Pounding Heart, Heart Beating Too Hard

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 19, 2021

Pounding heart, heart beating too hard:

  • Your heart feels and sounds as though it is pounding unusually hard in your chest.
  • You become aware of your heart's action and you fear there may be a problem with it.
  • You may also fear that your heart could burst or suddenly stop beating because it is beating or pounding unusually hard.
  • This symptom can be accompanied with other symptoms, such as racing heart or fast heart rate, “skipped beats,” heart “flutters,” chest pressure, or shooting pains in the chest.

The pounding heart anxiety symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may notice your heart is pounding once in a while and not that often, feel it off and on, or feel it all the time.

The pounding heart anxiety symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

The pounding heart anxiety symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

The pounding heart anxiety symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

The pounding heart anxiety symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This pounding heart symptom is often more noticeable when trying to rest, relax, or go to sleep.

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What causes the pounding heart anxiety symptom?

Anxiety causes the body to produce the stress response (also known as the fight or flight response). The stress response secretes stress hormones, which are stimulants, into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that assist the body when in real danger.

A part of the stress response changes cause the heart to beat stronger in order to pump blood to the various parts of the body required for emergency readiness. When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently and/or dramatically, however, the body has a more difficult time recovering, which can result in the body remaining in a semi hyperstimulated state (that we call stress-response hyperstimulation) since stress hormones are stimulants. A body that becomes stress-response hyperstimulated can exhibit similar sensations and symptoms to that of an active stress response. Feeling that your heart is pounding unusually hard in your chest is an example of the types of symptoms you can experience when the body becomes overly stressed.

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How to get rid of the pounding heart anxiety symptom?

When this pounding heart feeling is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this feeling should subside and you should return to your normal self. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Most people experience this when anxious or overly stressed.

When this feeling is caused by persistent stress, it may take a lot more time for the body to recover and to the point where this symptom is eliminated.

Nevertheless, when the body has fully recovered, this feeling will completely subside. Therefore, this symptom needn’t be a cause for concern and it isn't dangerous, but merely an indication that your body is overly stressed.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about this feeling. Sure, it can be unsettling and even bothersome. But again, when your body has recovered from the stress response and/or sustained stress, this symptom will completely disappear.

For a more detailed explanation about all anxiety symptoms, why symptoms can persist long after the stress response has ended, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Pounding Heart, Heart Beating Too Hard.