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bullun 06-20-2005 01:19 PM

Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
Hey there,
I think I've joined this club, and not willingly mind you. I guess I"m looking for moral support, if this sounds like anxiety or panic attacks, if others have had symptoms and any helpful hints or tips that can be offered to coping with this.

So here is my story as briefly as it can get. I've always been a bit of a worrier, as a child, and so are my sisters and my mother. I say its genetic. We just "fret" over things. But in December 03 I became ill with the flu, which long story short wound up not being the flu but bells palsy(a virus that causes temporary facial paralysis), a benign parotid gland tumor, and a cavernous venus malformation (a extra cluster of veins in my brain that I was most likely born with). Anyhow all three un-related, unconnected, but nonetheless overwhelming. Since then, I have been..well a bit crazed.

I've spent much time nervous that I was "feeling" something, that they hadn't figured it all out when it came to the cavernous malformation. Luckily they have, but convincing myself that, every twinge or tingle that occurred I wasn't going to stroke was difficult..

Anyhow.. on top of that started my digestive symptoms, diarhea, abdominal pain, heart burn, acid reflux. IBS and all of which relating back to some sort of anxiety or the way I deal with stress is what my doctors say. This is fine and dandy, but how I do I cope with this?

I feel now I"m suffering from "anxiety attacks" or perhaps they are panic attacks I"m not sure. Here's one description. On a trip last weekend my fiance and I drove out to a Florida island to visit friends at a rented house. The minute we got near the island and the beautiful ocean shore, I began to feel ansty and uncomfortable. Not "feeling well" or in completely myself is how I can only describe it. However the closer we got, the worse I began to feel, particularly the impending drive across the bridge to the island itself. My hands begin to shake, and in worst case scenarios I feel tingling sensations in my arms and a rush of blood flow through them, they become "warm" and I become very upset. I have NO fear of water, nor bridges, nor in the past have I. But suddenly all my mind can do is think about how we could easily drive off the road into that water, and that we are "in the middle of no where", what if I became ill, theres no doctors, no immediate medical attention to be sought.

I know how insanely absurd this all seems even as these thoughts begin to run through my head. My fiance will sit and talk to me through them and remind me of their lack of basis. Eventually, I will calm myself down, but this takes time and my uneasiness will continue the rest of the day after one of these episodes, because initially I was thinking I was "getting sick", but now I am beginning to think I am suffering frmo anxiety attacks/panic attacks.

I've had too many rounds with too many doctors and would really like to get some moral support from this board. I apologize for the length of this post. I'm just not ready to accept seeing a physician and becoming medicated when I want to think I have enough strength to cope with this on my own. I really need to come to some sort of terms with this before it truly does begin to control my life.

Thanks for everyone who is able to give any input!

bullun 06-20-2005 01:23 PM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
I failed to mention in addition to the odd mental sensations, of being on the verge of passing out, or the warming or tingling sensations down my arms, I lack appetite. I feel very nausated and lack any appetite. I typically need to at some point and will force myself to take a few bites, but all the while feeling as though they'll come back to haunt me shortly. It is literally a fight to eat. A day or two after one of these episodes my appetite returns to normal. Anyone else have this with their "attacks" ?

cheer up 06-20-2005 07:02 PM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
Oh, I'd say you are experiencing full-fledged anxiety/panic attacks.

Every symptom you mention is typical of both but each incident can be different, as with me. I have gotten that out of body experience at times, as well as the impending doom feelings, or that I will just fall down and die or some such nonsense.

I've had various pains and sensations, some attacks manifesting themselves with neurological symptoms and others with digestive problems. It's all fun, isn't it?

In middle age now, I recognize that many family members have been troubled to one extent or another as well over the years, and that I have been "anxious" and a worrier and overly health conscious since I was a little kid. Back then no one made a big deal out of any of it so I went on, with years of remission only to bounce back to chaos again from time to time.

My solution: visit the doctor when I am having yet another: heart attack, respiratory event, brain tumor, et al.... for reassurance if nothing else.

