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