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Avatar universal

Is it anxiety? What is happening?

I'm at my wits' end to be honest. I am a 32 year old female and my last 4 years have been an anxiety fuelled nightmare. I will appreciate any and all comments from anyone who decides to read through my story 
Warning: long story 
I had suffered from depression in my 20s but with some help (some basic SSRIs) I recovered (or so I thought).

It all started about over 4 years ago. I was at my parents house, moving my bed when suddenly I felt the strangest feeling, something I had never felt before. Physically it felt like someone grabbed my shoulders and tried to push me down into the ground. I started getting lightheaded, sweating I could not sit or stand - somehow i physically felt the need to lay down. I called my dad who had no idea wtf was happening, while i was laying down, all sort of weird psysical symptoms happening (which are extremely hard to describe, felt like sinking into the ground, if i tried to get up I'd just fall back down).
It went away after about 15 minutes. I was terrified that I had somehow managed to pulled my neck muscle or something. The fact that I really felt off after this incident was just reassuring me that I managed to damage myself somehow while pushing the bed. (By feeling off I mean dizziness, lightheadedness, nusea,, feeling like im falling into the floor etc).
I went and saw an ortho who told me to do a neck xray. :long story short: after a series of tests (including neck and head MRIs) it was said that even though I have a neck instability- there is no obvious reason why such attacks would occur - at least not from a neurological standpoint. Attacks were however happening , once every few weeks. Almost constant dizziness and lightheadedness was horrible. After a while (usually when I was walking somewhere outside) I started getting falling-down sensations. You know that moment when you trip over something and you get that split second heart flutter and you feel like you’re about to fall on the floor? Yeah, I was getting that but without tripping over anything. I started getting a wave – like sensations, running through my body which felt like someone is trying to full me underground. These were very physical sensations, my mental state wasn’t altered in any way, I  wasn’t panicking, my heart rate was normal. I was pissed off, iHad no idea why this is happening.
I looked everywhere almost – ortho, neuro, otolaryngologists.. you name it, I consulted. Noone knew wtf was happening to me.Soon after I got my very first panic attack (you know the whole deal, with feeling the horrible dread, choking feeling, immense feeling that something is very wrong,  not being able to breath etc). From that moment on it had become a combination of physical symptoms and panic attack and strong anxiety spells.  I started dreading going out of the house. Soon, the general mental anxiety was just there all the time.
I consulted with a psychiatrist I knew from before , who said it is all anxiety related and my physical symptoms can be anxiety.. I couldn’t (still can’t abit) believe it – I was arguing that sure, my anxiety comes from the fact that the physical symptoms conditioned me to be very ******* afraid to go anywhere. He prescribed me SRNIs (Cymbalta) and said , on a hunch that I should do a tilt test. Cymbalta helped with general anxiety beautifully but all the physical symptoms stayed (the falling apart, falling down etc). I did the tilt test – and behold, during the damned thing (when they spray NTG under your tongue to provoke a reaction) I got the exact same attack that started everything. Mixed vasovagal syndrome they said. I was like, how do you mean – I have never fainted in my life? Oh well apparently you can have vasovagal syndrome without fainting, you just experience all the ****** symptoms  while ‘awake’. Why do I have it I asked, I never really got an answer. Noone knew – my heart is in good shape according to the tests. ‘Could be a nervous reaction you know’ says my psych ‘some people get cramps, some get pains, you get a vasovagal symptom or full vasovagal episode – you are just too stubborn to actually lose control and pass out lol’. ( such fun doc -.- ) I asked him, if that’s so – how come all these issues ust randomly came into my life like that? I had never had any anxiety /fear/ fobia /psychosomatic problems before! His answer could be summarized in a short ‘**** happens’. He said I should think about psychotherapy. I decided to join an intensive psychotherapy programme in my city. It’s a 3 months long mix of group and individual therapy – you go there everyday for few hours. Sure enough I learnt a lot. I meanALOT. I realised how much my body issues (lifelong battle with obesity ) affect me , how much my relationship with my mother has shaped me, how I get very tense inside when interacting with a group of people etcetc. During the psychotherapy period I went off my antidepressant and stopped helping myself with Xanax. Anxiety didn’t come back  but physical symptoms during therapy seemed to have gotten worse.  I finished therapy and decided – ok let’s say all this crap is caused by my brain, perhaps being outside is the trigger coz I always feel so ugly and fat. Perhaps I got first attack at hime which I associate with my mother. Whatever. I need to get over this and step by step try to do more things outside again (I became quite a recluse). I tried for about 3-4 months, despite all the physical symptoms. Despite these symptoms shifting and changing (for example I suddenly get horrible vertigo on a bridge near my flat. Never had vertigo problems before. Now I have to hold tight to cross that damn bridge when I wanna get to the shop). I thought I was doing ok.
AND BAM, suddenly panicks attacks 3 x day. Out of nowhere. I have no idea what was happening to me. My mental state just went so bad I don’t even know how to begin to describe it. I’m pretty sure I had some hallucinations and psychotic moments, derealisation, depersonalisation… I mean going out of the house wasn’t a problem anymore – I wanted to leave my ******* head. I upped on Xanax, my psych gave me antidepressant back ( he suggested wellbutrin instead of any other ssri since I was afraid to put on weight – sadly it seems wellbutrin makes it worse).
And here I am today, barely functioning, thankfully I don’t get panic attacks and my psychosis seems to have subsided but I can’t get myself to leave the house. At the same time I am crying like a baby everyday coz I am so sick of being stuck at home. I tried going out with my partner (how is he still with me is beyond me) but physical symptoms make it impossible and just reinforce my fear of being outside.
From a healthy (despite being on the fat side of life), travelling young woman I became a stuck at home person, completely unable to deal with my state of mind and the physical symptoms. I loved life but right now I end up thinking of dying – not because I see no point in life- on the contrary :/ I hate it that I can’t enjoy it anymore.
All the meds, all the psychotherapy helped me understand certain issues in my life and manage mental anxiety. But dealing with all this for so long.. I don’t know what to do anymore.  
2 Responses
317787 tn?1473362051
I'm so sorry to hear this! It sounds absolutely awful! I began having panic attacks at around the same age. I didn't know what they were, at first I thought it was my low sugar. I tried to treat it myself for 3 months. I went to many doctors who tried various medications.  I finally looked for a doctor who specialized in panic disorder and anxiety. He helped me a lot.
I read your story, thinking this could have been me. When I began having panic attacks I had two children who depended on me. Staying in the house was not an option though that is exactly what I wanted to do.
I bought every book I could find on panic disorders to help me.  You could probably google your symptoms and get a lot of help.  Have you had your thyroid checked? My panic attacks were coming from my thyroid not working correctly. Then I would get a rush of adrenaline which would put me in to a panic attack. Once I got my thyroid straight I was much improved. At the same time I also had mitral valve prolapse of the heart which they felt could be causing my problem however it was the thyroid.
While I still have generalized anxiety I haven't had a panic attack in a very long time.
Have you tried an endocrinologist?
I'm sorry to be all over the place just trying to come up with suggestions or ideas to help.
Good luck!
Hello, thank you for your response! Yes, endocrinologist is someone I've been in touch with since early teens since I have been diagnosed with PCOS and hypothyrodoism when i was 18, and since then I have been taking regular blood checks to see if everything is ok on the hormonal side (it seems to be) and to adjust my levothyroxine dosage.

