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Severe Anxiety Caused By Dieting?

Hello! I’m 19 and I have had panic attacks in the past due to caffeine added onto a stressful day or have been in a crowded place for too long. They are definitely not regular and it usually goes away when I calm down. When I was younger around 6-8 years old I had this issue of when it was time to eat I would get these horrible panic attacks. My teachers would say how weird it was that everyone was excited to go to lunch but I’d start crying. This would also happen at home when it was time for dinner. I eventually moved pass this because I had no reason for them, I didn’t have any body issues I knew of...I was just really afraid of eating I think and my family never took me to see a doctor. Now in the past (Age 16-17) I had problems with my hormones as well. Period irregularities that I went on the pill for but they went away so I stopped taking them + they didn’t return. Severe acne that poped up a few months after the pill. My mom didn’t see a connection so didn’t feel like taking me to see the doctor again. Throughout this time I’m having very bad depressive episodes. Where I don’t want to get up and out of bed. Even if I want to go out, I don’t want to get up and get changed. My acne has gotten way better since I’ve turned 19 and I felt more confident to start exercising.

I know that I was dieting too hard and I’ve quit and am trying to eat now. So I started the diet a month ago. September 7: I was 150 and my height was around 5’4. All I ate was an apple in the morning, a yam at lunch, and a protein shake for dinner. Yes, I know incredibly stupid. If I had just quit any weight I had lost would’ve been put right back on. However, I ate like this for 5-8 days which was about 410 calories. Only that...I never cheated or looked at anything that wasn’t water. I was excersing throughout all this for about 30 minutes a day. I had the most energy I have ever had in like the last like 5 years. If anyone asked me for anything I would’ve done it and gone anywhere. I was really content during this time and I wasn’t hungry/starving.

I dropped to 145.5 on (Sept. 13.) Here I started changing up my foods because now I can’t look at a yam without feeling nauseous. But I never went above like 600 calories on a high day. The average was about 500-550 and I added 0 sugar to anything.

(Sept. 15) Still had high energy but when I got tired at around 10 I would get intense headaches till I went to bed.

On (Sept. 17) I was 143.1 pounds and I had a coffee in the morning. Here’s when I started feeling on edge. I logged in that I had eaten 560 that whole day. I still had a lot of energy during this time.

By (Sept. 21) I was 140. Here’s where I sort of paused the weight loss. This is probably where the water weight ended I think but I just remember thinking about how long I’d have to keep this diet to lose more. I was only eating vegtables, sometimes fish/chicken breast once a day. I even stopped logging in what I was eating after this because that on edge feeling got worse. I would just occasionally feel nervous but I would just distract myself and it would go away. I’m having a hard time placing when things got really bad. But between (Sept. 21 - Sept. 24) I heard a weird noise outside and I remember that just triggering something that I started to panic. I thought something bad was going to happen. Now on (Sept. 25) I officially quit my diet because the panic attacks were happening every night for no reason other than it was past 5 pm. I thought I was going through sugar withdrawals. I started begging to go see a doctor because now I was constantly on edge. Now that I’m “allowing” myself to eat what I want, I have no appetite to. I feel more nauseous and I have no energy. Even though I’ll eat more high calorie meals my I will only feel hungry once a day. My metabolism is running super fast and I’m jittery ALL DAY. If I give into my anxiety or let myself think it’s happening for a reason I get my panic attack and start to feel just incredibly suicidal. I’ve lost even more weight now (138) and I’m feeling thirsty and now when I get my panic attacks I feel like this heat inside me. I’m also more irritated and tired. My eyes always feel like they’re burning. I fake like I’ve eaten more not because I want to lose weight but I feel like my mom will force me to eat and I’m getting that same feeling of anxiety when I know I should be eating. But the thing is I don’t care about my diet anymore or how my body looks. I just don’t get cravings anymore or want to eat. I just want to stop feeling this way. What can help and why am I feeling this way still. Thank you so much.
2 Responses
973741 tn?1342342773
Hi there.  Well, that is definitely what they call crash dieting!  Sudden weight loss caused by drastic measures rarely lasts.  You're finding that out.  I certainly won't call you stupid for getting into that.  Lots of people do it.  I've tried it too myself.  Once my sister and I when we were young read that you can eat whatever you want before 9 am.  So, we'd get up and pork out.  Then you eat nothing but a piece of fruit at 6 pm and water throughout the day.  Oh my gosh, crazy, right?  It's funny when I think about it now that we did that for a couple of weeks.  

