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Brain fog, dizzy, weird symptoms-could this really be just anxiety/depression??

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.
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242532_tn?1269553979
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.
23 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
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.
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Avatar_n_tn
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.

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Avatar_n_tn
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.
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Avatar_n_tn
I've heard that the brain fog thing is exactly what people with ADD have, that it's caused by a lack of dopamine.
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Avatar_n_tn
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!
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Avatar_n_tn
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.
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110220_tn?1309310461
Mia:

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 (withdrawal) 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
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Avatar_n_tn
IVE BEEN FEELING ALL THOSE SAME SYMPTOMS BUT WITH DOUBLE VISION SOME TIMES AND STARING TO THINK IT MIGHT BE ANXIETY...
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Avatar_n_tn
My situation was about the same as Mia_K's.  Six months ago, right in the midst of the holidays, I came down with a upper resp. infection and used about every over-the-counter drug to kick it.  I finally went to the Dr. and was given a shot of steroids to finally get rid of it.  One night, feeling that I was about over it, I went to bed after taking a sleep aid because of insomnia due to some of the meds keeping me awake. The next morning I woke with what I know now as "brain fog" (ears ring all the time as well) and have had it every since.  I had all the battery of tests (not quite to the extent of Mia_K but darn close), blood, urine, thyroid, allergy, eye test, hearing, ERT etc., including MRI and CAT of my brain but all was normal.  Long story short, I still don't know what is causing my "Brain Fog" but at times it is really annoying. Yes, I had a bout of depression for during my illness and the onset of the fog but after "dealing" with my fog the best way I could, I came out of the depression due to my change of health (after being healthy all my life - no hospital stays or surgeries all my life). I am not sure what it is but I have changed my eating habits (cut sugars, alcohol and caffeine) and have began a liver and gi cleans and am taking B complex supps.  Some days are better than others depending on how much rest and stress I endure during the day.  I think what I eat, how much I rest and how I deal with stress has a lot to do with the degree of fog I have.  I'm still looking for my cure but am hanging in there.  It's forums like this that help a lot.
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Avatar_n_tn
I can identify with so much of what you have stated.  I just today visited a neurologist that told me that I need to go to a mental health professional due to not being able to concentrate, memory loss, slow thinking, pain everywhere(but especially in my neck and shoulders), and fatigue like I have never experienced in my life.  I am an educated woman that holds a very high level position.  I am at my wits end trying to survive these symptoms which started in December of last year.  He tells me today that I have migraines (I knew that) but that my other symptoms are typical depression and anxiety.  At first I was angry!  How dare he try to just pooh-pooh this away saying I was depressed!  Once I calmed down, I read the symtoms (symptoms) of depression.  I have all of them.  It is embarassing to me to even think about admitting that I may well be suffering from depression.  I worry what that will do to my reputation, as I am responsible for important decisions.  It is not a good time for me to be menally ill! If I do not follow up on this however I will end up without a job as for the past month I have not been able to do much of anything, but keep trying to cover up thinking I will be better the next day.  It is not getting better-so I must do what ever I can to get back to my old self.  It is just not worth living like I have been the past few months.
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Avatar_n_tn
Depression and an anxiety disorder may be what your experiencing.  I am no health pro by any stretch but you also may look at an auto-immune disorder as well.  Maybe fibromyalgia and like disorders.  My symptoms match several listed here but I don't have the pain association.  I have read a bit on fibromyalgia and pain is a big symptom, including the brain fog, depression, anxiety and the like.  Just FYI.  I hope things begin to go well - I will pray for your finding what is happening and the restoration of you good health.
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Avatar_n_tn
I lived most of my life feeling very healthy (54 years old).  Approximatly 8 years ago, I began getting a full headed dizzy feeling.  Like many, I've had a myriad of medical test which, revealed nothing.  My doctor did prescribe Lorazepam which worked very well for a while. My dizziness eventually went away and I thought great....that's over!  However, after 2 - 4 years later, the syptoms (symptoms) reoccured.  Again, the Lorazepam worked.

