Editorial: “It’s All In Your Mind” Her MD Said
By Steve S. Ryan, PhD, publisher of A-Fib.com
As an A-Fib community we think we’ve come a long way in our understanding of A-Fib and how to treat it. But not everyone (read on).
In a recent email a woman in England described her horrendous A-Fib symptoms—palpitations, extreme fluttering, breathlessness, “absolute extreme fatigue.”
Then she told me her doctor told her that her breathlessness and exhaustion had nothing to do with her A-Fib, that these symptoms were all in her head, that she was over exaggerating.
Though she probably knew this already, I wrote back and explained to her:
”The symptoms you describe usually come along with Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib). Fluttering, palpitations, feeling like your heart is going to jump out of your chest or that there are mice rolling bowling balls inside your heart―these are feelings most of us have who suffer from A-Fib.
You experience breathlessness and extreme fatigue because your heart isn’t pumping properly. Normally the upper part of your heart (the atria) squeeze blood down into the lower part (the ventricles) which then pump the blood to the rest of your body. But in A-Fib the upper part of your heart doesn’t squeeze down but instead quivers, vibrates, fibrillates. You lose 15%-30% of your normal pumping volume.
If you could look inside your heart, it would look like a plate of shaking Jell-O. Of course you feel breathlessness, fatigue, dizziness, etc.!”
And what’s most surprising about this is that her doctor was a woman! (It’s usually males who tell females that’s its all in their mind.) Go figure!?
A-Fib patients needs go beyond an up-to-date and informed health provider. When people email me, it’s often not just for the facts about A-Fib, but more for support, understanding and empathy. They need to know that they’re not alone in trying to deal with A-Fib.
I often tell them about our A-Fib Support Volunteers who are just an email away. They’re fellow A-Fib patients or former patients who are there to listen and offer their support to others suffering from A-Fib. (Visit our A-Fib Support Volunteers page for more info and list of volunteers from around the world.)
Take Away: Won’t you share this message with someone who is also suffering from A-Fib? Reassure them, and let them know they are not alone.