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Xanax and seizures?
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Xanax and seizures?

Hi all,

I've been experiencing a whole laundry list of health problems for several years now. I really think most of my problems are neurological and caused me to develop anxiety attacks, but I don't know. I just know that a lot of my problems started BEFORE I ever began having issues with anxiety.

My main problems are as follows:
EXCRUCIATING pain on the back-right of my head that is there pretty much 24/7. It feels like someone jabbed a knife through my skull. It hurts so bad I can't put it into words.
Poor balance (I can't stand still because I sway and feel like I'm going to fall)
Awful memory
Trouble remembering words
Smelling burnt smells at times (doesn't happen really anymore, but it used to all of the time about 2 years ago)
Involuntarily biting my tongue when I'm about to nod off to sleep
Going into a sort of dreamlike state when I close my eyes...I start envisioning choppy, dreamlike scenarios, but I know they're not dreams because I'm half awake and JUST closed my eyes
Inability to concentrate on anything
Urinating every 40ish minutes
Episodes where I feel on the verge of losing consciousness
Gagging fits
24/7 pressure/pain in the center of my chest
And yes, panic attacks when I go in public, but they don't happen all of the time and sometimes even happen when I'm in bed at home, so I don't know if they're even panic attacks necessary.

On Tuesday, I went to a doctor finally and gave her a list of the problems I've been having, and she wrote me off as a case of anxiety and handed me a prescription for Xanax before even asking me about any of the other problems. I told her I was concerned I had a brain tumor, and she laughed at me. I'm really frustrated. I told her so much of this was happening long before I started having panic episodes, and she just kind of went "okay."

I was going to try the Xanax to see if it at least helped me not be in a constant state of worry about what my body is going to do without my permission next, but then I read that it can cause seizures in those who are already prone to them. I've read that a lot of my problems can actually be types of seizures like the smelling burnt smells, suddenly biting my tongue in my sleep, and dreamlike hallucinations or whatever they're called when I close my eyes. So now I'm afraid to take it because I'm afraid it'll trigger a really bad seizure that will kill me or something.

Does anyone know if Xanax really is a seizure risk?

I'm so frustrated and just don't know what to do with myself besides sit in my bedroom and cry. I don't feel well enough to do anything else, and apparently no one believes me or wants to listen to me.

Oh, and I'm 22/female if it makes a difference. :)

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I would advise you to ask for Neurological consult.  While your symptoms COULD be related to anxiety, there are several symptoms that also could point to a simple partial seizure.  Here are a few experiences I've found of people describing a SPS:

They are remarkably different from person to person, depending on the part of the brain where they begin. The one thing they all have in common is that the person remains alert and can remember what happens. Here are a couple of experiences:

■"I almost enjoy them. The feeling of déja vu, as if I've lived through this moment and I even know what's going to be said next. Everything seems brighter and more alive."
■"It is a pressure that starts in my stomach, then rises to my chest and throat. When it reaches my chest, I smell an unpleasant odor of something burnt. At the same time I feel anxious."

Here's some more info (wikipedia):

While awake some common symptoms of simple partial seizures are[5]:

preserved consciousness
sudden and inexplicable feelings of fear, anger, sadness, happiness or nausea
sensations of falling or movement
experiencing of unusual feelings or sensations
altered sense of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, and tactile perception (sensory illusions and/or hallucinations), or feeling as though the environment is not real (derealization) or detachment from the environment (depersonalization)
a sense of spatial distortion—things close by may appear to be at a distance.
déjà vu (familiarity) or jamais vu (unfamiliarity)
laboured speech or inability to speak at all
usually the event is remembered in detail


While asleep symptoms include:

onset usually in REM sleep
dream like state
appearance of full consciousness
hallucinations and/or delusions
behavior or visions typical in dreams
ability to engage with the environment and other people as in full consciousness, though often behaving abnormally, erratically, or failing to be coherent
complete amnesia or assimilating the memory as though it was a normal dream on regaining full consciousness
Although hallucinations may occur during simple partial seizures they are differentiated from psychotic symptoms by the fact that the person is usually aware that the hallucinations are not real.[6]


As you can see, there are some definite similarities.  I don't think it was right for your doctor to dismiss you so quickly without at least doing a work up.  It COULD indeed be anxiety, but I strongly recommend a more thorough work up before that call is made, preferably by a Neurologist.

In the meantime, taking the Xanax won't hurt you, it may help alleviate some of the anxiety you are experiencing as a result of this situation.