About three years ago I started to get the dizzyness again but in addition, I also experienced what could best be described as severe pressure (almost like being under deep water but worse)and discomfort.  In addition to the head feelings I also experienced tingeling sensations in my arms and hands.  I also had difficulty sleeping throughout the night.  The sypmtoms were at times, almost debilitating.  The Lorazepam did not work so well this time.

I finally went to see a Physciatrist and he started me on a variety of different anti depressents (currently taking Effexor), Topamx and Klonopin.  Nothing has really worked so the Dr. either has changed the antidepressent or increased the dosage.  My last visit he said lets ween you off the Topax and gradually increase the Effexor XR to 300mg (150mg in the  morning and 150mg at night).  As I began to increase the Effexor XR my symtoms (symptoms) became exacerbated!  I think that I am convinced that the medications are causing the symptoms.  This has been going on for almost two years.  I really did not suspect depression went I first went to see the Physciatrist but who am I to challenge his diagnosis?  I have read that if you take antidepressent meds and you are not suffering from depression, the side effects can be very unpleasant.

I guess my concerns are two fold; am I taking medication that is actually causing my symptoms and, if I am not actually suffering from depression, what caused the dizziness and pressure sensations two years ago.  I really feel that in my case, the "treatment('s)" are worse than the diease.

I would appreciate anyones thoughts and / or opinions on this.
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110220_tn?1309310461
Just reading all the meds that you have been on over the last two years, it's a wonder that you can function.  It is hard to tell what meds might be making you feel bad, but i'm sure that they have something to do with it.  I'd try to get off of them gradually and I hope that you will feel better.  It will take time, but be patient with yourself.

best wishes!
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Avatar_n_tn
mia,
i've read your post and seems myself describing what I have beeen feeling for 4 months by now. I'm wondering if you really had anxiety/dep (very hard to believe when you feel you are really sick w/ all these symptoms going on!)?
Did you get better? Did you take medication for that or only phsicotherapy?
Were you on beta-blockers for the palpitations? I'm, and my doctor just told me these symptoms can be side-effects of Atenolol.I'm afraid to cut my dosis to the half and find out!...
hope you feel better....
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Avatar_n_tn
I am almost certain that what most of you have is either Labyrinthitis or Meniere's disease. Labyrinthitis usually follows a cold or flu and is caused by a viral infection of the inner ear. M
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi there,
          I'm just after reading your story about your symptoms of what has being explained briefly to you as being anxiety.  I really feel for you and what you are going through.  I'm also extremely happy to have come across your story online.  As I was reading through it I felt as though I was reading a copy of my own experience!  I too was left feeling completly let down by the whole health system as all my GP was telling me was that I was suffering from anxiety!  Even though I too have had every test under the sun done, I still can't believe that my symptoms can be down to anxiety!  From Fatigue to memory loss to eye strain, dizziness, confusion, it just lets you feeling so down in the dumps!
I now see a Psychologist on a weekly basis. Even though I still believe theres another cause for my symptoms, having somebody like my Psychologist to discuss this with is a great help so I'd recommend it to you.
I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story as your after brightening up my world a bit as I don't feel so alone.

Buttons x
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Avatar_n_tn
I am so relieved to read these comments & know that others have been suffering similar problems, as I have been worried that I was losing my mind! Due to work pressures and losing a close family member late last year, I had been very stressed and upset for several months. I visited my doctor who suggested I take some time off. I decided on a lifestyle change and went back to study for a post graduate degree. My doctor had prescribed antidepressants (Prozac) to help with the depression and anxiety. The drug did help with the depression and gave me more energy, however, my anxiety levels seemed to increase - I often felt like I was jumping out of my skin!! I also started to experience breathlessness.  I decided after a few months to stop taking the medication, however, after 5 days withdrawal I couldn't sleep and was suffering from palpitations, agitation, dizziness and problems concentrating. I had trouble reading and thinking clearly. I kept forgetting things and feeling disorientated and confused. I also suffered from tremors and what felt like small electric shocks runnin through me ( very scary but apparently common on withdrawal from SSRIs). I returned to the doctor and she put me on another drug - Paroxetine, which she said would lessen my anxiety and help with the other symptoms - but they only got worse! I told my doctor that I thought I must be sensitive to the SSRIs and so she changed the medication again, this time to one of the "old style" anidepressants and I have been referred to a psychologist for CBT. Because of all this I have become very mistrustful of the medical profession who seem to prescribe  drugs without really understanding their effects.  While the doctor seems quite sure that my symptoms are due to anxiety, I am still scared that there is some other underlying cause for my brain fog and that the use of the antidepressants has seriously affected my cognitive processes.
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110220_tn?1309310461
As wierd as it may seem and feel, what you are feeling is a withdrawl (withdrawal) of your meds.  This medication alters the feelings that we experience with anxiety and they are powerful.  Give it time, you will feel better and the symptoms will go away.

