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  • Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

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    Old 08-21-2012, 01:37 PM   #1
    cjspurlock's Avatar
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    Unhappy Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    Hello all!

    I know you've probably heard this same question a million times and the answer is usually "YES!" but I wanted to share my story in hopes that someone else has been through the same thing.

    I'm a 23-year-old male currently living in the Midwest. Here's my long story:

    **Feel free to skip to the end for an overview**

    For the past eight months I've been battling a number of baffling symptoms that an army of docs haven't been able to diagnose. A little over a year ago I graduated college, moved from my home in the Midwest to take a job in New York City (a place I had never been before), and also left behind all of my family, friends, and a girlfriend of 3+ years. Talk about stressful.

    About a month after moving, I paid a visit to the emergency room because I was experiencing chest pains. At the time, I was afraid I had some mystery heart condition. After a few days in the hospital and several tests (EKGs, x-ray, heart echo, blood tests, urine tests), the doctors assured me I was fine. They told me it was most likely stress-induced costochondritis and prescribed anti-inflammatories. Things got better after a few weeks, but the pain would come back any time I got really stressed.

    Fast forward a few months. I had just spent three weeks back home for the holidays, and am now back in New York. About a week after I get back, I catch a cold. It's nothing serious, but it's the first time I've been sick and not had anyone around to take care of me, and it makes me anxious. After about a week, the flu symptoms fade, but I notice some new symptoms: sensitivity to light and sound, pain behind my eyes, persistent headaches centered in my cheeks, temples and forehead, ringing in my ears, dizziness, and popping of my ears when I swallow, burp, blow my nose, etc. As an semi-anxious person, this freaks me out a bit. I see my general physician, and she's not concerned. She runs some blood tests as a follow-up to my hospital stay for the chest pain, and finds nothing out of the ordinary except "high cholesterol" (Total cholesterol = 277, HDL = 78, LDL = 188, Triglycerides = 57). So, she gives me an antibiotic, thinking it's a sinus infection. This doesn't help. Next, she refers me to an ENT.

    The ENT prescribes a different antibiotic and sends me home. He's also not concerned. This antibiotic doesn't help. I come back and he puts me on Prednisone, thinking my sinuses are swollen. He also schedules a CT scan of my sinuses. He's still not concerned.

    The Prednisone doesn't help much, either. But, the CT scan results come back fairly normal. Some polyps on the inside of my sinuses, but nothing to write home about. The ENT diagnoses me with chronic sinusitis and refers me to an allergist just to make sure there's nothing going on there, but he's still not concerned.

    The allergist runs some basic tests and finds I'm not allergic to anything. Big surprise. He blames everything on my sinuses, but can't explain the sensitivity to light/sound, or why I'm STILL dealing with symptoms after 6-8 weeks of this business. So, he refers me to a neurologist just to be safe. But, he's not concerned.

    (By this point, I'm dealing with some major health anxiety. My roommate, a social work grad student, encourages me to see a therapist. I'm hesitant, but I decide to give it a shot until I move back to the Midwest in a few months.)

    The neurologist runs a basic exam and says I look "normal." He suspects migraines (because of the light/sound sensitivity and persistent headaches) but says he needs to order an MRI just to be thorough. Of course, I freak out, thinking I have some sort of brain tumor. He tells me not to worry, that he's not concerned. He also wants me to see an opthamologist to have my eyes checked out in the mean time.

    So, I head to the opthamologist, who says I look normal. I tell her I'm going to change my name to Normal if one more person tells me that. She's not concerned, either. Of course.

    A week later, the MRI comes back clean. I should be breathing a sigh of relief, but I'm not...because I'm still in pain. The neurologist is convinced some migraine medication is the answer, and he prescribes Topamax. He tells me to be patient, that it might take 4-6 weeks to start working. After 10 days on the Topamax I'm experiencing severe nausea, loss of appetite, and lots of digestive irregularity (alternating diarrhea and constipation, stomach pain on the right side, back pain in the right flank, reflux, etc.). So, the doc takes me off the meds.

    After a few weeks of stomach pain, my primary care doc suggests I get an ultrasound of my abdomen to check for gallstones, ulcers, etc. That scan, of course, comes back "normal" as well.

    In the meantime, I see my dentist who orders a nighttime bit guard because he thinks I'm grinding. That seems to help the headaches and dizziness, but not the light or sound sensitivity.

    A few weeks later, I move back to the Midwest as scheduled. I hope that leaving New York will help things, but no luck.

    Next on my list of doctors: an appointment with a gastroenterologist. He performs an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy and finds nothing as well. A few weeks after that test, the digestive symptoms subside.

    But, with the disappearance of one symptom comes another: the chest pain. Similar to what I was feeling in July, but more intense. Stabbing pain in my left side, tightness and pressure across my sternum, popping when I stretch, inability to take a full, deep breath, etc. So, I visit my new primary care doc (bringing with my an armload of paperwork from all the tests I've had done) and he does an EKG on the spot. Again, nothing. Just to be safe, he orders me to wear a 30-day heart monitor and does some blood work. He also prescribes Lexapro, as he's beginning to think this is all anxiety-related. Not wanting to bring any more symptoms into the mix due to the side effects, I elect not to take the Lexapro for awhile.

    The blood work (including a thyroid test) comes back fine for the most part. Cholesterol is down, which is good (Total cholesterol = 208, HDL = 83, LDL = 114, Triglycerides = 53). But, he does notice my morning cortisol is a tad high (22.2), so he refers me to an endocrinologist to have that looked into.