Please let us know what you find out.  Best of luck.
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480448_tn?1403547723
I would advise you to ask for Neurological consult.  While your symptoms COULD be related to anxiety, there are several symptoms that also could point to a simple partial seizure.  Here are a few experiences I've found of people describing a SPS:

They are remarkably different from person to person, depending on the part of the brain where they begin. The one thing they all have in common is that the person remains alert and can remember what happens. Here are a couple of experiences:

■"I almost enjoy them. The feeling of déja vu, as if I've lived through this moment and I even know what's going to be said next. Everything seems brighter and more alive."
■"It is a pressure that starts in my stomach, then rises to my chest and throat. When it reaches my chest, I smell an unpleasant odor of something burnt. At the same time I feel anxious."

Here's some more info (wikipedia):

While awake some common symptoms of simple partial seizures are[5]:

preserved consciousness
sudden and inexplicable feelings of fear, anger, sadness, happiness or nausea
sensations of falling or movement
experiencing of unusual feelings or sensations
altered sense of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, and tactile perception (sensory illusions and/or hallucinations), or feeling as though the environment is not real (derealization) or detachment from the environment (depersonalization)
a sense of spatial distortion—things close by may appear to be at a distance.
déjà vu (familiarity) or jamais vu (unfamiliarity)
laboured speech or inability to speak at all
usually the event is remembered in detail


While asleep symptoms include:

onset usually in REM sleep
dream like state
appearance of full consciousness
hallucinations and/or delusions
behavior or visions typical in dreams
ability to engage with the environment and other people as in full consciousness, though often behaving abnormally, erratically, or failing to be coherent
complete amnesia or assimilating the memory as though it was a normal dream on regaining full consciousness
Although hallucinations may occur during simple partial seizures they are differentiated from psychotic symptoms by the fact that the person is usually aware that the hallucinations are not real.[6]


As you can see, there are some definite similarities.  I don't think it was right for your doctor to dismiss you so quickly without at least doing a work up.  It COULD indeed be anxiety, but I strongly recommend a more thorough work up before that call is made, preferably by a Neurologist.

In the meantime, taking the Xanax won't hurt you, it may help alleviate some of the anxiety you are experiencing as a result of this situation.

Please let us know what you find out.  Best of luck.
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480448_tn?1403547723
I forgot to mention, that the seizure risk associated with Xanax is when it is abruptly discontinued after being on it a long period of time (due to withdrawals).  If you take one here and there, "as needed", this shouldn't be a concern for you.

Definitely seek out a Neurologist.  If a Neurologist does a thorough work up and gives you a clean bill of health, it would be fair to then consider this as anxiety, then you would see a psychiatrist.
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you for the response. :) Yes, I've researched seizures ad nauseum, so that's why I was saying I think it sounds a lot like I may have had SPS's, which scares the heck out of me since seizures can be caused by a brain tumor.

I wish she would have given me any anxiety medicine other than Xanax. I've heard that a lot of the others can actually help with seizures because they affect the brain much in the same way. I was hoping if I was given anxiety meds, they could perhaps double to stop the other problems I'm having if they're seizures as well. Bleck.
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480448_tn?1403547723
Have you been seen by a Neurologist?
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Avatar_f_tn
No, I haven't been. She didn't seem at all interested in giving me a referral...just said she'd have me see a psychiatrist.
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I know from personal experience that the seizures they are talking about occur if abrupty stopped when you don't take the pills as prescribed. The
zanax worked so well for me that it became easy to just take a zanax when anything was the least bit uncomfortable. Zanax is a good medication but the potential for abuse is very high. It's very important that you treat this medicine with great respect and take it only as prescribed. I hope you begin to feel better soon. Did your doctor also put you on a longer acting medicine. Your goal in theraphy is to eliminate the zanac after a few months and rely completely on the longer acting medication. Sorry I don't remember the name off the top of my head but I believe it was a mild anti-depressant. The best way to deal with anxiety is to meet it head on and work through it, in time it becomes less powerful. Learn everything you can about anxiety this also helps you through it. Remeber only take it when you really need it. Good luck, you can beat this. I have a bad anxiety problem too, so I know how real your symptoms feel, and it no day at the park=)
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480448_tn?1403547723
aheart gave very good tips about Xanax.  

I definitely think it would be worthwhile to see a Neurologist and have him/her do some testing to rule out seizures.  If the Neuro can't find anything, then the next step would be a psychiatrist, who may recommend an SSRI antidepressant (ie Zoloft, Lexapro, etc), with a short term course of the Xanax, until the AD starts working.  Therapy is also important.

