How does your anxiety manifest itself physically? Details about TMJ and perhaps a touch of hypochondria after the jump...
posted by aintthattheway to health & fitness (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Background: Two weeks ago, I seemingly randomly developed a jaw ache on one side, which I at first thought was a toothache, which I then feared was an abscessed tooth. After a few days without it going away (and one heinous migraine), I went to the dentist, who checked my teeth and jaw and declared it to be jaw inflammation most likely caused by TMJ -- particularly clenching and grinding my teeth, since I hadn't had any jaw trauma that I could think of. He took and showed me an X-ray demonstrating how my jaw joint looked slightly flatter on the inflamed side. He put me on six days of corticosteroids (Medrol), and while I had a few headaches, they were mostly controlled by ibuprofen.
As I was tapering off steroids the last couple days, the inflammation settled down but I started having symptoms that seemed distinctly weird -- while also feeling my anxiety rise up. A guest (friend of a friend) came to stay and this made me highly anxious, even though I don't normally have problems with socially-related anxiety. We went to a grocery store and I felt panicked and disoriented, like everything was loud and overwhelming and difficult to focus on or look at. I didn't have an actual panic attack, and I don't really think it was noticable, except that I seemed a little jumpy or distracted. But somehow, with a headache and my head and eyes feeling weird, I fixated on the idea that I had a brain tumor.
The next few days I continued to have a headache and, for a short time each day, a sense of dizziness or disorientation that was either caused by panic or caused me to panic. The two went together so closely that it was hard to separate them.
The jaw ache went away but the headaches didn't, although they seemed to lessen slightly in intensity (I wouldn't describe them as highly painful, just squeezing). I went to a doctor, who said it was either TMJ-related or stress or both. I told him I was afraid it was a brain tumor, and he said he could assure me it wasn't, and brain tumor headaches are different. I've read that brain tumor headaches are like tension headaches, which aren't unlike what I have or told him I have, but I was too embarrassed to bring this up, since I already looked a bit crazy for suggesting it.
Things still seemed to be changing--now my shoulders and upper back, for example, feel completely tense and sore even though the doc prescribed (and I've been taking) a mild muscle relaxant. The headaches, which come on usually sometime in the afternoon (later every day, it seems like), are more like... head tension, if that makes sense. They are mild and not painful, but strange. The strangeness of it makes me panic, and then focus on it, which makes it all much scarier. I have had tension headaches since I was a kid, but this is like, some lesser but more continuous form of that. The noticably sore shoulder and back muscles are pretty unusual, too.
I've come home (to my parents' house) for the weekend and have been trying to relax with mixed results--I can't tell if a symptom kicks off my anxiety, or I remember to be anxious and it creates/increases the symptom. I have been, at my most panicked moments over the last week, completely convinced I have a brain tumor. Like, thinking about what I was going to do if I only had a year to live--that level of convinced. Terror and fear level convinced. But then, over the past few days I've also gotten to where I don't notice any tension in my head, though I still feel it in my shoulders and back.
At the same time, I'm not really debilitated and I think it's making me seem a little nuts. I don't have loss of balance or blurred vision--although I did think I might have mildly blurred vision, so went for a routine eye appointment, and it turns out both eyes have gotten a little worse and I got a new prescription. He did declare my optic nerve to look healthy, though. I haven't had any nausea or vomiting. I went for a run yesterday (vigorous exercise on doctor's orders) and felt a little better about an hour afterward.
I guess what I'd really like to know is --
1) If you have anxiety, what symptoms did you experience? Did it exaggerate symptoms? Particularly if you've had another medical issue?
2) If you've had TMJ, did you have any symptoms similar to these?
3) I suppose, if you're intimately familiar with brain tumors and want to put my fears at bay, I would be happy to hear that. I'm intermittently near-hysterical and very nearly scheduled an appointment with a neurologist. I'm still thinking about it. Brain tumors have been, like, my #1 Medical Fear since I was a teenager.
4) If you're an anxious sort that tends to react like a hypochondriac to symptoms, do you have a way of dealing with it or calming yourself down? I'm feeling a little out of control and unhinged with terror.