I originally wrote this as a response to Qiux post regarding anxiety or the real thing. Then I thought maybe it would be better as its own post. I want to address the other side of the danger of it is "all in your head".
I have a dx of generalized anxiety. It is a true dx. I know I have this and have had it most of my life. I left it untreated until recently. I can testify that anxiety can manifest itself somatically. I am a gut person. When the anxiety gets to be too much I have stomach pains, irritable bowels, and can't eat. I have since the age of 14 known this is how my anxiety manifested itself. Because I was aware that I have anxiety I blamed many of my symptoms on anxiety, mostly because they would come and go, just like somatic symptoms and many of the symptoms of anxiety appear the same as those of ms. Examples: invisibale aches and pains, tingling in the hands and other areas of the body, headaches, bowel/bladder problems and the list goes on.
Therefore I have went years without a dx or treatment for what I now think were MS symptoms. I was uneducated about MS, it isn't something you read about just for the fun of it. I get really aggravated when I read posts where doctors tell patients "it is all in your head", "See a therapist for the anxiety", "it is stress related". All are pseudonyms for anxiety. The doctors suck and don't have a clue what true anxiety is and those of us who do are often ourselves convinced by family, doctors, co-workers ect. that everything is in our heads. This can be very dangerous. So be very careful about accepting a dx of it is all in your head because even tho anxiety can express itself somatically, I do not believe that is the case as often as lazy doctors and well meaning family/friends would like to think.
Here is a piece of my personal journal. I thought about not sharing it because it is so personal. But it is a true picture of anxiety from someone who knows. Maybe you will see yourself and if you do get help. But maybe you won't and you will push harder for that lazy doctor or well meaning friend/family member to listen and understand. There are still ppl in my family who want to believe it is all in my head (it is easier for them) and with the plaques maybe they are right. I may not have any spinal lesions.
From my journal:
Anxiety, especially as part of an anxiety disorder, is a horrible thing. It reminds me of a snake, insidious, sneaky, and terrifying. As much as you try to convince yourself...you can't will it away. It is always there with you. It is a feeling of shear terror even though you logically know there is no reason for it. It winds itself around your soul and chokes you with fear. You awake with it; you sleep with it; you drive to town it rides with you. It steals your joy and peace of mind. It is ugly.
I have lived with anxiety for so long that when I began taking medication to help me manage it, I found myself feeling as though something was missing. Then it would come to me...I should be feeling afraid, anxious, on edge. I would wait for that familiar feeling to engulf me and I was unsure how to live with the lack of it. It was a part of me, my best friend, something I could count on like the rising of the sun. I still have anxiety. Some days it is stronger than others. Sometimes I feel the temptation to go off the medication just so I can return to normal. I know that is not realistic. It is not something I intend to do. I faithfully remind myself to take my pills. I don't want to return. I am learning daily how live with this new reality, this type of being. It is a hard but beautiful thing. I don't think I could survive if I had to live with irrational anxiety and the looming threat of morphing into a person who has MS.
Thanks LuLu, That is all I wanted everyone to know. That and get treament if you have anxiety/depression, it won't change the MS symptoms. And if you don't have it or it is treated and you still have symptoms fight the good fight and make someone listen.
Thank you so much for telling your story. I have never meant to make light of anxiety or of depression when I talk about symptoms. Anxiety disorders can literally suck your soul. I believe that people with anxiety disorders and depression can also have other problems and the dismissal of all things as being "just your nerves" is a lazy and shallow approach to practicing medicine.
You and Alisa show us that getting treatment for anxiety when it does exist can remake your life.
In no way did I take your posting as such. I agreed with what you said,i.e. it is an overused excuse, there are people who are anxious and exhibit it through somatic symptoms, etc. My concern was simply that the way the doctors use it, it becomes a catch all phrase, an excuse for them not to look any farther. If they would educate themselves they would better understand what they are looking for. You did, why can't they? No time...BS
I was impressed with your reasoning on how to separate the anxious from those who have symptoms, are anxious because of them, but are truly suffering. I have copied and pasted the part of your post I am speaking of:
The ones that I found most persuasive are 1) the complaints that are "global" and vague and constantly changing - hurting or numb all over without being able to pinpoint any differences (but, this can happen with people who are not very self-aware or who have poor skill in expressing themselves) 2) a patient's history that over years many complaints would come up and never be shown to have a cause, then would resolve only to be replaced by another, 3) the history that the symptoms dance around rapidly. Another big point here is that these people must never have suffered any kind of deterioration or disability related to their symptoms (but, of course this can be determined only in hindsight. This is not useful if you are looking at a disease which has a disappearing window for effective treatment.
My point in writing my post was to maybe? help someone determine if they are experiencing anxiety in the sense of an anxiety disorder, thereby, hopefully giving them the strength to get treatment and/or continue to fight for answers. there is no reason that the anxiety/depression or any other mental/physical disorder cannot co-exist with MS. Although listening to what doctors tell our forum family would lead you to believe otherwise.
One more thing I addressed the anxiety from the point of being a mental/ chemical imbalance disorder. I was pleased to find that sailorsong discussed it from the point of situational anxiety. For all tho I have a chemical imbalance, situational anxiety is as real as that caused by a chemical imbalance. The difference is usually as the situation resolves itself so does the anxiety. Mine walks with me 24/7...365 days a year. Also it is very true anxiety and depression are opposites sides of the same coin. We me the anxiety is more prevalent, I have had only had two episodes of what I would call clinical depression, lasting for more than two weeks.
So I want you to know I in know way think you were making light of the issue. My main point was that people like me who know they have anxiety tend to blame everything on the anxiety and that is as dangerous as letting a doctor send you away with a dx of it is all in your head.
Wishing well, terry
PS, I really worried about you when you fell. (Did I spell that right?)
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