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Are these physical symptoms caused by anxiety?
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Are these physical symptoms caused by anxiety?

Background:
I'm a 34 year old female with a history of depression and anxiety/panic. Over the last 18 months or so I've developed a specific health-related anxiety triggered initially by looking up symptoms on Google, misdiagnosing myself and becoming convinced I had HIV [without any good cause - never had unprotected sex]. My doctor took blood tests and said that I didn't have it, but my anxiety had reached a stage where I convinced myself that he was lying to me.  My anxiety presented itself with lots of physical symptoms, panic attacks, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea, dizziness, upset stomachs, vision distortion etc.  I've also developed a very strong fear of death.

Through therapy and 6 months of sertraline I've improved a little, but recently had a swollen finger which I went to my doctor with. She said it was very likely carpal tunnel syndrome from too much computer work, but in the 10 days since then I've worried about it constantly and the symptoms have expanded hugely to include slight tingling, mild shooting pains up my arms and into my shoulders, numbness, weakness and some pain in various joints on my hand and wrist.  It's never the same hand from one day to the next, and the symptoms change and seem to get worse the more I focus on them.  If I'm out with friends, they don't hurt at all.  Even as I write this, I'm feeling the tingling developing so I can feel it in my face and lips.

Is it possible that I am creating all of these symptoms myself through anxiety?  I'm terrified that it's the onset of something awful, but equally I'm aware that my history means it could all be in my mind.

I'd appreciate your comments.
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242532_tn?1269553979
You just described classical somatic anxiety disorder. You should focus in your therapy about what you are really worried about.
18 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I have seen many patients who have suffered from anxiety for years and almost without exception, most of these patients have felt themselves, at one time or another, to be suffering from some physical malady.  It is a testament to the ingenuity of the brain to be able to channel energy away from the shadowy world of anxiety and create a focal point, a rational center which can respond to those feelings and experiences which seem very real and are usually very terrifying as well.  It is not uncommon for persons with Generalized Anxiety Disorder to believe they are infected with HIV, or are in the late stages of cancer; heart disease is the most common claim because of the way it explains the symptoms which are experienced in anxiety, even when there is no family history or evidence that any organic heart disease exists.

That is not to imply that you do not suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but your history would lead me to believe that your symptoms *might* be anxiety related.  Not unlike a person whose anxiety leads them to believe that they have heart disease, they will feel symptoms which will confirm their own diagnoses; they will suffer from shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, chest pain, dizziness, weakness, rapid pulse; and all these symptoms are very real, they feel real because they are actually happening and they are painful.  The problem with depression/anxiety is that we cannot have a rational dialogue with our thought processes; otherwise we could simply tell ourselves that were going to feel good today and it would happen - and while I believe in the power of positive thinking, you first need to get some control over the anxiety and depression before you can even begin to both give and reflect positive feedback within yourself.

I'm not sure that the Zoloft is the best medication for depression with anxiety.  SSRI
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Avatar_f_tn
I have had the same feelings that you mentioned, shooting cold feelings, tingling, bug crawling sensations, I just never know what feeling I will experience in a days time. Sometimes it starts as feelings that someone is injecting cold water into my veins, or it may be the tickly, itchy feelings, today its the burning which is the worse.  My doc still says thats its anxiety, I can't believe that you can get these feelings from just anxiety.  I have myself convinced that I have MS and its just not showing on my MRIs yet.  Although a good thing is I don't have any muscle weakness, or numbness, or any of the other typical MS symptoms, I'm scared.  Just don't know what to think next.  I started taking Prozac again, took it 3 years ago for a while, only 20 mg, it gave me lots of energy, but didn't take these feelings away, maybe I need a stronger dose.  Xanax helps some, so thats comforting.  ANXIETY *****!!!!
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Avatar_n_tn
HI ALL,

My name is Alex im 27yrs old, for the last 6 years i have been suffering from ocd and anxiety, my main worries over these 6 years has been thinking i have HIV with every girl i come in to some sort of sexual contact with, even though i have always used protection.
I have had around 35 blood tests in the last 6 years just for this disease and have always been negative,so everytime im with a girl oraly or sexually i become a hermet at home for 3 months till i know i have passed the window period for HIV and i can get an 100% result, fortuanlly my doctor understands my neurosis and never turns me away which is a huge help.

But now i have started on a new venture of ocd and anxiety a disease called parkinsons.

I started to notice twitches in my fingers, as soon as i saw this i searched the net for symptoms of parkinsons and now believe i am a parkinson sufferer.