I spent litterally thousands and thousands of dollars before it sank in that what I was going through was withdrawls and I wasn't dying from some dreaded unknown disease.  You may want to read Professor Ashtons manual on SSRI and benzos.  Go to website www. benzo.org.uk and all the symptoms of withdrawls are posted there.  It helped me tremendously.

I find it amazing that our bodies while experiencing anxiety can mirror, heart attacks, respritory problems, ms and other ailments.  Once you take a pill like xanax, it simply goes away.
I now know what to do and I don't need xanax.  Deep Breathing, mental reassurance that what I feel is anxiety and that is all.  Once I relax and focus on something else, all symptoms subside.  

Good Luck to you and do some work on your own to understand how you are feeling and try to stay away from all these doctors, they will over medicate you and get up hooked on so many meds.

If I took all the meds that my doctor wanted me to try, I would be in a mental ward by now.  And all that I ever had experienced was panic attacks.  Never took meds in my life other than birth control...  I think that they mean well but they can't begin to understand the withdrawl (withdrawal) of these benzos and they don't have the foggest of how you feel while tapering. My doctor said I'd feel a little irritable weaning off of xanax and he just didn't have a clue.  Do go into Prof. Ashtons website and truly learn what you are experiencing.

Best Wishes.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you all for your posts.  They are very helpful to me.  I am a 49 year old woman and am being treated for anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I currently take the following meds:  100mg Zoloft, 75 mg of EffexorXR, and 100mg of Trazadone.  Each increase and decrease was difficult for me.  When my docotor increased me from 75mg of effexor to 150mg, I had tremors so bad I couldn't eat or hold anything in my hands without spilling or dropping.  In fact at one point I was shaking so badly at the dinner table that I put both my elbows on the table with my hands clasped together to try to stabilize them.  This caused the table to start moving.  Pretty scary stuff.  Since my Psychiatrist was out of town, I had my GP prescribe smaller doses so I could bring myself back down a bit until she returned.  These drugs are so potent and I am clearly very sensitive to them. Four weeks ago I misjudged the opening of a doorway and slammed my shoulder and my wrist into the door framand edge of the door.  I chip fractured a bone in my wrist, but walked around with it for 3 days before going to the hospital.  Just a bit overdrugged or brain fogged, wouldn't you agree.  Anyway, the doc decreased the Effexor by 37.5 from 112.5 to 75.  One may think that a small decrease such as this would not effect me, but I am still having withdrawal symptoms: brainfog, confusion, nausea, headache, fatique, blurred vision, and pressure in the head and eyes.  This past Weekend I experienced something that really scared me.  My husband and I were carrying on a conversation and when it was his turn to speak, I couldn't understand anything he said.  It was as if the words blended together into one big word.  I couldn't seem to filter the words into anything I could understand.  I thought I may be having a TIA or mini-stroke, but had no other symptoms.  I knew it could be related to the withdrawal, but on Monday I called my GP to report it, and I tell her that it's probably withdrawal from Effexor.  She wants to pass it by my psychiatrist, who is prescribing the antidepressants to see if she has seen this occur in other patients.  Now mind you, I have had problems with every increase and decrease since I started on these drugs and her response to me and my doctor is that I couldn't be continuing to have withdrawal symptoms from such a small decrease at three weeks post.  So now I will get a CT to rule out tumors, brain bleeds, blockage, whatever, in the brain and blood tests to rule out diabetes.  I recently had thyroid tests, CA125, and CBC, which were all fine.  I have had diabetes ruled out three times already, but I guess when you have a risk factor, they just keep checking.  I think once they rule out the brain malfunctions and the diabetes I am going to seriously consider getting off these drugs.  It's the depression and anxiety that I will struggle with the most and will be the deciding factor as to optional treatment plans. I need to be able to function at a high level in my job, and this is all starting to affect my work and my homelife.  I hope this helps someone.