    The endocrinologist orders a more thorough 24-hour urine cortisol test, which comes back...wait for it...normal.

    Around that time I get the heart monitor results back, and they show no irregular activity. My primary care doc suggests I follow up with a cardiologist to review the heart monitor results and see if any further testing is necessary.

    The cardiologist reviews the results, does a treadmill stress test (which is normal) and orders a tilt table test to check for POTS. That tilt table test was this morning, and the preliminary results show nothing out of the ordinary. Ugh.


    So, in summary, I've had the following tests done:
    • CT of the sinuses
    • MRI of the brain and orbits
    • Ultrasound of the abdomen
    • Colonoscopy and upper endoscopy
    • Several EKGs
    • 30-day heart monitor
    • Heart echo
    • Treadmill stress test
    • 24-hour urine cortisol test
    • Tilt-table test
    • Several blood tests

    And, to date, I'm still battling the following symptoms:
    • Chronic sensitivity to light and sound
    • Brain fog that lasts all day
    • Headaches that last most of the day
    • Occasional dizziness and lightheadedness
    • Chest tightness and pressure
    • Painful popping of the sternum when I stretch
    • Inability to take a full, deep breath due to what feels like tightness in the chest and back
    • Shakiness and shortness of breath during exercise
    • Fatigue
    • Somewhat decreased appetite
    • General feeling of malaise all day, every day
    • Depression and health anxiety

    Here are the remedies I've tried so far, with varying degrees of relief:
    • Acupuncture
    • Yoga
    • Chiropractic 3x per week for spinal misalignment
    • Herbal supplements and Chinese medicine
    • Strict heathy diet (no caffeine or soda, no processed food or grains, no gluten, minimal dairy, lots of fish, some chicken and beef, a whole garden of vegetables, some fruit)
    • At least 8 hours of sleep per night
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy once per week

    At this point, I don't know what else to do. I don't want to take the Lexapro. I want to be able to fix this on my own, the natural way. But...I'm beginning to lose hope that I can do it. Some days I believe it's all anxiety-related, and other days I worry I have fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, a pulmonary issue, a hidden brain problem, etc. You guys know the drill with health anxiety.

    So...has anyone suffered similar symptoms? Do you all have any advice to offer? I'm getting desperate here!

    Sorry for the long story!


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    Old 08-22-2012, 12:09 PM   #2
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    Re: Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    I am so sorry you are experiencing all that with no proper dx. I am in a similar situation, but not experiencing the headaches or chest pain. Other weird stuff. I have also seen many doctors and I am also "normal." I also changed my diet and started yoga, meditation, etc.

    I am starting to come to conclusion that most of what I have been experiencing is anxiety. Your first symptom was chest pain and the pain comes back when you are stressed. Everything you mentioned above can be anxiety related. I know from experience even when we don't feel anxious, we can still have residual anxiety symptoms. Our nervous system gets taxed. I am not saying that is what you have, but it is possible. Keep up with the healthy life style. I'm sure you will start to feel better soon.

    hugs to you,

    Old 08-22-2012, 04:23 PM   #3
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    Re: Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    So im 18 and have had shoulder pain and constant grinding in both shoulders for 3 years. I have also been a smoker for 4 years and told even before i started smoking that i had pleurisy at a very young age which caused a sharp chest pain on my left side. This year i started having alot of phlem coming up almost constantly even when i stopped smoking for a long period. Also the pain in my chest has moved from just the left side to both sides, and hurts most when i breath deeply and my lungs always feel heavy. For the past six months the two lymph nodes below my jaw have been very swollen 80% of the time. And finally today at work my shoulders gradually started hurting more and more, then when i came home my upper spine and neck region became sharp with pain when i turned my head. So i understand the symptoms, i went to the doctor today and he told me my back was just having muscle spasms from lifting to much weight at work and he prescribed me muscle relaxants and gave me an appointment with a chiropractor to have spinal alignment treatment this weekend which i see you've already had. I also got a chest xray and of course nothing. A couple weeks ago i was given a z pack because they thought my nodules were just swollen because of allergies and gave me nasal spray, ive taken them and my throat hurts right now haha. I hope that my spinal alignment makes my lungs,chest, and upper back stop hurting but if not i will look into just suffering from anxiety. I went to the hospital 3 times in the past year because i felt like there was something wrong with my chest or stuck in my throat and each blood test or x ray came back with nothing. I know how you feel and it does suck hope you can find out what the deal is and you feel better

    Old 08-22-2012, 07:40 PM   #4
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    Re: Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    when you are anxious you tense up. causes all kinds of issues stemming from the muscles in your neck and shoulders (headaches, brain fog, visual issues, numbness, etc, etc,)

    massages and meditation help, and being mindful of when you are being tense. i've noticed sometimes my fists are clenched. jeesh! i need to relax lol.

    Old 08-22-2012, 08:44 PM   #5
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    Re: Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    So true about the tension caused from anxiety. I practically live at the chiropractor now because of my extremely tight neck. All anxiety driven. I wake up in the middle of the night and my hands will be asleep from tensing them up. UHG. Crazy stuff. Wish it was easier to relax.

    Old 08-23-2012, 12:00 AM   #6
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    Re: Could anxiety really cause ALL of this?

    me too! waking up numb i mean.

    i just started seeing a chiropractor in the last three weeks. i feel what he is doing is good but i also feel that some of the things that are making my body misaligned need to be changed, such as sleeping on crappy pillows, on my stomach all twisted, and having a really bad computer chair which causes the left side of my body to feel numb sometimes, it's scary!

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