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I remember when I lost my mind
June 24, 2011 5:10 PM   Subscribe

My health, both physical and mental has been on a roller coaster over the past 3 months. I have undergone many tests and the doctors have said, quantitatively, I am the picture of health; therefore the very real physical symptoms I am experiencing must be due to anxiety. I am open to that possibility, but need more convincing...

Basically I just want to know how severe and weird can physical symptoms of anxiety get? I've had a few panic attacks in the past (10yrs ago) and this is nothing like that.

I'm worried that certain symptoms may point to kidney disease. My first symptoms were very strong smelling urine and mild but sharp pains in my lower left abdomen followed over the course of the last three months by bouts of dehydration, frequent urination, left testicle pain, shortness of breath, leg cramps, food and drink tasting odd, fatigue, lightheadedness and what I described to my doctor as "back bubbles" the sensation of small bubbles moving through tubes in my back. (nothing like bowel gas or anything I've ever felt before)

I've had some days where I felt like I was going to end up in the ER. But I've been feeling much better for the past couple weeks.. I'm taking a .25mg xanax 3 times a day.

Mainly, now I just am dealing with occasional icy cold fingers, moderate fatigue and lightheadedness that lasts from 30min to 4hrs.

Can all of this be caused by anxiety? Or did I have some weird infection that evaded multiple rounds of testing but my immune system has eventually adjusted to.

I've had my urine, blood and stool tested multiple times. I've had multiple chest X-rays and a CT scan. Everything came out normal.

Symptoms would come and go without rhyme or reason and with severity varied from "OMG I need the ER" to "I'm feeling a bit more lightheaded and nauseous than I should"

Have you ever heard of anxiety producing such extreme physical symptoms? You are not my doctor, but then, my doctors aren't giving me much to work with anyway. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Anxiety can produce an amazing set of symptoms. Luckily it only took me 2 trips to the ER before we figured out that it was "just" anxiety.

One option is to try a fast-acting anti-anxiety drug. You'll know pretty quickly if it helps. Ask your doctor about Klonopin.
posted by schrodycat at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2011


Oops, sorry. Didn't see your comment that you were already on Xanax. But the fact that it helps still points strongly to the A word.
posted by schrodycat at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2011


Anxiety can absolutely cause these kinds of problems, with this level of severity.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:21 PM on June 24, 2011


Our minds and bodies are incredibly connected. Anxiety can and does do things.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:22 PM on June 24, 2011


Anxiety can also heighten your awareness of normal bodily sensations, and make them seem scary even if they're not.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:26 PM on June 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


It could very well be anxiety, but don't stop listening to your body. I've had symptoms that doctors have dismissed for years that have turned out to be actual, physical, diagnosable illness that's just plain rare and an outlier for my age and gender.

Doctors know a lot and can test for a lot, but they don't know everything and test for everything, so if you hurt or feel weird, make sure you're being heard.
posted by xingcat at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anxiety can do all kinds of things to you.
posted by mleigh at 6:26 PM on June 24, 2011


The answers that suggest their is a relationship between these symptoms and anxiety are probably correct--but I would not say the anxiety caused. It may well have contributed to some of them (light headed, frequent urination, odd tasting food/drink and shallow respiration. However these and the other symptoms may be the result of a hyper-vigilance that frequently accompanies prolonged anxiety. The important thing is that you are feeling better, somewhat reassured and looking for long term strategies to better manage your anxiety. Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 6:36 PM on June 24, 2011


I am so ashamed--there not their.
posted by rmhsinc at 7:11 PM on June 24, 2011


My first symptoms were very strong smelling urine and mild but sharp pains in my lower left abdomen followed over the course of the last three months by bouts of dehydration, frequent urination,

Were you drinking enough? At one point during my anxiety bouts, I stopped drinking accidentally (trying to cut out caffeine but not remembering to replace it with anything, or the water tasted funny so I wouldn't drink it, etc.) which caused some ...I think it was called ketonuria, but I may have that mixed up with something else. Similar symptoms though.

shortness of breath

Panic people tend to breathe too shallowly. They hyperventilate. Then they notice they're hyperventilating and it makes them nervous. Then they hyperventilate some more.

food and drink tasting odd

I threw out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of food during my food-related panics. It's not like I was paranoid and was convinced that the food was poisoned or infected...but it really didn't seem worth the risk.

what I described to my doctor as "back bubbles" the sensation of small bubbles moving through tubes in my back

Like something in your spine is carbonated? I hear that sometimes--usually higher up, neck or so. I always figured it was spinal fluid or synovial fluid...but for all I know it was just creaks or something. I've never heard of anyone else having it! Maybe you're talking about something different.