Anyway, I can relate to body image worries.  Wanting to lose weight, stressing over every bite, trying  to control it, etc.  You've structured so much effort around it that it has taken on a life of its own. Remember, we eat for fuel.  You only need enough fuel to fill your tank.  Eat small amounts, stop eating in the evening and don't eat at night--  don't eat again until morning when you have a light but healthy breakfast.  Eat lean.  Lots of ways to eat for health.  If you want to get something like fitness pal or some other app, they can be a little eye opening in terms of what we should be eating.  600 calories a day is not realistic, you need more.

You know all this.  And are asking about anxiety.  I just think you DO have anxiety and it manifests in the area of eating for you.  You don't have an eating disorder per se but you are not having a healthy relationship with food and your body image.  

Feeling suicidal is a whole other ball game though. That is not just body image and eating anxiety---  but mental health that should be worked on with a professional.  Would your parents allow you to see a therapist? I think this would be so important for you.  You go to an extreme emotional state over your eating.
Have you ever heard of sensory integration disorder?  My son has had some of what you describe---  overwhelmed in crowds and eating issues (had to see an eating specialist) and he has sensory issues.

So, I think what is going on is a manifestation of the anxiety rather than the dieting specifically giving you anxiety. Make sense?  It's a little like which came first, the chicken or the egg.  They are definitely totally interrelated.  But the anxiety doesn't sound new.  Just exaggerated now more than before.  
Thank you for your response! I’m going to see my GD soon in hopes she recommends something to help. But now I feel like I’m worrying myself over what’s making me feel like this. I have been making sure I eat, even if I don’t want to and I can feel the difference when I do. I’m going to look into the sensory disorder you’ve described!
Sensory integration disorder is a processing issue.  That's the brains communication system.  Plain old anxiety can also make you feel the way you do.  Have you ever spoken to a therapist?
I just wanted to say thank you again I looked into the sensory disorder and I relate with so many of the symptoms I’m going to bring it up with my doctor.
No I haven’t. I’ve recently have started taking my symptoms seriously and have forced myself to make an appointment even if I have days where I feel better.
Avatar universal
Obviously we're not qualified to diagnose you, and nobody can diagnose someone from afar, but there are a couple of things you say here that raises one possible issue, and that's a blood sugar problem.  You say when you were young you got what you call panic attacks before eating.  Maybe so.  This could be just another case of someone with body image problems focusing on it and going about fixing it the wrong way -- instead of eating sensibly and exercising more doing radical things that eventually leave you in a form of starvation that eventually manifests in metabolism problems and all the symptoms of not getting enough nutrients because you're not eating a variety of foods and not eating the right proportions of them.  When you first starve yourself, and people who fast report this, you can get a lot of energy.  Until you start to starve, and then you get all kinds of symptoms.  Different people do have different metabolism, and so have different needs for food.  But it's at least a possibility that you weren't getting anxiety attacks but were instead feeling the effects of low blood sugar after a period of not eating -- between meals.  Your ability to make and utilize insulin should at least be looked at based on what you're saying here.  Until you rule out all possible physiological causes for what ails you, you really can't say it's a mental disorder.  Lots of nutrient deficiencies and physiological problems can create the same symptoms as anxiety.  It can cause anxiety.  Things like thyroid, which is intimately related to your adrenal functions.  You were right, your Mom needed to take you to the doc.  But you're 19 now and you can take yourself to the docs and see what turns up before concluding you have a mental illness.  If it does turn out the docs can't find anything wrong, that's when you have to start deciding it's a mental problem and treating it as such.  In the meantime, do some research on the Mediterranean Diet -- it's just the real basic what we've always been told to do kind of lifetime eating style.  It has enough of everything to keep you healthy until you find a way to battle this.  By the way, lots of people don't do well with caffeine -- I've never liked it or reacted well to it, even long before I developed my anxiety problem.  I'm the only person I know who hates coffee and cola.  Now, chocolate and green tea don't bother me, but they're more balanced with antioxidants.  All the best.
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