It's a good idea to have some sort of medication, I think, and I LOVE Xanax which I take in VERY low dose every morning. If I am particularly "antsy" I take a little more. When I say little, I mean little -- I average no more than 15 mg per day, more of a placebo effect I would say.

Try not to worry so much; easier said than done, I know. Everything you described fits right in there with panic/anxiety. Do we sometimes get a REAL ailment, sure! I had my gallbladder out but never stressed out over it, amazingly enough. It's the insane worrying and ruminating and freaking out that we do on occasion that gets us down.

I hope this makes you feel better -- it's a very large club and growing more and more as daily life gets crazier and crazier.... I really do think stress has a LOT to do with all of this. We just need to RELAX!!!

santo 06-20-2005 08:46 PM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
it definitely sounds like you have had anxiety and the experience by the bridge sounds like a panic attack. often when people panic they get either hot or cold chills. some people complain that their hands and feet become numb, or just have tingling sensations. i strongly suggest you google "the flight or fight response" so you understand why this is happening to you. in a nutshell; some people respond to anxious situations in a physically different way than others. that is, a person's body will think that a situation is "dangerous" and then the flight or fight response kicks in. this is a coping mechanism that dates back to the caveman days. when, for example, a wild animal came into sight, the response would scream "danger" and kick in. suddenly you have loads of adrenaline, so that you have the energy to either fight it off or run away. you may go numb, and this is so that if you are attacked in a fight, you won't bleed to death. a million things happen to you because your body is preparing you for action (it's actually quite fascinating.)

other sensations like dizziness and nausea come because the adrenaline has no place to go- you aren't fighting or fleeing from anything that's really a danger, and physically your body becomes confused. doctors don't know why this response kicks in for people with anxiety as it doesn't serve any purpose for us in this day and age and it truly just makes stressful situations much worse.

the trick is to figure out how to handle your body's instinctual response to anxiety, by finding ways to talk to yourself mentally to make the attack go away, or how to ride it through and know you are okay. panic attacks can be scary and you can feel like you are dying, but they won't hurt you. you're not going to pass out. we feel fear for a reason and it's to protect ourselves.

next time you feel anxious tell yourself that you are not in danger. maybe go to another place in your head. practice on your breathing; a lot of people feel like they're choking/suffocating when panicked, it's very normal. a good breathing exercise that works wonders to calm you down:

put your hand on your belly. when you inhale, feel your stomach rise and make sure to breathe out your stomach as opposed to your chest. start out with the time you're comfortable w/ and inhale, "one one thousand, two one thousand," and then exhale twice that amount of time. all this while, concentrate on your stomach. shallow breathing or hyperventilating can make things feel a lot worse. learning how to breathe properly especially when you are anxious could really help you out.

one more thing- keep doing the things that make you panic. if you avoid them, this could cause a phobia and you don't want to always be worrying about having another panic attack. just keep doing it until, mentally, you know that if you go over a bridge you won't coincidentally suddenly need medical help. by the way, i think a lot along these lines too, and always figure something bad is going to happen. i think this happens because you start to relate stressful situations to the physical chaos you get from a panic attack- and so when anticipating anything stressful, you dread you will fall apart physically. remember that in a panic attack, although you can feel pretty bad, nothing is really wrong with you and IT WILL PASS no matter what. and the more you realize you are okay when you are in scary situations, the faster the fear should go away.

i really relate to what you are going through, tons of people do. i too developed an anxiety problem after a medical condition and am fighting it off. there are lots of ways out there to get through this stuff. by the way i think it's awesome you want to deal with this on your own. medication is a band aid for some people and from what you've said i think you can get over this on your own, with some moral support. please keep posting when you feel the need! :)

bullun 06-21-2005 03:48 AM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
Thanks to both of you for your respones, it makes me feel, well that i'm not all alone when it is "just in my head." haha.

Definitely learning what mental techniques work for me as far as bringing myself down from a panic attack. If only my fiance understood that in the beginnings of them him just sternly saying "now stop, just stop" does not assist the issue but yet escalate my anxiety by making me feel as though I should have more control when I do not. But he has every good intention thinking this will calm me down. Ahh if in only a different town, different terminology it'd help so much.