My today symptoms are the following:
Stiff aches and pains in my neck and shoulders and ankles.
slight tremors in legs,hands and arms.(more on the left side)
twitches all over my body and times of the day.
Constipation and week urine passing.

I have been back to the doctor with all these symptoms and he assured me its all anxiety,due to my anxious and neurotic ways i demanded a referal to a neurologist.

So last week i went an saw the head proffesor of neurology at one of australia's leading hospitals.

He did all the muscle and reflexes test and assesed me all over and found there was nothing wrong, that alot of this is from my anxiety and told me i would be best to see an anxiety specialist.

For some reason i still believe i have parkinsons, im having a very tough time at the moment i cant stop surfing the next looking for an explanation, and what makes it worse is when you see how Michael J Fox started to notice a twitch in his pinky finger and then had tremors and pains in his shoulders, which inturn was diagnosed with parkinsons.

I know i am highly anxious and it is becoming hard to know if i am just imagining all this.

Please help me does it sound like i have parkinsons.

Regards
Alex

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Avatar_n_tn
No, it really doesn't sound like you have Parkinson's Disease.  It sounds like you suffer with health anxiety like many of us, including me.  Find a good therapist, deal with the anxiety and you'll be amazed that the physical symptoms start to dissipate.
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Avatar_n_tn
Have you seen a therapist on a regular basis for last six years?
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi, I had and still do, the same symptoms re: the HIV fear and physical symptoms person!  Exactly the same!  It started with an irrational fear of getting some dreaded disease.  Then I started to have muscle tension/aches/shooting pain/groin cramps, buzzing sensation all over my body...I checked my lymph nodes and my temperature hourly, every day for 12 weeks...got a final HIV test and thought I would be done with my symptoms.  It has been over a year and I still have them (although, to a much lesser extent)...I have been in therapy, I currently take wellbutrin and recently started on toprol (which has help alot). Oh, and it all started because I went on the internet and looked up symptoms!  It is the worst thing to do!  My doctor found out recently that I am in the medical field, and he believes that I am experiencing the same thing that medical student get when they start learning about medicine.  The symptoms are real....it is amazing how ones mind can cause all of these symptoms.
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Avatar_n_tn
Alex, I've been in the same place as you are.  Similiar symptoms, expecially the twitches all over etc.  It is definately anxiety related.....one thing I will warn you though, you probably already thought this but, I would stop testing excessively re: hiv.  If you test enough, you might end up having a false positive/or intermediate result (just by chance) and If you are anything like me, it would not be a good thing.  I think we all suffer from some sort of OCD.....I truly believe that if I don't worry about something, then the worst will happen!  And also, these are definately real physical symptoms, don't let anyone tell you they are not.
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Avatar_n_tn
Am I ever glad to find you guys!  I have been diagnosed with anxiety 18 months ago.  I was on Effexor for 18months and have now switched to Wellbrutin because I am quitting smoking.  I have been on it for 3 weeks.  The quitting smoking part is going very well, BUT the anxiety is back!  My new worry is ovarian cancer, since I have gained weight especially in my abdomen area.  My pants are tighter for sure.  That is one of the symptoms ovarian cancer and also cramping pains.  I have those too!  My problem is, is the weight gain from the Wellbrutin, and are these cramping feelings just my anxiety kicking in again?  That's is the problem with anxiety, how will I ever know if my symptoms are real and need medical attention or it is just my anxiety???What if I assume it is my anxiety and try to ignore it, meanwhile some terminal disease is eating away at my body?  Does anyone else have these thoughts?  If so, how do you deal with them?  Does Wellbrutin cause weight gain this soon??
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Avatar_n_tn
Hey

I'm a 20 year old student in UK and im so worried at the mo, I did about 4 months ago  get an inflamed mark on my face which made me worry cos it was weird , i thought it may be releted to having unprotected sex and i had a health scare of HIV , which i got tests for as ok ,  and all clear , . since then i got really tired and suffered fatigue ,  and had a couple of blood tests all clear,   now i dont get tired , but all my muscles hurt , started off in my lower arms , like something being injected into the cartilidge or muscles , my neck and upper back aches had more  blood tests all clear again .  then recently started getting muscle twitches , i googled stuff and keep thinking its MS or fibrolysis  or however u say it. Im so scared , im olny young , final year of my law degree . just  this weekend  i was in so much pain after work ( i work weekend as a waiter ),  GP said if it was anything more exciting she could tell ,  but how does she know without having done any nero tests , this is ruining my life .
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Avatar_n_tn
Also i have no history of anything like this i my family ,  so whatever it is isnt habittual , im not sure if its muscle weakness either its more pain , becuase im a waiter i can still manage to carty 4 large plates at a time with no struggle. I cant stop thinking bout it 24/7 , im only young and it worries me .

