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Brit1988 06-20-2012 09:27 AM

Mental or Physical? I really can't tell
This is going to be a long one, and I'd like other anxiety sufferers to help me out here. This will lead in to physical symptoms I am experiencing and I'm trying to determine to what extent they are mental.

So, I'll start from the top. I've always been in good health, mentally and physically, and have always been the type to believe I can achieve anything and be very resolute. That allowed me to start my own business and more, and life was good. But the workload and stress involved in my work has undoubtedly begun to take its toll on my body and mind. I work with computers, and spend almost every waking hour at a desk most days.

A few months ago I had a serious allergic reaction to a nut bar I ate, an allergy I had been unaware of all my life until this occurrence. All my life I have eaten peanuts and cashews etc. but when I ate some almonds and brazil nuts, I went in to anaphylactic shock. Luckily I had gone to the hospital before the reaction set in, knowing something was quite wrong. In my usual jovial manner, I had no concept of what was happening to me, I was joking and holding casual conversation with the doctor whilst the reaction set in! It was only when he told me that he couldn't get a needle in to my veins to inject steroids, because "my veins were closing up" and I saw the concern on his face, that I realized "uh, this isn't good..." and immediately focused on helping him find a vein and get some blood pumping. We got there in the end, after he stuck the drip in my arm about five times (which wasn't fun). They were able to pump in whatever they use to suppress the reaction and intervene just before I fainted. I spent the day in hospital on the drip just in case I had a relapse.

I haven't been the same since this experience. I didn't know what had happened to me at the time and searched for it online after the event. I realized I had come seriously close to not just fainting, but dying. If I hadn't gone to the hospital that would have been a very real possibility. I was so lucky. Being a young male, realizing my own mortality was a total shock to the system. I had never considered the possibility that *I* would die. It was always just an idea, not something I'd actually experience (many of us feel immortal when you are young, it's why young people tend to do so much stupid stuff!).

[B]Panic & Anxiety[/B]
For weeks after the anaphylaxis all I could think about was death. The inevitability of it, I felt so defenseless and vulnerable. Being very pragmatic, I reacted by buying several health books and read constantly about future medical technologies that gave me hope of a prolonged and healthy life. I began supplementing to make up for any deficiencies in my system, after much thorough research in to how illnesses and allergies arise in the system through deficiency.

I even bought a blood pressure monitor, and am happy to report that my blood pressure and heart rate fall directly in to the middle of the "ideal" range I can find in all online charts.

Then I experienced my first panic attack. I woke in the middle of the night, physically shaking. I managed to bring this under control on my own and didn't tell anyone it had happened.

Within weeks of this I began getting strange sensations in my chest, accompanied by shortness of breath and this weird occasional "popping" noise coming from my lungs. This popping comes and goes, but when it is there can be consistently reproduced either by deep breaths or by moving in a certain manner.

One particular shooting sensation around my heart alarmed me most, one time it was strong enough that I leapt up from my chair in reaction to it and really panicked, feeling something was wrong with my heart. So I went to the hospital, at 2am, and stayed until 6am to be seen. They conducted a chest x-ray and ECG and found nothing, I was told it was anxiety and to go home and get over it basically.

But I couldn't, it kept resurfacing even when I was totally relaxed. I went to see my doctor, and she also told me it was anxiety and recommended a foreign yoga DVD (which made me question her competence more than anything, I felt like I'd been told to hold healing crystals and chant myself better).

Anyway, having had this opinion from two separate sources and so many experiences consistent with anxiety, I put all of my symptoms down as mental. But then the shortness of breath made a distinct break from my anxiety, by lasting for 48 hours non-stop. I was going to bed short of breath, waking up short of breath, and spending my entire day short of breath. It got too much to bear so I went to another doctor. This doctor finally concurred with my view that this particular symptom went beyond anxiety. I was told I had a chest infection and she prescribed me antibiotics to cure it.

I have just finished my one week course of antibiotics, but my chest feels almost no better. The only thing that seems to help is standing up, getting fresh air and going outside. When I lay down, or sit down for prolonged periods it seems to return. I'm also frequently light-headed and very hungry, even when I shouldn't be.

