What is Cardiophobia?

Cardiophobia is the fear of heart attack and death. Cardiophobia is an anxiety disorder with chronic complaints of chest pain, heart palpitations and other heart-related sensations.

Cardiophobics focus attention on their heart when experiencing normal stress or arousal and may believe they have an organic heart problem despite repeat negative medical tests.

The root word 'cardio' is Greek, meaning 'heart' or 'pertaining to the heart' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Cardiophobia

  • Avoid Physical Activity

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms ›

Causes of Cardiophobia

Cardiophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Cardiophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

An individual with real heart problems will be more likely to experience Cardiophobia. This is especially true for those who have had a heart attack in the past, or had congenital heart problems as a child, etc.

Non-cardiac-related prior health issues and negative life events can also be triggers for Cardiophobes, and may associate this phobia with the phobic fear of death.

In extreme cases, the Cardiophobe may be afraid of the image or symbol of a heart or may associate relationship issues as triggers for worry about their heart.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Cardiophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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