Peace to all.

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Avatar_n_tn
Mia, i read what yo are going through ,i feel for you ,i hae been through all kinds anxiety depression for many years when i was 32 i went todr because i felt ihada lump in my throat ,i was getting palpitations and beingnervous with worry my b pressue went up sohe put me on a betablocker[atenonol] he said it may take that lumpy feeling away help palpitations it did for awhile than each episode ran into a vicous cycle so i was put on xanaxm it helped take edge off ,but nowm i'm under stress and i am getting that dizzy feeling in my head i can't cocentrate for fear of why this is happening , my head feels weird when i'm sitting feels like i'm rocking with that dizziness,so i sit worry why is this happening ,it consumes me causes me to isolate myself ,ibegan haing hairloss the dr's said maybe from stress or immune problem alopecia,i do suffer with ocd for years and i fear trying paxil my pyschiatrist wants me to take, i keep thinking it will give me palpitations more sometimes i feel like they are in my throat ....so i can relate o what you say i'm sorry that you go through this i always think i have everything wrong ,this dizzness is at mid mornng i need some peace of mind ,and it's hard ,the panic's attacks happen after get these other symptoms, so try hang in there, wow i even called a hypnotist to see if he can help me but cost out of my reach  try stay strong ,it feels good not to feel alone i hope things get better for you :}      Take care
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149081_tn?1242401432
I've been plagued by the same symptons as well except for the pain.My symptons come in 3 - 4 month shifts. I'm good for 8 - 12 weeks then bam her it all comes again! I also have been tested for many things like you all. I happened to be talking with a friend of mine who said those symptons are what made her MD test her for Lyme Disease. I'm told that it may take 2 or more tests to come back with a positive result. I was also told by my friend that she went through all kinds of testing as well before her MD could pinpoint it.She was in fact diagnosed with Lyme Disease.After taking her medication for 2 days she felt like she was normal again.Two years later she still feels fantastic. I am now going to be tested for Lyme Disease as well. One more test can't hurt and who knows maybe I'll finally know why I have alzheimers(so to speak) at 37 years old!!!!! I now have an appointment with a neurologist for further testing. By the grace of god I just may finally have a name to go with these strange happenings.
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Avatar_n_tn
HeidiS - Thanks for your post.  I am going to visit the site you recommended.  Since experiencing the symptoms of brain fog and ringing ears I haven't had much relief.  The ringing and fog is always there, some days less ringing and more fog and then other days less fog and more ringing.  As in my previous post, I began to experience these things right after being sick with a cold/flu in December '05.  I have researched the Internet ad nausea and thought at one time I had Meniere's but went to the ENT doc (before thinking it was Meniere's) and he said everything was okay and that he had no idea what caused the ringing.  And I too have done the detox and candida thing, which lessened the symptoms but didn't get rid of the fog or ringing. I am still searching for my cure - because my docs aren't.  Regards to all.
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Avatar_f_tn
I  just turned 25 last week. I have taken nearly every single medication you all have commented on. Currently on 200 mg Zoloft a day. I have all the symptoms of severe anxiety and can blame the condition on all sorts of events from my childhood. I am really having a hard time right now as I was recently assaulted and received a broken leg. Depression and anxiety are encompassing me. I feel so sad for you all yet so relieved that we aren't alone and have a safe forum like this to help each other. We aren't claiming to be doctors just sharing from experience and the heart. Thank you all
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