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Avatar universal

neurological symptoms due to stress or disease?

I have developed some neurological symptoms over the past few months that have me very worried.  They include the following: very transient, migrating paresthesias on limbs, often a sensation of hot or cold on the skin, as well as pinprick feelings and a crawling sensation (like ants crawling), only on the scalp.  Additionally, dysesthesias include a slight burning feeling upon touch of skin on left hand and upper left leg, pain sensation when leg hair is touched.  Slight tremors in hands as well.  No numbness/weakness anywhere, no electrical shock sensation down the spine, balance is good except I 'feel' out of balance and occasionally a bit dizzy.

Blood tests completed several months ago showed no abnormalities, as did a CT scan of the head.  Have recently visited a neurologist, who ordered an MRI of head and spine, as well as EMG test on left arm--all of which are pending.

I should mention that the last year of life has been very stressful, with major life/relationship changes, and I am a person with a fairly anxious baseline affect.  I do have some obsessive psychiatric symptoms and I have developed a hyper-alert state, with a pronounced startle reaction to loud, sudden noises.  Emotional state is numb, I don't seem to feel normal moods.

My questions are: 1)do these symptoms suggest an organic nervous system disease (e.g. MS, other myelin diseases), 2)could they be due to some sort of partial seizure in my brain, 3)could they have developed from 5+ years of taking SSRI's (ending 5 years ago), and 4)would these be unusual symptoms to simply attribute to anxiety?
26 Responses
Avatar universal
These symptoms do not sound like seizures, and I not aware of SSRI's causing this either. I would agree with the neurologist, that testing should be performed to exclude organic disorders. These symptoms can be seen in patients with MS, but are non-specific, they can also be seen in other inflammatory disorders. Stress can cause many symptoms within the body, and these could be secondary to that. However, this is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that organic disease needs to be excluded. Good luck.
Avatar universal
I have noticed many times that if doctors or neuros cannot find any clinical evidence for the symptoms, that they suspect stress or anxiety plays a big part in the patient's problems. I have similar symptoms as you, such as the hypersensitivity and the startle response.  I keep close to home and try not to expose myself to any sudden unexpected noises.  I jump about a foot and my two arms fly up in the air, making it very embarrassing.  I have had two MRI's EMG's and an EEG, all of which have been normal, yet I exhibit neurological symptoms, weakness, stiffness, burning pain, tingling in lips, tongue and I cannot walk straight. I was a perfectly healthy 55 year old female and I didn't have a stress filled life, nor was I anxious or depressed.  I had great plans for retirement, golfing, travelling, etc.  Now my quality of life is much impaired.  My left hand is constantly numb and I also shuffle when I first get up and get stiffer as the day goes on. My problems started with a rash around my waist and then I started having difficulty standing and walking and developed foot drop.  Back and foot X-rays were normal and I didn't have Sciatica.  What I do remember is being jolted severely out of my sleep and being literally lifted off the bed.  After that experience it has all been down hill.  I was sent to see a psychiatrist and he ruled out depression and anxiety as I did not exhibt any of those symptoms.  During my last visit to a neuorologist,  he suggested that I may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  I looked up all the symptoms for that and Fibromylagia and I don't have them.  I am active going to Pool and Joint works and try to do my gardening but the chronic pain affects my life constantly.  My thoughts on all this is that the rash or virus that I had earlier somehow triggured these weird symptoms.  I had Bell's Palsy in my thirties and Chicken Pox as an infant.  Maybe this type of Herpes Virus that had been dormant has reactivated and caused these problems.  That is my take on the whole thing but I wish more people would not jump to the conclusion that the patient is just stressed or depressed.  Sure they can become that once their life is so affected, but that doesn't mean it was the initial cause.  Please contact me personally if you would like to follow up with your treatment.