As for avoiding medication, its not that I think less of those that take it, I have always been against taking medications long term. I do feel its a band-aid to cover a bigger isse at hand, weather it be psychological or a bigger real physical health issue (i.e. treating the symptoms but not the actual ailment.)

Now... how does one avoid that horrible pitfall of being anxious about when another anxiety or panic attack will strike? To be honest I'm still learning when they occur and if there is any thing that is similar about one from the next. It all seems to relate to my concern of getting physically ill again so that much I do know..

Thanks again for the information. I am sure I will be posting again.. :)

santo 06-21-2005 08:36 AM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
[I]"Now... how does one avoid that horrible pitfall of being anxious about when another anxiety or panic attack will strike? To be honest I'm still learning when they occur and if there is any thing that is similar about one from the next. It all seems to relate to my concern of getting physically ill again so that much I do know.. "[/I]

you don't know how much i relate to this! in my opinion it's the worst part about anxiety because it just taints your perspective on everything. i believe it comes from both your thinking patterns and the anxiety itself.

exercise can help a ton. it gives you a feeling of well being and you can expel a lot of pent up energy, that often rears its ugly head as anxiety when it's not let out in some way. a panic attack is rigorous activity and spending a good amount of time hiking or running, or any kind of physical movement should help alleviate symptoms in the future. often anxiety is just stress that needs to be released and exercise is an awesome stress reliever. this can also give you some relaxation about your health when you know you are in good shape and that you can do physical work and not drop dead or have something bad happen to you. regular check ups with your doctor i should hope will give you some comfort and don't be afraid to ask questions or to ask for a test for something if you are feeling paranoid- just do whatever it takes to feel better, and the doctors really don't mind, it's their job.

self talk might work. if you start to worry about a panic attack, remember that it's a common thing that won't hurt you, and even if you have one, it's not going to kill you, you're not literally losing control, and it will go away soon enough. there's a relaxation technique out there that's supposed to reverse the panic you feel- when you basically visualize a word that gives you a sense of wellbeing, like "love" or "peace" and solely concentration on it. other thoughts will intrude but let them pass and keep your attention on the word. or you could picture a place like a beach. remember what your thinking patterns were like pre-panic attacks, how you wouldn't worry about future health problems and how you were always okay after doing things that you get nervous about now.

the only other tip i have is what i said before, to keep doing what you are scared of. you have to overlap your bad memories with good ones to boost your self confidence so you won't always have that sense of impending doom. staying busy can keep your mind off this stuff too.

bullun 06-21-2005 01:32 PM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
Santo, thanks.. it is like an evil catch 22 isn't it? :) I really appreciate the tips. Once I grasp all of this fully I was even thinking trying to "trigger" or tempt myself by doing something that caused a panic attack in order to come to grips with it. Yet I'm still learning exactly what triggers them so until then I think I'll get by day to day. Today has actually been a very good day for me. Minus my little nervousness this morning, since my FH (future husband) is out of town and unreachable. He's my key to calming me down at times, so the idea of not reaching him made me a wee bit nervous! :)

I definitely am trying breathing techniques adn will try the word visualization. I hope I can come to grips with this and get it under my own control before it escalates..

I am sure this all derives from stress, over my own health, my fathers (diagnosed with Pros.Cancer luckily is going to be A-OK), my wedding, job dislike, etc. Ahh the joys of life. :)

mrybkr 06-30-2005 08:24 PM

Re: Do I have anxiety? panic attacks?
When I used to suffer from panic attacks...I thought for sure I was having a heart attack....but I also would get a strange smell....not anything bad...If we were outside...and something was would smell 10 x's stronger than normal....sounds weird...I know....I tried bio feedback, being hypnotized, tranquilizers....(ativan)...the bext thing that worked for me when you feel one coming on is to breathe in deep....count to 8 then slowly breathe out and count from 8 back to 1....If that doesn't relax a friend....clean, go for a something....ANYTHING...and remind yourself that "fear feeds on fear" the more frightened you become, the worse your panic attack will be.
After 2 years...I decided that little white pill was NOT going to control my life, and it has been a vry long time since I have had another attack.

God luck...and just take long, slow deep breaths....:)

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