So my question to you is, is this mental, or is it physical? I suspect I'm somewhere at a crossroads between the two, which is making it very hard to diagnose what is what.

janewhite1 06-20-2012 10:07 AM

Re: Mental or Physical? I really can't tell
Well, you definitely have some anxiety and have had anxiety attacks, which is not surprising given what you've been through. There are various treatments that can help with anxiety, both medication and other, and I definitely think you'd benefit from some treatment.

They checked your heart, it's fine. The only question is whether you have anything wrong with your lungs. Have you been coughing at all? You say lying down makes it worse, what happens when you go for a walk, or climb stairs?

Brit1988 06-20-2012 12:03 PM

Re: Mental or Physical? I really can't tell
Hi Jane,
Yes I have developed a wheezy cough, and brought up quite a bit of phlegm, though it's always clear or white. I did cough up a tiny bit of blood one time, but it was almost certainly because I was being quite rough on my throat, forcing up phlegm and intentionally coughing. I stopped that as soon as I saw blood and haven't seen any since, in spite of developing a stronger cough.

Aside from that I can feel that my lung capacity is still reduced quite a bit from optimal. It feels like I have to stop 3/4 of the way in to a deep breath. When it gets really bad the breaths are even more shallow, only about 1/2 of what I'd expect. This causes me to get a bit dizzy sometimes.

When I do breathe right in, sometimes there's a click or pop sound that's very distinct coming from inside my chest, mostly in the center or on the right side. In fact, that has been there throughout. At the hospital they were able to reproduce a sensitive sting on my chest by pressing on the center of my ribs, where the popping tends to come from. They ignored this though and dismissed it as being anything serious after the chest x-ray.

The only other symptom is sometimes I get burning like indigestion but coming from various areas of my chest, not normally where you would expect. Again standing up and getting away from the computer tends to alleviate this.

I did have asthma as a child but that cleared up and my doctors say childhood asthma doesn't return, so they ruled that out. It never really feels like I remember asthma either. Asthma was always in the throat for me, whereas this is distinctly in my lungs (which is why I initially confused some of the sharper sensations with my heart).

Vapor rubs, green tea and honey and lemon have all proved quite useful in their own way at reducing symptoms, as has relaxing, because sometimes I think it's heightened by anxiety.

Since starting the antibiotics I've had a couple of hours here and there where I have been able to breathe pretty much completely normally, and it felt amazing. But then when I get more sedentary and night starts to set in, it tends to resurface.

I also have my chest X-Ray image, it's from a couple of months ago but I'd be happy to share it to aid any diagnosis.

janewhite1 06-20-2012 12:40 PM

Re: Mental or Physical? I really can't tell
The doctors say childhood asthma doesn't return? Find different doctors, it eventually returns in about 50% of people. Yours might have come back or it might not, but it might be a good idea to have your lungs checked out by an allergist or pulmonologist. With your severe allergy, you should probably see an allergist anyway just to make sure you fully understand how to manage it.

Asthma doesn't show up on an x-ray, you'd need pulmonary function testing, where you blow in a tube. Or, if a doctor gives you an inhaler or nebulizer and it helps, you've got either asthma or some other airway constriction, like from an infection. The inhaler will not help anxiety.

Of course, when you have both anxiety and asthma, they definitely can get tangled up together and set each other off.

The rib popping honestly doesn't sound related. Ribs have joints where they meet the breastbone, sometimes joints pop.

So, you definitely have anxiety, you might or might not have a lung problem.

Brit1988 06-21-2012 02:14 AM

Re: Mental or Physical? I really can't tell
[QUOTE=janewhite1;5003037]So, you definitely have anxiety, you might or might not have a lung problem.[/QUOTE]
This is pretty much where every diagnosis keeps landing me, professional or otherwise. I certainly have a cough today! But I'm glad to report this seems to be one of those mornings where the breathing is quite free and open.

Thanks for your insight Jane, as it's a tricky one to diagnose every opinion counts that might provide new insights. Now that I know childhood asthma [I]can [/I]return I'm even more skeptical of that doctor that recommended the yoga DVD...

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