I think you need to be firm with your doc and tell her you want to rule out something Neurological, and then you would be willing to address this as anxiety.  If she is still not cooperative, find another doctor.  Depending on your insurance, you may not even require a referral.  In that case, you can seek out a Neurologist on your own.

Good luck!
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Avatar_f_tn
Thanks for not telling me it's all in my head, guys. I posted on a couple anxiety forums asking about the Xanax, too, and got a lot of "Obviously your doctor is right. You're 22. No way you have a brain tumor or anything going on other than anxiety."

No, she didn't put me on any longer lasting medications...

She said she was scheduling another appointment for me in 2 weeks, so I guess I'll wait and see what happens then? I don't really know what to do. Part of the problem is I *do* have issues with anxiety attacks. They started long after the other symptoms started, but I do get extremely anxious and can't think straight, can barely talk, etc. in certain situations. A medical environment is one of those situations. So I walk into a doctor's office, they see that I'm visibly anxious completely with a heart rate of 140, and they think that obviously anxiety is the whole story. My sister told me the only way I'm going to get a doctor to take me seriously is to not "freak out" when I go, but I can't stop the reaction. I tried really hard on Tuesday, but it's not a voluntary phenomenon.
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480448_tn?1403547723
Well, to be honest, the chances of it being something like a brain tumor are slim to none, at your age.  Even if this IS a seizure disorder, a brain tumor being the cause is highly unlikely.

Also, you are honest in saying that you DO also have anxiety issues.  They may have showed up as a result of these other symptoms, but anxiety is anxiety, and it still would help you to address it, with medications and therapy perhaps.  I absolutely think, while you're waiting for your appt, you should give the Xanax a try.  How did the doctor order it and what is your dose?  Is it ordered "as needed"?

There's probably a good chance that the Neuro won't find anything wrong, but that is a GOOD thing, and it's important to rule it out.  As crappy as anxiety is, it's always better than having a medical problem.

MANY people (even without regular issues with anxiety) have the "white coat syndrome", where medical surroundings and situations cause extreme anxiety.  That's something that therapy would be able to help you with also.

I don't like when docs automatically assume everything is anxiety related, but a lot of times, they're right.  When you go in to your next appt, be very honest and straight forward.  Say something like, "I DO acknowledge that I have some anxiety issues, and one of them is being in a medical environment, but I really would feel better if I saw a specialist to rule out a neurological cause.".  Explain that this has been a worry of yours for quite a long time.  Also, tell the doctor that you would like to pursue help for your anxiety either way.  Maybe the doctor would be more agreeable if she knows you're being reasonable and not completely denying that anxiety is one of the issues.
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Avatar_f_tn
I just don't see how a seizure disorder could account for the localized pain in the back of my head. It's not migraines; migraines come and go. This pain is *always* there, and it literally feels like there's something in my brain. I can feel changes in pressure on my brain at different elevations and stuff, too. If I didn't have such awful pain in a very specific spot, I would doubt that I have a tumor, aneurysm, or some other abnormal growth on my brain as well.

Plus, I never had issues with seizures my whole life until this all started, and I was in plenty of situations growing up that could have triggered a seizure if I were prone to them. I rode intense roller coasters and simulator rides, literally stared into strobe lights at this restaurant my family used to go to that had this funky water fountain with strobe lights, went to rock concerts, was in all kinds of stressful situations with DFCS...nothing ever caused me to have a seizure before, so it's curious that it would all of a sudden start. Not saying it's impossible; just saying I doubt it.

I'll try explaining my neurological concerns to her again at my next appointment. I tried last time, and she just kind of nodded and said "okay." She seemed like she just wanted to get rid of me.
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480448_tn?1403547723
I totally understand your concern.  I would be worried too.

Not that this is the same thing, but I had a headache that lasted MONTHS straight.  I can't remember how long exactly, but I think it was about 6-8 months.  EVERY day, all day long I had a headache.  Nothing severe, but it was there, and it drove me nuts.  That's what brought me to this site initially , I was grasping at every straw I could trying to figure it out.  As a nurse, I was mad because I could NOT make sense of it. I saw numerous specialists and never got an answer.  Eventually, it went away (thank GOD).  I didn't think it would ever go away, and to this day, I have NO idea what caused it.  My anxiety doesn't present as health anxiety like a lot of other people's, so I know I wasn't being unreasonable, worrying about something more serious.  So, I can understand a little how frustrating it is.