thank you
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi there i am a 25 year old female, I thought i was alone in this tingling world as i call it, untill i found this web site. About 4 years ago i think was my first onset, my husband was getting ready to go over sea for 6 month and we had just got married 2 weeks before he left, a couple of days before he left i started feeling this tingling sensation in my hands, i freaked out, i just let the physical symptoms go untill they got worse, i went to the DR he then sent me to the nero, he did a MRI, came back fine. Well the 6 months had past and my husband came back all was well till i noticed how much of a drinker he became, needless to say i was stressing over it and it became a big problem in our relationship, i felt the tingling getting worse going to my feet,hands and parts of my back, i then went back to the nero and he did some nerve test all came back fine.. about 3 months after this i started a new job, a very demanding job, i was working 110 hours a week "seriously" well the more i kept with this job and the more problems i had at home i felt the tingling getting worse, then i lost my grandmother in a bad accident and the stress of that made the tingling worse then ever, right after her accident my husband and i got a divorce, oh was it the worse tingling i had ever felt, in my hands,face,feet,legs just about every part of my body, well i had a brain scan done and all was fine, then had blood test done across the board all was fine. In july of 06 i had my first panic attack i was scared, but some how talked my self out of it, i then started having them all the time, i went to the ER the second time it happen and i was told i had cronic (chronic) anxiety and stress. I thought to my self no i don't they don't know what they are talking about, I am strong and i can handle anything, needless to say i was wrong, my now fianc'e got deployed in sep of 06 i was put on disabilty for the panic attacks,and had to move, it cracked me really bad the tingling sensations are from head to toe and that is all i can think about, i then started thinking i had everything and dwelling on it really bad, i still do because i have nothing to focus on but the tingling sensations. I am now back on zoloft and got back into school to take my mind away from this tingling and i hope it will just start to go away, i know i am who made me feel this way cause the more active i am and the more i don't think about it the more it is not there.. My point is Anxiety *****, and i did not think i could be one to have it but i do, and i now know lots of people do, and as much time as it took for me to let it get this bad is as much time it's going to take for me to fix it. I hope by me telling my story i will be able to help someone feel that they are not alone, that is what this page did for me.. thank you
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Avatar_n_tn
Boy can I relate (unfortunately) to this thread!  I have been suffering from depression and anxiety since I was a very small child.  I pretty much had a nervous breakdown after the birth of my third child - severe depression, panic attacks, anxiety, thinking something or everything was wrong with me.  My husband didn't understand, my doctor told me I was just tired (no help there) and my mother, although sympathetic, told me I couldn't go on tranquilizers or any type of drug because then I couldn't take care of my kids.  It was a miserable and very frightening time for me since I had three small children to care for, a husband who traveled constantly, and basically no one to help me.  I prayed a lot and cried a lot but gradually got better.  That was 25 years ago.

