I went to see my sister last night and she is doing this strange thing with her tongue -- she keeps sticking it out, seemingly unaware she is doing so. She has a host of medical issues and seems to be caught in an anxiety spiral at the moment about one health issue in particular. Could this tongue thing be a legit side effect of her existing health issues or a manifestation of her anxiety?
Yes, you are not her doctor. This is what she is doing: when talking or eating or just sitting around, she pushes her tongue out all the way out of her mouth and down over her lower lip, over and over and over. The closest thing I can associate it to is the way a person without teeth might thrust his tongue over his gums or how one might react if you got something hairy or sticky on your tongue.
Here are current health issues: diabetes, hypothyroidism, recurrent MRSA infections in the last two years that have been treated with high-dose antibiotics, pretty poor dental health. She is on thyroid medication, and her doctor recently upped her dosage. I think the doctor is trying to treat her thyroid before addressing the diabetes, which is not out of control but is also not managed particularly well either (it was diagnosed in the last few years). She has not had mental issues in the past, other than depression and acting out as a teen (she was adopted as an older child into my family), and a childhood diagnosis of ADD. She does struggle sometimes with anxiety and circular thoughts. She is in her late 30s now.
Here is her current life situation: she adopted several children recently, also just started a full-time job, is in the middle of moving apartments, and while she has a husband who helps as he can, he is also physically disabled and has cognitive limitations (low literacy, can't drive). She also, in my opinion, has some serious focusing issues that make the daily logistical management of her life harder than it has to be. (To head off any comments here about the adopted children: they are well-cared for and loved.)
She is also currently convinced she has Morgellons
, or a delusional belief that one has bugs crawling on them. She self-diagnosed this via the Internet and asked me last night to check her skin for bugs. She is convinced she has gone crazy and doesn't want to go to the doctor or for me to help her out. She seems pretty worn down and exhausted to me, and in a defeatist head space.
She has insurance through her new job but has not filled out the enrollment paperwork (see focusing issues above.) I am willing to pay out-of-pocket for her to see her doctor, but she has not accepted my offer yet.
This preoccupation with bugs is not new. It started last summer when a bedbug infestation led to a traumatic event -- the foster kids (now her adopted children) she was caring for were temporarily removed from her home while the bedbug situation was addressed. Ever since, she has been paranoid about bugs and has been telling me for a while that she has bugs crawling on her.
I don't know if she has ever talked about this bug sensation with her doctor, but it seems pretty likely that the sensation could be peripheral neuropathy related to the diabetes, and not delusions.
What is new is this tongue thrusting thing. I asked her about it and she couldn't tell me why she was doing it and didn't seem aware of it until I pointed it out. She said she just figured it was related to the "Morgellons" and that she had just gone nuts, end of story.
I'm wondering if it could be thrush, or if could be anxiety related.
I can help her address my suspicions about the peripheral neuropathy -- I'm pretty sure I can get her to make an appointment with her doctor by applying some sisterly pressure. I can also help talk her through the anxieties I'm sure she is currently dealing with and offer practical help to lighten her load during this stressful time. We are not close, but I love my sister. She has a friggen' heart of gold, but does a piss poor job of taking care of herself.
But I'm really bothered by the tongue thing. I know it may be silly to focus on this one thing when she has many other health issues on her plate, but it made her seem pretty deranged last night. Have you ever seen anyone exhibit this behavior? If so, did it have a medical cause or a psychological one?