The Canadian
Avatar universal
Gee, I have similar symptoms too (migrating paresthesias).  Just curious - and I don't mean to seem flippant here, but do either of you live or work near a cell tower or radio tower?  I've had my symptoms for 2 months now and have to wait 3 weeks to see a neurologist.  How long have you had this for?  I'm hoping that this doesn't get worse and am wondering if people are out there with similar symptoms for longer than I've had mine, without them continually getting worse.
Avatar universal
I have migrating tingling, pain, etc., in my limbs and occassionally in other parts of might body to include my neck feeling like it is so tight.  It started in my  left arm only with a percieved numbness and progressed to cold, hot, tingles, pain, and then to right leg, left leg, and recently to right arm.  This has been going on for about a year.  It got really bad around seven months into it but over the past month has diminished somewhat where I do have some parts of days where I am not affected.  I have had every test known, MRIs, bloodwork, etc., with no results.  Two nuerologist and a rhumatologist and GP threw up their hands and have referred me to a Medical Center in my state.  They also sent me to a Physical Therapist, which I just started with so I don't know if that is going to help or not.  I do notice that with stress I feel a lot worse and have been on Lexapro now for about six weeks so that might be one of the reasons I am feeling a little bit better.  I did not feel stressed when all this started, but there have been many stressful times in my life that I feel I handled just fine.  Maybe they have just built up and my body is saying enough.  I am willing to accept anything just to get treatment.  I would follow all avenues to find out if nuerological or stress or neurological caused by stress.  I hope they find something at the Medical center.  Until then, I just keep checking the forums to see if someone else has the same thing and finds an answer.  Good luck.
Avatar universal
Parathesias and tremor can be caused by SSRIs, but it is not typical for these side effects to be sustained past the cessation of treatment.

Avatar universal
The SSRI has made mine diminish - or they are just diminishing on their own.  They certainly are not worse than they were before.
Avatar universal
I have had my second "episode" of paresthesias/dyesthesias in 3 years. The first episode lasted about 3 months. This one has lasted 5 so far. Both times began with a very tight feeling in the base of my head that lasted a couple weeks. Both times I have been tested by a neuro for MS and all tests come back negative. An alternative MD says he thinks it's mercury poisoning and I should have my fillings removed and use this chelation therapy spray... not sure I want to go through all that... not sure I believe it either. More worrisome to me now is that for the past ~3 months my whole body has been very shaky, especially my shoulders/neck/abdomen. My GP suggested counseling for anxiety, which I pursued. I have been taking Lexapro for a month, but the psychiatrist I see thinks my symptoms are a medical condition other than anxiety. He mentioned herpes viruses which I was tested for. HSV Type 1 and HHV-6 came back as positive for antibodies. So I went to see an infectious disease specialist. She said the viruses were not the cause of my symptoms and said my symptoms were "no big deal". Maybe not to her... anyway, I notice a lot of commonality with others in this posting.
Avatar universal
Just checked in and thought I would post a response to questions raised by another posting.  No, I don't live near a cell tower nor major electrical lines.  I also wondered if Mercury poisoning may be a potential cause of neurological problems.  I have some mercury fillings but my dentist more or less quashed that particular cause.  I have heard of people having all their fillings removed, and it didn't improve their symptoms.  Also, considering the millions of others who have mercury fillings, wouldn't there be larger numbers also experiencing neurological symptoms.

There are just too many people like ourselves with so many similar symptoms all looking for answers.  Maybe there is no one particular cause for this, as we are all unique individuals and our immune systems play such an important role in disease prevention. My ANA levels were slightly elevated but I have so many allergies, that I suppose I have developed antibodies after some 57 years of living.  

Now, to pose another question to others with no diagnosis, but who are experiencing weird neurological symptoms.  Do you have allergies, and for females, are you post menopausal?  I feel so stupid at times when I can't talk right.  I either can't say the word at all or repeat the first word about five times.  For somebody who was considered very articulate, (I had to be for my job requirements) it is very frustrating.  I know that my cognitive ability is not affected but I can't find any medical explanation for problems with word finding, slurring my words, etc.  I can almost set the clock each evening when my lips and tongue start to tingle and the stiffness sets in worse. I know there is nothing between the thumb and finger on my hand or the palm of my hand to hurt but yet mine is painful and numb.  No wonder the docs think I am wacky with so many symptoms across the board and no clinical evidence to explain them.  Yet, I know my own body and before all this happened I hardly ever saw a doctor and was very healthy and active.  It also feels like somebody cut my fingernails way too short or they are sticking pins in the ends of them.

