Weird feelings in my arms and legs-- is this just anxiety?
August 31, 2008 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Weird feelings in my arms and legs-- is this just anxiety?

For the past two months or so, my arms and legs have felt very odd.

I want to say they feel numb, but they're not actually numb. I can feel all the usual stimuli- pain, heat, cold, pressure, etc perfectly normally.

I feel more like they're phantom limbs that happen to be attached to me. Or they're limbs that belong to else that I happen to be able to feel. When I walk, I feel like I'm being carried along by something else, not by my own power. When I reach for something, I feel like my hand doesn't belong to me.

When I'm walking, I sometimes feel like I've forgotten how to use my legs and won't be able to go another step. I've never been *actually* paralyzed, though.

It's an extremely odd and unsettling sensation. I feel relatively normal when sitting, more weird when standing and walking. These feelings have gotten more frequent and more intense with time.

I have had anxiety problems for years, so my first thought is that it might be related to that.

Have you ever heard of someone feeling like this? Could any physical problem that you know of be causing it? Should I see a psychiatrist? Should I see another kind of doctor?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like it's depersonalization and anxiety. Start taking better care of your body, and your spirit should follow.
posted by serena15221 at 12:12 PM on August 31, 2008

Bring this up with your physician first and also talk to a psychiatrist/psychologist, depending on your GPs reaction. He or she will know who to refer you to.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2008

These are not typical symptoms of anxiety. You need to go to the doctor immediately--a general physician or the ER who can provide you with a referral to the appropriate specialist..probably a neurologist.
posted by holympus at 12:17 PM on August 31, 2008

See your doctor.

I have heard of people having similar symptoms with severe chronic anxiety.

But I have also heard of people having similar symptoms with chronic neurological issues.

The sooner you find out what's going on, the sooner you can start addressing it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:26 PM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, now is not a time to get in touch with your spiritual side. Let's rule out a physiological cause before you turn to yoga or something. So it would be body doctor first, followed by head doctor if the body doctor finds nothing wrong.

Proprioception (woo, learned a new word today) is the sense and awareness we have of where our body parts are (I knew the concept already, just didn't know the word). Try closing your eyes and holding your hand in front of your head. Can you sense it there? If you can't, that's definitely something you should tell your doctor.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:32 PM on August 31, 2008

It's probably a very good idea to see a doctor to make sure there isn't something weird or dangerous (neurological?) going on here.

That said, what you describe reminds me rather a lot of some of the ways I often feel due to my anxiety issues. I depersonalize badly. I generally feels like I'm floating in the back of my skull and looking out through my eyes like the holes a Halloween mask. I seem totally separate from my body, like I shouldn't be able to control my limbs. It sucks and it's scary but it's a major anxiety symptom for me.

A weird little exercise that sometimes helps is to lie down and close my eyes, do some deep tranquil breathing, and meditate on the repeated question "How do I know that I have a right hand?" It helps to pull my awareness out of my head and into my body. Then I switch to my left hand, each foot or leg. It's very relaxing and can help ease the depersonalization feelings (if, in fact, that's what's going on).
posted by mostlymartha at 1:02 PM on August 31, 2008

Sounds like what I have. Haven't brought it up with a doctor, but I attribute it to posture at my desk. Also suffering from depression and anxiety. But, I think it's more of a nerve thing.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:56 PM on August 31, 2008

The problem here is that the "body doctor" creates more anxiety (pain/numbness) because he will be convinced there's something "wrong" with you.

Rule out psychological first. Then act accordingly.

Try reading something by Dr. John Sarno. I had numbness/pain in my legs and back- and reading one of his books eventually made it all disappear.
posted by Zambrano at 2:30 PM on August 31, 2008

I have, in the past, gone to the doctor because I was sure I had some sort of terrible neurological disease [I had tingling in like half my body and my scalp]. After some basic neuro tests and a thorough discussion about what was going on in my life lately [swimming 3-4 miles a week, recent death in my close family] she said she was pretty sure it was stress. Advised me to cut down on swimming, take it easy, prescribed lorazepam for sleeping, and the symptoms went away. I can still sort of recreate them if I get like zero sleep and drink a ton of coffee but generally speaking I was a stressful mess and too... practical?... to do what was necessary to alleviate it so my body basically tried to force me to calm down.

I don't think means don't see a doctor, I think it means that if a medical professional tells you that you're okay otherwise that it may indeed be stress that is causing these wacky symptoms. I would recommend considering trying (with your doc's okay) soem sort of anxiety medication if that is what the doc thinks is bothering you because then you can get a decent assessment of what your body feels like with the anxiety part removed and it can help you get some perspective on what is actually going on with you. I am sorry you are feeling poorly, it's no fun.
posted by jessamyn at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2008

Panic disorder. I have the exact same symptoms and it's panic disorder. Or call it anxiety. Whatever. It's just another sort of derealization. You're fine.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:43 PM on August 31, 2008

Panic disorder. I have the exact same symptoms and it's panic disorder....You're fine.

This is dangerous advice. I know someone who had the exact same symptoms, and it turned out to be a serious neurological condition.

See the doctor first and rule out neuropathologies. Don't dick around with this and assume you're fine. If the doctor says it's probably stress, and he or she seems to give you good reasons for it, move on to the psychological explanations. (And if the doc seems to just dismiss it as stress without actually paying attention to you, get a second opinion.)

I agree that it's probably something having to do with your anxiety issues, but it's best to rule out neuropathologies just to make sure.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:29 PM on August 31, 2008

Sid, I've BEEN to my doctor about my symptoms. You "know" somebody with these symptoms but I actually experienced them, and it's just another in the panic pile.

I never offered "advice." I never said not to go to the doctor- when OP does, I am certain that the diagnosis will be the same as mine, though.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2008

Sid, I've BEEN to my doctor about my symptoms. You "know" somebody with these symptoms but I actually experienced them, and it's just another in the panic pile.

Dude, I know two people who went to the doctor with these exact symptoms and got diagnoses of a) multiple sclerosis, and b) Parkinson's Disease. One of them is my dad, so I know his symptoms pretty well.

I also know several people who went to the doctor with these symptoms and got the diagnosis that it was panic/stress.

But many, many people told my friend and my dad that it was "just panic/stress" and there was "no need to worry about it." Some of these people were people who had had the same symptoms themselves, and in their cases it was because of panic or stress.

That's why the OP needs to go to the doctor. To rule out the neuropathological explanation. I think that the chances are highly likely that it's stress, too. But you've got to rule out the other stuff just in case.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on September 2, 2008

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