive process and hopefully fixing everything!

  • Janet

    I’ve had panic attacks after my aorta repair, got put on Ativan and it works wonders – now I sleep through the night and feel great in the morning!

  • arbws

    please STOP saying that there is NO conection. There is no connecion that has been found in our limited knowledge of medicine. People know live with people with MVP KNOW / EXPERIENCE that there is a definite connection. There is NO ambiguity.

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