Hang in there, I am sure someday there will be a logical explanation for this. Just knowing there are others going through the same thing is reassuring that we aren't alone.

Take care,
The Canadian

Avatar universal
Hi :)...In response to your question, I don't have any allergies that I know about.  I started getting my symptoms at the end of March or early April, shortly after a very long cold, and also not long after they moved our office to a place near some radio towers (I've lived near a cell tower for about 4 years).  Having gone to England in the 80s where I had steak a couple of times, I've also worried about the possibility that this could be some sort of terrible prion-related disease, but probably I shouldn't worry since that's so rare and apparently so many other people get these symptoms without it turning out to be that.

I'm so sorry to hear about your problems with talking.  Did this start up sometime after your other symptoms, and how long after the other ones started?  I notice that my symptoms come and go, but I think that if it started affecting my speech, that would really bother me.  Anyhow, I hope that the speech thing gets better soon for you.
Avatar universal
Gee, that's interesting that other people have noticed that being in motion tends to help for awhile.  I find that when I play the piano or take a walk, I tend to feel better (although walking doesn't always work as well on those days when the problem expresses itself as pain in the feet).  Stress and deadlines tend to make it worse.  However, even when I'm not under stress, the symptoms are still there.

Maybe together we'll discover something new.

I don't have any mercury fillings.  However, I eat a lot of canned fish, and maybe that's just bad.  I try to eat the smaller fish more, as they aren't supposed to have as much mercury, but then again the cans are made of aluminum.
Avatar universal
Hi, I thought I would check in and respond to the queries thus far.  Thanks everyone for their advice and personal histories, it does help very much to know that others are in limbo with annoying/debilitating symptoms yet no clinical diagnosis.

First, I am a 29-year old male, in very good overall health besides these neurological symptoms.  To answer the question, I don't live near a cell tower (that I am aware), and have lived in the same location for the last 5 years and have only recently begun to exhibit these symtpoms.  Neither do I have any allergies, aside from a light case of allergic rhinitis.  For the past year I can't even recall being sick with a cold virus or anything--though I suppose a virus could be resident with no presentable symptomalogy.  I have worried about some sort of heavy metal toxicity, e.g. mercury, and come to think of it I did have two fillings performed last fall, where mercury fillings were removed and replaced with ceramic ones.  Curiously, after that procedure I remember finding a small piece of amalgam still in my mouth.  But since they were removed I would think that large pieces like that would just pass through the system--it seems that mercury could only be an issue if it was present and available to the bloodstream on a chronic basis...?  Other than this, I find it vague to be able to attribute the onset of all of these neurological things to
anything but the stressful periods I underwent.

I guess it just seems that my nervous system is confused, i.e. it's sending signals down the wrong pathway, so what formerly felt like stress and anxiety now feels like bizarre sensations and such.  I know that sounds like maybe kind of a stretch, but that's really what it seems like.  My brain seems so hyperaware and focused on them that my total awareness is consumed by these symptoms.  I just worry that they won't be able to be reversed, even if the diagnostic tests I am having done reveal no organic disorder.  I guess there is always psychiatric treatment, I feel like maybe I should try some sort of anxiolytic agent or antidepressant to see if that would relieve some of the symptoms.

Also, I didn't mention before another curious fact about my symptoms--if I am moving, i.e. walking, exercising, or whatever, I don't seem to have, or at least NOTICE, many of them.  It's almost as if moving distracts the rest of my mind away from them, but when I am still they come on and demand my mind's attention...very weird.
Avatar universal
My experience parallels yours almost exactly, except that I am female and old enough to be your mother.  I do not live near cell towers.  I have been tested for metals, arsenic, etc., all negative.  I too WAS a very active person.  I am getting back to it and I do believe the SSRI has helped, even though I still have symptoms they are not as overwhelming.  I also don't feel many of the symptoms while up and walking, however, sitting, sleeping, etc., they ALL come out.  I also am hypersensitive to any change in temperature, strange feeling, even noise.  I think you are right about the nervous system going haywire.  Question is, how do we fix it.  I have an appointment at a large medical research center in July.  If they come up with anything I will let you know.
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