I've had some days where I felt like I was going to end up in the ER.

I had a while--after pulling a muscle in my side--where I was CONVINCED I had appendicitis. I'd be embarrassed to say just how many times I went to the doctor and ER begging for help on that. After a couple of months of not dying, logic sort of asserted itself and I found something else to worry about.

But I've been feeling much better for the past couple weeks..

Good!!!

Mainly, now I just am dealing with occasional icy cold fingers, moderate fatigue and lightheadedness that lasts from 30min to 4hrs.

Are your lips tingling? Fingertips and lips tingling are a good sign of hyperventilation--they're one of the signs I use to know it's time to do some quiet, timed breathing (I use the count of four...count four breathing in, hold for four, breathing out counting four, hold for four again).

Can all of this be caused by anxiety?

Oh my, yes. Panic is your body's evolved response to the the imminent threat of demise. It hits every body system. Your gut moves more slowly, your bloodflow lessens on the bits of you that might be bitten off, it's just wild. Read up on the physiology of a panic attack. It will simultaneously comfort you and blow your mind just what a complex reaction you're having--and when you're not having the attacks themselves, the leftover anxiety, and the mental skills you're learning (hypervigilance, always on the lookout for the next threat, even if it's a threat from within your own body), can still cause symptoms all their own.

Obviously, you could actually be sick. It's always possible. But illnesses have their fairly well-defined constellations of symptoms, and although there are mystery ailments out there, most of what you're describing could very well just be anxiety, especially after going through many normal tests (I salute your testing skills--I had to get an echocardiogram and Holter monitor before I could be talked into the idea that my heart wasn't going to suddenly stop beating).

Since you're seeing these docs, are they going to be addressing the anxiety? Because, if so, you can still always call them up with symptoms if you need them to get checked out.
posted by mittens at 7:12 PM on June 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm going to disagree with others here. Obviously IANAD and such, and sure it *could* be anxiety, but my gut feeling is that there's more to the story.

What you described sounds SO much like the manifestation of Lupus (SLE) I have. Kidney involvement, Raynauds (blue/numb fingers), headaches, fatigue and loads of normal tests. I was told "just anxiety" for years. Turns out I was right to be skeptical.

The carbonated spine is also pretty common - I get it in my neck, usually when I'm really hungry. There are some forums on the sensation that I would link to were I not on my droid. :-) I think it's unrelated to the SLE.

Get a new doctor - a rheumatologist at a teaching hospital (at a university) was my diagnostician and the only one who went beyond "it's in your head/anxiety/depression" and listened to me.

Memail me if you want more info. Good luck.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:16 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yep, it's either anxiety, or you have some actual physical ailment. Who knows? Isn't life fun?!?!

Cynicism aside, I've had some crazy health shit happen due to anxiety. Or maybe it was my food allergies. Or maybe it was a viral thing that ran its course and the doctors couldn't detect. Or maybe...etc.

If you can operate a phone and talk, call a friend. Call your parents. Ask how their day was. Complain about yours. Schedule your next doc visit, then blast some melodic heavy metal into your brain. Read a random philosophical work by some brilliant dude. Try to sleep. (IANAD).
posted by 3FLryan at 9:18 PM on June 24, 2011


Anxiety *is* an actual physical problem, btw. Just saying this because sometimes people misunderstand and think it's "all in the head," when while it is a psychological condition, there are changes in the body and brain caused by extreme anxiety that make it real and dangerous physiologically.

IANAD, but I agree with others that if the xanax/other benzos are lessening the symptoms, that's a clue that the issues may be anxiety related.
posted by sweetkid at 9:29 PM on June 24, 2011


I also had to find a general practitioner who also was a rheumatologist to find someone who would listen to my complaints and work them through with me. I was not crazy. I was beginning to think I might be crazy. I did have anxiety, as the doctors were saying. The anxiety, however, was secondary to a moderate case of fibromyalgia.

Keep in mind that anxiety, if unchecked, can help to bring on high blood pressure and heart disease. So do not dismiss it as "just" anxiety.
posted by lynnshaze at 10:04 AM on June 25, 2011


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