Brain fog, dizzy, weird symptoms-could this really be just anxiety/depression??
by mjk216, May 24, 2006
After living a perfectly normal (some say fortunate) life for the past 32 years, things went horribly awry starting 6 months ago. After a particularly bad cold, I was left with a raspy voice, which quickly progressed to a constant lump-in-the-throat sensation. ENT put me on Prednisone. The next day, I ended up in the ER thinking that my throat was closing. ER doctor gave me an additional megadose of Prednisone. The Prednisone did nothing but make me feel extremely lightheaded, which stopped as soon as I stopped taking the Prednisone.

About 6 weeks after stopping Prednisone, I began to feel extremely dizzy and off-balance. (I.e., not the same as when I was taking Prednisone). Constant state of disequilibrium and BRAIN FOG: thinking now feels like "work," trouble remembering names, dates, etc., lightheaded and "floaty," hard to carry on a normal conversation without sounding like a ditz!  This from a person who has a Master's degree and a 4.2 GPA! I just can't focus. My current job involves heavy intellectual writing and requires 110% cognitive function at all times, so the brain fog is quite distressing to me.

Since then, it's been one symptom after the other: eye pressure, heavy-head, chest pressure and pain, tingling and numbness in my lower left leg/toes and arm/fingers, heart palpitations and premature ventricular contractions, fatigue, feeling like I can't catch my breath, blocked/full ears and esophageal spasms. In addition to the symptoms in the preceding paragraph.

I've been to every doctor/specialist and had every test in the book: 3 laryngoscopies, upper GI endoscopy, throat culture, 2 chest x-rays, lung tests, EKG and echocardiogram, EEG, nerve conduction testing, sinus CT scan, ophthalmology tests, hearing test, numerous blood tests (including tests for anemia, white blood cell count,syphilis, blood sugar, thyroid function, and inflammation/autoimmune disorders), tuberculosis PPD test, x-ray of entire spine, balance/vestibular testing, including ENG tests, sleep study, and MRI of the brain, with and without contrast. All normal, EXCEPT that the ENG testing showed some "indifference" the vestibular response of my left ear. Vestibular rehabilitation therapy has only helped slightly; VR therapist is stumped.

I finally went to see a clinical psychologist, thinking she could help me deal with all of this. After listening to me for 30 minutes, she determined that this was all due to anxiety & depression, and wants to put me on Zoloft. Now my PC doctor, who's wanted to dismiss me as an "anxious female" from the start, just wants to medicate me w/ Zoloft rather than listen to me. Could all of the above really be due to anxiety/depression? My stress level's fine-only "anxiety" is not knowing what's wrong with me! If it is anx/dep, can it be treated effectively w/o medication? I've seen all the Zoloft "horror stories," so I'd like to use it as a last resort. Can cognitive-behavioral or other type of therapy work on its own? Thanks.
by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank, May 29, 2006
This is almost a typical story of the way generalized anxiety presents these days.  Yes, psychotherapy can help without medications, and I would recommend that.  But you can do a safe trial of medications that are directly at the anxiety, not depression.  Ask your doctor for a brief trial of xanax or klonopin, then start therapy.
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Member Comments (23)
by ABCMomof3, May 24, 2006
You poor thing. I feel sorry for you having to go through all those tests. I have had depression and anxiety and I had lots of strange symptoms; both physical and mental. I had a lot of the same symptoms as you; the throat clenching really got to me and the heaviness in my throat and all sorts of stuff just like you. I never had tests like you had done, because I knew that it was depression and anxiety ( I had a few tests done to rule out other illnesses, and the tests came back normal)

I knew that it was anxiety and depression, but some people have anxiety and/or depression and don't realize it. It sounds like you have anxiety. And I'm sure the dr. here will be able to help you figure some things out and I'm sure that if you took some type of medication you would feel a whole lot better and it doesn't mean you will have to take it forever and I had withdrawals from effexor xr (and the withdrawls were yucky) but I was fine after a couple weeks and it was well worth taking the effexor because it helped and it worked and I am fine now. If I ever get depressed again, I'm going to try therapy first or a combination of therapy and medications.

