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Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Heart rates in Panic/Anxiety Disorders


Dear Bruce,

I hope that you might be able to answer my question.  

I would like to know if there is any information available out there by link or by your own personal knowledge, if sufferers of Panic Disorder and/or Anxiety Disorders have sustained elevated heart rates?  

I wanted to know as I am a member of a support group for Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (sinus tach that has no known cause) and wondered how many sufferers of this condition do in fact have anxiety disorders or if their tachycardia is indeed "inappropriate".  

I have met some people in the group with Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia and Hypotension and some with IST with hypertension and I'm trying to draw the distinction between the two.

It appears that with those who have lower blood pressure their symptoms arose after a virus or infection though that is not the solid "cause" of IST, but it seems to have a similarity to POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome).

There seems to be a hyperactivity with the sympathetic nervous system with all of them, but I could not work out why the differences in blood pressures as all of those whom I spoke to had previously normal blood pressure levels before developing IST.

I am assuming that those who are continually anxious would suffer from high blood pressure, perhaps even regardless of beta blocker  therapy also (which is commonly used in the treatment or both anxiety symptoms and tachycardia/hypertension)?  I have met some on beta blockers for their symptoms who still have episodes of tachycardia and/or high blood pressure.

I apologize that this is long-winded.

Therefore in your professional opinion is it possible for a person with an anxiety disorder to have a sustained high heart rate with (or without) high blood pressure?

Kind Regards,


Hi, Samantha, thanks for your question. Here are some thoughts:

The mind (one's thoughts, feelings, actions) is produced by the brain. The brain is part of the body (in that it is physical). The mind and body are not separate entities; rather, it can be thought of as 'the mind-body system (using here the scientific use of the word system). In systems, changes to one part of the system affect all the other parts. Thus, the mind is able to produce changes in the body.

There are many reports, in the literature, of people, using their mind, to affect parts of their body, including parts that we used to think could not be altered consciously. Some Hindus have learned to control their body temperature so much that they sleep in a mountain cave, in the middle of the winter, using nothing more than a sheet and streetclothes.

In fact, this is the presumption of the entire field of biofeedback - one the mind is able to detect changes in parts of the body that were previously not-detected, the mind is able to learn to control those parts of the brain.

So, yes, it is possible for persons with and without anxiety disorder to have sustained high heart rate with (or without) high blood pressure, as well as many other types of symptoms. It is also possible for people to learn to control many aspects of their body.

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


any related to psychology, especially related to forensic psychology


15 years as a licensed psychologist, 15 years in private practice. My practice began primarily doing individual and group psychotherapy, is now devoted to assessments, but I occasionally do take on clients in therapy.

American Psychological Association

B.A. psychology, B.A., music, Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978 MCS, computer science, University of Dayton, 1984 MA, psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1991 Psy.D., psychology, Miami Inst. of Psychology, 1993 post doctoral training in Neuropsychology, Fielding Institute, 1995-1997

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