Just recently I had a series of events knock me back down.  It started with a flare up of an inner ear problem (vertigo).  The anxiety over that caused a flare up of a TMJ problem that left me in such pain I could hardly eat and had to take painkillers to sleep.  That problem caused more anxiety (I dread dental work) and pushed me into depression.  Then came the holidays, finals (I was completing my bachelor's degree), a full-time job and taking care of the house. My husband commented one morning that I had been talking in my sleep (not at all common for me). By the time I turned in that final paper I was so tense and uptight that I had incredible pain from tight stiff muscles in my neck and between my shoulder blades.  I had to take painkillers to sleep.  Other physical symptoms kicked in.  My whole body feels heavy, getting up out of a chair or standing seems difficult.  At times I feel like I have an elephant sitting on my head trying to push me to the floor.  Other times I feel that I'm trembling on the inside.  The least little bit of stress makes the symptoms worse and the more I focus on my body, the worse the symptoms get.  Occasionally when I'm distracted, the symptoms disappear altogether. Like everyone else, I wonder if the symptoms aren't part of some horrible disease even though everything pretty much points to anxiety/stress as the cause.  I know a woman in my church who had MS (she's been in remission for 8 years), so of course that crosses my mind.... anxiety does suck!
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Avatar_n_tn
Ok, I have read soooo many forums about this because I have had terrible withdrawal experiences. I began using Zoloft back in 2006, I decided that I wanted to stop taking it, so I gradually tapered off the drug, only to experience this "brain shiver" sensation and irritability. So of course I began using the Zoloft again. Voila, the symptoms dissapeared!! I once again 4 months later decided it was time to stop, so I tapered down from 50mg to 25mg and then 25mg every other day until finished with med. Well everything seemed to be fime for about 3 WEEKS, then all of a sudden, I started getting those brain shivers/zaps intermittently, then I felt dizziness, then I was feeling like my brain was wrapped in cotton, very foggy and spacy. I then developed headaches. This has been going on now for one month, I feel terrible and even sounds and bright lights irritate me. I spoke to a psychiatrist that I work with and she asked me all these qustions, she then suggested that I see a neurologist. She told me that in no way could I be having symptoms this far after taking Zoloft, especially since I didn't begin experiencing the symptoms until after 3 weeks of discontinuation of the drug. I have scheduled an appointment with a neurologist to see if I have something else going on. I am really nervous and I strongly believe that I am experiencing a really bad side effect from Zoloft. I would appreciate if anyone else came forward that had w/d so long after taking the drug and describe all the symptoms if any that are related to mine. This completely ***** and I am even tempted to go back on the drug just to make all this wacky *****in my head stop. I have NEVER had this experience in my life until after the second time I took Zoloft. The only other medication I am taking is Albuterol and Advair inhalers for my asthma. I am really miserable and not one professional seems to care much less understand what the hell is going on.
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Avatar_n_tn
Ok, I went ahead and began taking Zoloft 25mg yesterday. I was experiencing such bad symptoms from the w/d of the medication, that I went and got my prescription refilled. Well today I feel back to normal, I am not having the brain shivers, the cloudy feelings, the irritabilty. This was sort of a test I was doing on my own, and I was right. It was the Zoloft w/d that made me experience those symptoms. I want to know if anyone else has tried this and if they feel normal again. If so, we need a class action suit against the drug companies to put out a warning label that has these symptoms included. Now I feel like I will not be able to stop taking this medication because I NEVER want to experience these symptoms ever again. Mind you, I have NEVER had any symptoms like this before I was ever placed on Zoloft
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Avatar_n_tn
Never would have thought anyone was going through the same things i do...I am 25 and suffer from Anxiety all type from agoraphobia/ social/ GAD/ to panic disorder...so yeah my life is far from normal... I havent had it as long as most...i would say around 8 months now...in which i have visited the ER 4 or 5 times...and i to had the fear of HIV, Hyperthyriodism, cancer, heart problems whatever i googled and found my symtoms (symptoms) under. I now take wellbutrin sr and also xanax...i was told to take paxil but that made things worse!! i still have symptoms but hope eventully they will fade...it is so hard going through this i have a 7 year old daughter and my husband is deployed..i am soon starting counciling so maybe things will get better..i was wondering if any of you feel like you are having a heart attack at times and feel you are going to die?  
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi I have had similar symptoms to alot of people but in some ways they are different. My current symptoms are pain under my armpits and chronic fatigue. I have also experienced alot of lightheadedness and thrush. Another symptom i have is extreme coughing after eating. Iknow that i do have anxiety disorder. previously i had a problem with thinking I was having a heart attack. Had a recent sexual exposure with a lamb skin condom with a person of unknown status. since then I have been obsessed that I must have HIV . Klonopin does appear to help the pain under my armpits go away. there is no sswelling noted . Is this most likely anxiety related? thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
I have GAD and have been on meds for over a year.  My background is as follows:  I started feeling like I was having a heart attack...I am 27.  My doctor always told me that I was too young...which really didnt help things!!  She finally decided to put me on Lexapro and it worked wonders.  My symptoms were lightheadedness, dizzy, pain in my chest (left side), the pain seemed to go down my left arm and through my back.  I felt weak and scared that I was having a heart attack.  Once I started the Lexapro it all went away.  The first week on Lexapro was hell but once it got in my system it was a miracle...I was me again!!!  But I gained like 20 pounds and I decided to go off of it and start Wellbutrin....well that was a mistake!!  It made my anxiety worse...like I have been popping my Xanax like candy!!  So now I am weaning off that and going back to the Lexapro. I have read a lot of people use two meds, like lexapro and wellbutrin, I am thinking that it could work for me!  I would like any responses to the combo. I am kinda just nervous about the weight gain!!!!  
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