I hope you feel better soon.
by shade, May 25, 2006
I can't speak to all of your experience, but I can to some.  I have been actively dealing with my depression for seven years.  Since you are obviously very intelligent, you may already know this, but depression is not only about being sad.  It is also a very physical illness.  I think I'm to the point now that I've worked through most of my emotional issues with my therapist that though I do get thrown off balance by things from time to time.  But for the most part over the last two years my depression has manifested itself mostly physically and not emotionally.

I absolutely know that depression can cause the brain fog.  I've been very depressed and had the same thing happen.  I to have always taken pleasure in my intelligence and my love for reading and literature.  During depression, I couldn't even read a page and tell you ten minutes later what it said.  It actually gave me a headache to try to read or even think too hard.  It was hard to even hold conversations with people because I couldn't really follow what they were saying.  After my last bad spell, luckily I am in education and had time off during the summer and I found that the only remotely intellectual thing I could do was listen to books on tape.  Somehow listening to it seemed easier than trying to read which was so frustrating, I wanted to cry.

I had also always enjoyed what I considered to be my quick wit.  But my reaction time in depression was so incredibly slow and I could never keep up my end in witty banter.

Medication can help with all theses things.  In my experience, it may get a little worse the first week or two, but then slowly over time it gets better and then after a couple of months I'm back to my old self.  My understanding of how it works is that part of your brain is under functioning and it takes a while before it can get back to normal function.

Best of luck.

by Smile123, May 26, 2006
I know the feeling.  My brain doesn't seem to act as promptly, sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind.  Sometimes I can't remember what I have fone 5 minutes ago.  My ears feel full, my face feel numb, my right arm and legs feel so heavy.  Afer reading several articles on anxiety, I am sure this is what I have, and maybe yourself to.  It's a chemical imbalance.
by shade, May 26, 2006
I've heard that the brain fog thing is exactly what people with ADD have, that it's caused by a lack of dopamine.
by dipstick, Jun 01, 2006
I too have had same/similar symptoms - ongoing since, 1987.  Fortunately, the symptoms vary and have not been all the time, since 1987.  Stress seems to be the main trigger for the brain fog (I also, wonder if it is not hypoglycemia, sometimes).  Unfortunately brain fog affects everything you do in the workplace (earning a living).  Have you tried taking B-12 supplement (this has been a life saver for me)?.  If I miss taking a dose, I experience confusion plus brainfog.  I also take a zinc supplement (because it is often used for chelation of heavy metals - which is a culprit of brain fog.  Hope you are doing better at this post!
by sarah20, Jun 01, 2006
I had all the same symptoms you had. I am only 31 years old and this started 4 years ago. I too am very successful and need to concentrate at the company where I work. I am a analyst. I have done all kinds of tests took Lexapro 10mg and Ativan. But let me suggest what really helped me get better. I stopped the Lexapro made me gain so much weight.  Here is what helped me. Lucinda Bassett "Stress and Anxiety" program. Check it out on the web. I ordered the information and let me tell you I loved it. I am doing so much better. All symptoms are gone.
by rosetoes, Jun 03, 2006

It sounds just like anxiety...lump in your throat, papitations, pounding heart, lightheaded, etc.  As wierd as it is, it is anxiety.  I wouldn't necessarily say that it is depression, unless some other things are going on in your life that has brought you down.

There are great books to read regarding anxiety and overcoming it.  I have learned through deep breathing and tense and release to rid myself of anxiety when it hits me.

I did take xanax for a brief time and it helped tremendously, but I did go through withdrawl and I wouldn't wish that on my enemy...very difficult and caused more anxiety then I had when I first started them.  It does go away and they did help me.

I now know when what the doctors say when they say to take them only as needed...they are great if you are having a bout with anxiety, you take a pill and poof, you anxiety is gone, really it is just that easy.  But the continuing dosage (3 times a day) for over 4 to 6 weeks, "Houston we have a Problem".

You need to read about anxiety and buy a couple of self help books (I did and right now a friend has mine has them) so I don't know the name of the books  that helped me.   Learn what it is, the symptoms so you won't be anxious when you feel that way.  There are exercises that help you to get rid on the anxiousness.

Best Wishes
by 713, Jun 07, 2006