I must have read everything on panic attacks, starting with Clarie Weeks .. and it helped me get rid of panic attacks, but physical symptoms just don't want to budge :( Same for psychotherapy - the therapists that were assigned to my group had plenty experience with panic disorders but didn't really do/say anything that would help me with the actual symptoms (even though they were very helpful with general 'investigation into the past' )

Maybe I'm not pushing myself enough, I don't know anymore.
Avatar universal
The first thing I'd want to know, and from your story I don't think this is the case, but you hadn't just stopped taking one of those ssris when this started, had you?  Because it sounds a whole lot like withdrawal symptoms from quitting one of these drugs, especially if you didn't taper off.  From your telling, it sounds like this was a long time after you stopped the drugs, which would make that a non-factor, but I thought I'd ask.  Second, Cymbalta and wellbutrin are both highly stimulating antidepressants, which can cause anxiety.  Not the best choices for treating anxiety, especially wellbutrin.  If they're working, one would say it was more likely that anxiety was caused by depression, which is common, rather than just anxiety, but you're not describing depression now, but there is that.  To battle weight gain, you don't usually just take wellbutrin because of that factor, you combine some with the ssri.  But I'm like you, this sounds a whole lot more like a physiological thing to me that scared the crap out of you.  Dizziness is very common with anxiety sufferers, but being disoriented because of it can be very frightening for anyone.  It kind of sounds like an inner ear thing to me, and certainly with a thyroid problem it could be that as well, even though you have an endocrinologist.  Most of them are horrid at their jobs and the medication is very hard to get just right.  My wife has Hashimoto's, and she's been through a couple of endocrinologists and they're just clueless.  Most of them don't even test for all the four main hormones; they only test for one or two if you're lucky.  Given you've been through the medical ringer already, you might be one of those people who might consider some place like a top university hospital or John's Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic and thoroughly rule out physiological causes before you settle on it being vanilla anxiety.  Now, being an anxiety sufferer myself, it's a terrible disorder to suffer with, and the type of therapy you had isn't the type recommended for anxiety sufferers, if that's what you are.  Even were you to find out all about yourself, unless something quite traumatic happened to you you've been suppressing, you'd still need to do the cognitive things to battle the anxiety.  The problem I'm having is, you keep overcoming the panic attacks but still have the physical symptoms.  That's why I'm encouraging you to find doctors who won't give up until they have to.  Good luck.
Hello, thank you for your reply. No, when all of this started I was infact on an antidepressant (I believe it was fluoxetine). As far as Wellbutrin and Cymbalta are concerned - wellbutrin obviously made it worse, but cymbalta made the mental part of anxiety go away (the mental part of anxiety only resurfaced couple of months after I had stopped taking it). In regards to weight loss, it was a bit of an experiment on my psychiatrists part really - the med Contrave/Mysimba consists of bupropion and naltrexone, and since bupropion/wellbutrin is in some studies considered to aggravate anxiety only in first few weeks i though i'd give it a try.

I have already had VNG test done to exclude inner ear problems (I saw an otolaryngologist) - the result basically said there might be an issue but it is withing the central nervous system response, and not because of any inner ear problems - which again, neurologist said points to anxiety.

(I have consulted with quite a few specialists already and they all said they have no idea and it looks like strong psychosomatic anxiety).

I am quite lucky to see a fantastic endocrinologist who did the tests I have never heard of (and I am quite well versed in them) apart from the regular tsh/ft3/ft4/rT3/anti-tpo etc blood test so I am quite confident my thyroid is well taken care of.

However yes, in the past I had a crap psychiatrist who alway took me off my antidepressants without tapering off - regardless of the dose I was on. I usually suffered withdrawals for about 2 months tops and everything was fine. But maybe what's happening is some sort of aftermath...

At this point I am considering looking at any possible gastrointestinal issues, since the gut and the brain seems to affect one another alot as we are finding out more and more about, but ugh... I can heal with mental side of the anxiety most of the time no problem, but dealing with the the physical symptoms who just come and go as they please is the hardest part :(

Thank you again for your response, and wish you all the best with your own battle with this horrid thing <3
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