Avatar universal

Is this an anxiety disorder?

About 5 months ago, I had an allergic reaction and went to the hospital where they put me on a high dose of prednisone (60 mg for 5 days). After the last dosage ran out, I had quite bad withdrawal symptoms where I felt extremely short of breath, my chest felt really heavy, I had a bad migraine, and I had a hard time getting to sleep. After a couple of weeks, these symptoms started to go away, but it was quite gradual. I discovered that I had become sensitive to caffeine as well where I would have heart palpitations for days after having a cup of coffee, so I cut that out of my diet completely, and they mostly went away. About two months after my allergic reaction, I had a family emergency where my mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and suddenly, I was solely in charge of her care and expenses. My symptoms worsened and now my arms and legs would get numb at random. My chest started feeling heavy again as well. I went to the doctor and was told I was probably having a bronchospasm and was told to start taking a daily antihistimine and use an inhaler every 4-6 hours. After about a week, the chest heaviness and shortness of breath went away though the spontaneous numbness was still there. About a month later, the chest tightness came back. I went to the doctor again, and she ran an EKG and ran my vitals and found nothing abnormal. I was told to resume the antihistimine/inhaler process. I went back a month later because of the arm numbness. My at-home blood pressure cuff was telling me that my right arm had a systolic pressure that was 15 units lower than the left arm. When I went to the doctor again, everything was fine--the right one was actually higher. (So perhaps the cuff I have isn't entirely reliable.) I'm still occasionally having symptoms and don't know whether or not to continue to keep going to the doctor. I've started exercising more regularly, and I feel great when I'm doing that. During this time, I had also taken two weekend trips and felt completely normal during the duration of those. When I'm busy, I don't really notice any symptoms. It's worst at night when I'm trying to settle down to go to sleep or anytime when things are a bit quieter. I feel 95% sure that this is probably a manifestation of my anxiety first from the prednisone withdrawal/allergic reaction (which had also occurred during a stressful time with my finals for my Master's degree, followed by graduation) and resurfaced with the stress from my mother's cancer diagnosis. Prior to this, I never had any medical issues at all. I'm 26 years old and in good physical condition. My dad passed away in his mid-50s from congestive heart failure, but he had lived an extremely unhealthy lifestyle (e.g. drinking, overweight, never exercised). No one else in my family has ever had any issues with heart disease or breathing issues. Money is extremely tight right now, so I'm not sure whether to just accept that this is anxiety-related and learn to cope, especially since the symptoms are very slowly easing up or if I should go back to the doctor, so she can run an x-ray. When I last visited her, that had been her suggestion for a potential next step, but she seemed to think it would be extremely unlikely for me to have suddenly developed some sort of heart disease given my lack of family history and lack of any related heart issues as a child. Thoughts on what I ought to do next?
2 Responses
Avatar universal
You didn't have a withdrawal reaction, you had a reaction that is common to taking cortico-steroids.  Prednisone is basically adrenaline, and one of the common downsides of taking this class of drugs is over-stimulation causing anxiety or worse.  Once you suffer anxiety, your mind can play tricks, expecting to feel anxious again under similar circumstances.  Those of us with chronic anxiety get this and it goes way out of whack, leaving us with a mental illness, but those who get it are those who are prone to getting it.  Most people don't.  My guess is your doc is giving you drugs for something that is caused by stress and perhaps your allergies are playing a role but if you've had allergies a long time and this is new stuff, I'm guessing it's not your allergies.  The fact you're getting better suggests you're not prone to chronic anxiety.  If you feel you need any help at all, I'd recommend natural allergy remedies -- there are a ton of them -- meditation or something else like it and if you feel you need it see a therapist for a short time for some training on how your thinking might have changed.  But overall, drugs are always toxic, and you had a bad reaction to one and I think that's what's going on because it's so common with that drug.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer--especially so thoroughly. What you said makes sense, and it's definitely a relief that this should go away with time since it's likely a drug reaction, even if it's taking longer than I would like. And meditation sounds like good advice--I'll certainly look into it.
12099710 tn?1423423420
Keep track of your symptoms and if it continues to get worse, give your doctor a call. At your next appointment either way it might be a wise idea to share your concerns and observations both about the medication reactions and the anxiety. Having a conversation with your doctor is the best way to discuss treatment options and rule out other conditions.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, NAMI, or Mental Health America all have lots of information and resources on anxiety.
"it would be extremely unlikely for me to have suddenly developed some sort of heart disease given my lack of family history and lack of any related heart issues as a child."

Classic anxiety makes you over-analyze your body and work up fears when you notice (or imagine) physical problems. You would have ignored them if you experienced them in the past, so the solution if you can do it, is to ignore them since the doctor said you have no heart problem.
You are only 26 so cardiac is just about zero probability of an issue even if you weren't tested which drops it lower since you passed.

Also, was a test performed that proved you had bronchospasm difficulties, or was it just the doctor's guess? People with anxiety often imagine their breathing is not working properly since it can be voluntarily controlled, which when you think about it when you are afraid can seem quite scary if you dwell on it. https://www.drugs.com/cg/bronchospasm.html
Cardio is a tiny % maybe 4% at your age so there are other things that have a far greater chance of striking a 26 year old.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond! Luckily, things haven't really gotten worse. They've been generally better over time, but it's relatively slow going and not always at an even pace. But I'll certainly keep in mind to tell my doctor if things get worse.

A test wasn't performed the first time I went to the doctor--she just guessed that it was a bronchospasm since it had been humid for a few days prior, which could trigger seasonal allergies. On my third visit to the doctor, I took a test where I breathed into a tube to measure the strength of my breath. That showed a mild constriction, so my doctor figured it was likely a bronchospasm. I did not have any x-rays or CT scans or anything like that though. I'm not sure if any anxiety could've messed with the results since it was based on my physical ability rather than hard data from a scan.

It does seem like I need to somehow retrain my brain to shrug off any symptoms I'm feeling to prevent them from happening in the future. Logically I know that this is probably all in my head, but when the symptoms start, it's hard not to think of the "what if." Thank you for the added reassurance.
Retraining your brain will help but
it will be pretty hard to just shrug off your "symptoms" if you have an underlying thought that something might be wrong.
You will need to accept the doctor's diagnosis that there is nothing wrong with your heart and consider the odds at age 26 are in your favor anyway if you are to get complete relief from the heart worries. Not that everyone can accept this, but many have ridden themselves of second guessing the experts.
Have an Answer?

You are reading content posted in the Anxiety Community

Top Anxiety Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
370181 tn?1595629445
Arlington, WA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out what can trigger a panic attack – and what to do if you have one.
A guide to 10 common phobias.
Take control of tension today.
These simple pick-me-ups squash stress.
Don’t let the winter chill send your smile into deep hibernation. Try these 10 mood-boosting tips to get your happy back
Want to wake up rested and refreshed?