I could see if the doctor had already run a battery of tests and sent you to specialists, and you STILL continued to insist there was something wrong medically, but you haven't even been worked up yet.  That's always the first step.  You have every right to demand a Neuro work up.  The symptom that stands out for me the most is the burnt smell.  That is NOT something that would be caused by anxiety.  That was a red flag for me.

Hang in there.  I certainly hope it is nothing serious.  I can tell you that if it WAS something more serious, like a brain tumor, or aneurysm, your symptoms would have likely significantly increased by now.  I know it's so hard to believe that there is NOT something big causing your symptoms, but remember, if you get a clean bill of health, that's a good thing, and that's what I'm hoping for you.
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Avatar_f_tn
Yeah, the burnt smell is another one of the reasons I'm so convinced I have a brain tumor. I've read about how smelling something burning often points right to a tumor in the brain. I haven't really experienced it in a couple of years, but I experienced it nonetheless. I also experienced other phantom smells at the time that it was occurring; I was getting whiffs of a chemically smell as well as what I can only describe as old ketchup. So yeah, I'm really freaked out. Since that all started happening, I completely freak out if someone burns something and I don't see the source of the smell right away, which is really great for my anxiety issues, too.

As far as my problems getting worse, they have. All of the problems I have didn't come on at once. It all started with losing my sense of taste when I was around 14 years old, then I began having dizzy spells when I was 17, then the headaches started, and it all progressed rapidly from there.

Anyway, I'll let you go now. Thank you for your thought-out responses. Glad to hear your headache went away, too!
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480448_tn?1403547723
Hopefully you can get some answers soon.  Be sure to let us know how your next appt goes, and you may want to check with your insurance, if you don't need a referral, you may be able to start pursuing the Neuro consult now.

Hang in there!
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Avatar_f_tn
Thank you! I'll report back after something new happens.

Oh, I just realized I never answered your question about how the Xanax was prescribed to me. She wrote down that I'm to take 1/2 or 1 tablet twice a day "as needed."
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Avatar_f_tn
just a suggestion, get tested for epilepsy. iDk exactly how its spelled lol. I am a hairdresser and her daughter had a seizure episode when she was a little baby and nothing since. All of a sudden people were making little comments to her that her daughter seemed to be having delayed reactions and seemed to be a daze for a few sec/min. roller coasters and wierd things will trigger it but she finally took her to a doc they had her blow into a device and sure wnough she has 6 seizures (minor) in 20 min. they diagnosed her w epilepsy. just ask to be on the safe side u never kno and everyone's symptoms are different! and id u arent sattosfied with your doctor bc w all those symptoms u explained to her id she non shilantly laughed it off i sure as hell would get a second opion- dont take somsthing like this lightly.. take care of it asap so that what ever is causing it can br cured or treated! best of luckk! -melissa,23,ny
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A Neurologist would rule out something like epilepsy.  What we were initially talking abiut in this thread, SPS (simple partial seizure) is one kind of seizure.  The term "epilepsy" just means the recurrence of seizures over a longer period of time, meaning it's a chronic condition.

This thread is almost 6 months old, we never did hear back from the OP on this thread...hope she got some answers.
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Avatar_m_tn
  I agree totally this medication does what it is intended for but is very easy to abuse and take one when your uncomfortable like aheart said .. whatever you do do not stop the medication cold turkey ,this medication has to be wean down slowly with close monitoring from your doctor...I learned from personal experience i was taking 2x my daily dose and ran out early and decided that i didnt need them anymore , bad idea .. I ended up having a 10 min seizure when i leaned over to lay my son down for bed. I had 2mins of what they call grandma seizures and then the rest i was mobile but felt like i was blackedout when I came to I didnt realize what happened my fiance told me and called 911.  It felt like I was hit by lightning and did not feel right for two weeks . I would suggest talking to a nuero and to an internal medicine doctor.  Also I was prescribed Paxil for my anxiety afterwards instead of xanax cause it is non siezure causing and is a long release medicine. I also have dealt with anxiety attacks since i was 21 and thought something was always wrong with me . I paid alot of money for a bunch of medical test for my head , heart and nervous system and took an EEG after my seizure 3yrs ago for epilepsy all came back negative but I just didnt feel right I am now 31 and dont have any anxiety attacks like i use to . I also had a doctor shrug me off when i was 21 over these claims but I went ahead with test which I suggest you do for a piece of mind , luckily he was right , but if I can say one thing since ive had this prob for 10 yrs and dealt with it  Ive learned alot of it is in your head and talking to someone bout it might help any anxiety issues . But I wish you luck and get the test done so you atleast no for sure it isnt something serious
  
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