Can I chalk this all up to anxiety/stress? (YANMD)
June 30, 2016 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I had a stress breakdown a little over a month ago and have been dealing with various physical symptoms since then. A few things in particular have been bothering me over the past 1-2 weeks and I'm curious if my hypochondria might be getting the best of me.

You are not my doctor. In fact, I'll be seeing an ENT, GI and dietitian over the next 4 weeks.

I have been dealing with a diagnosed anxiety disorder for most of my life. I took antidepressants when I was younger but have been off for about four years. A little over a month ago, just days after my semester ended, I had a fairly significant stress breakdown. There were multiple external factors that fed in to this; long story short, I'm not surprised it happened when I look back at the past 1-2 years of my life.

I didn't sleep or eat for a few weeks. I had near constant heart palpitations, depersonalization and restless limbs. My hypochondria went into overdrive and I saw every type of doctor imaginable. The only actual diagnosis I received was a sinus infection which I took a week-long course of antibiotics for.

My anxiety and sleep are much better than they were 4-6 weeks ago. That being said, I have been experiencing new symptoms recently that are giving me concern. A few weeks ago, just as my appetite was returning to full strength, I began to notice that my sinus symptoms were making a comeback after having dissipated for a short period of time. Namely, I've been dealing with post-nasal drip, pressure, ear fullness and tinnitus. Within days a new set of GI symptoms appeared including gas/bloating, a tight feeling in my esophagus, a slight lump in my throat and occasional heartburn/reflux.

What Dr. Google has diagnosed me with: GERD/LPR (silent reflux), esophagitis, achalasia, hiatal hernia, H. pylori infection, post-viral vagal nerve sensitivity, chronic sinusitis, chronic tinnitus.

What I actually think has happened: my body is still in fight or flight mode, judging by the fact that I'm still getting heart palpitations, visual snow and am having bathroom issues every morning. My digestive processes are a little out of whack, especially after not having eaten for ~2 weeks. This has caused hypersensitivity in my esophagus, throat and sinuses leading to GERD/LPR symptoms. Perhaps my gut flora is playing a role as well (recent studies show it is a factor in GERD and I've been having problems with gas/bloating and constipation for years, hence my appointment with a dietitian).

Unfortunately, the internet is rife with anecdotal accounts of people who developed GERD/LPR symptoms after an illness or course of antibiotics and have still not recovered after years of suffering. ENT's and GI doctors don't seem to know much about LPR or what causes it. In fact, in a recent study, placebo was more effective than the gold standard treatment - a 3 month course of PPI medication (which I refuse to go on unless absolutely necessary).

So, is it possible that anxiety/stress is the key ingredient behind all of this? I'm seeing the proper specialists so I'll be able to rule out things either way. In the meantime I've ordered some Gaviscon Advance (U.K. version) which is supposed to help with this very problem. My hypochondria is driving me insane though!
posted by wisco9 to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are under a lot of stress. You're seeing specialists - so please try to stop worrying.

I have OCD (managed) and anxiety (Semi-managed, but manageable) and it manifests sometimes hypochondriacally. That's EXACTLY what this is sounding like. You're becoming obsessed with your symptoms which are probably nothing or are symptoms bourn of anxiety and constant self-scanning.

If I were you, I would go forward with my specialists but I don't think your need to check or re-check your symptoms will go away without medication or therapy.

Good luck - based on what you've written here, you're going to be all right medically if you can manage your anxiety, okay? I'm a stranger and I can pretty much promise it.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:39 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

My main prescription for you would be to stop using Dr. Google. Just like a diabetic can't eat sweets without consequences, a hypochondriac can't Google their symptoms without consequences. STOP.

Anxiety can cause more or less any symptom.

Also, the human body often has little weird things that happen to it. This is a normal part of life. Not everything requires a medical evaluation or medical treatment -- and often medical evaluations come up with nothing, yet encourage people to think that their symptoms require an explanation.

One time I had a cough that lingered for 6 weeks. Another time I had a 6 month long issue with intermittent vertigo. Recently I was really bloated and my stomach was turning in knots.
posted by gramcracker at 1:02 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stress and anxiety almost always cause GI issues for me, seconding that the specialists will work through it for you. Take care.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2016

I have anxiety and get a lot of physiological symptoms when my anxiety is in overdrive. In particular, the gas/bloating and throat lump. So, anecdotally, I would say that your stress could definitely be causing all this stuff.

It's great that you're seeing an ENT, GI, and dietician to rule in physiological causes. In the meantime, can you clarify if you're seeing someone for your anxiety? I saw that you're no longer on antidepressants, but there are other options!

I won't tell you to "try to stop worrying" - as someone with anxiety, I know that if you could just turn it off, you would. However, I will suggest that you try and distract yourself, to the greatest extent possible, even if it's with crap like binging Game of Thrones, and try and go easy on yourself.

Hang in there. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

gas/bloating, a tight feeling in my esophagus, a slight lump in my throat and occasional heartburn/reflux

Hey - I'm sorry you're having trouble right now. I had this exact set of symptoms for a while last year while I was going through some stressful medical issues. It all went away and I am fine now. Best wishes to you.
posted by something something at 1:20 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not eating will cause all the GI problems in the world. Eat regularly.

After eating consistently for months then look into other causes.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:22 PM on June 30, 2016

A dietitian is probobly a good call because your intake is all over the place.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2016

Have you done anything to manage the stress that lead to the breakdown in the first place? If not then it seems like it could be building up again.
posted by kapers at 1:41 PM on June 30, 2016

My stress/anxiety manifests like this too. I once had most of the symptoms of tonsillitis until 4 AM the day of a stressful event and then every single one of the symptoms disappeared (and didn't return). I also frequently get sick after a long stretch of stressful events when my body drops out of the prolonged fight or flight and this crash is usually of the "I was genuinely sick for 3 weeks" variety.

Either way, you have appointments to see doctors. They'll be able to sort things out for you.

It sounds like obsessing over your health issues is your main method of distraction from your anxiety right now and it's only making you more stressed out. Try to find something else to occupy your time with - a distraction that isn't based on fear or control. I would encourage you to add some kind of psych support to your list of medical things to do. Learning how to manage my stress has made my brain so much more "user friendly" and I'm sick so much less now (not perfect but SO much better). You don't have to accept this as normal.

Best of luck!
posted by buteo at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2016

a tight feeling in my esophagus, a slight lump in my throat and occasional heartburn/reflux.

While these can be symptoms of mild irritation, they are also extremely common symptoms of anxiety. But if you are experiencing mild irritation, it's probably because you have dramatically jacked up your system and it's not going to return to baseline in a couple of weeks.

Your anxiety is not yet properly controlled and you have to do that first or you run the risk of endlessly testing and trying to treat something that does not exist so it won't go away. Getting your anxiety managed by a doctor and a mental health professional, along with making sure you have enough support that you don't go two weeks without eating again (you need to make sure you tell each of these doctors about this, as well) will make it significantly easier to cope with the minor annoyances of aging so that you can tell them apart from an actual serious issue.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:02 PM on June 30, 2016

Hi there, are you me? I also deal with anxiety which is flaring up currently and had a week of chest pains, lump in the throat, etc. that I googled and decided were GERD and/or hiatal hernia. I took a 14 day course of Prilosec OTC and by day 11 the symptoms had cleared up. The box said not to take with diazepam just in case you use that for anxiety. Just an anecdote that may help you.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2016

I have GERD and have the symptoms you describe intermittently, usually when my anxiety is acting up. However, 90+% of the time I am asymptomatic, and when symptoms arise, I address both the GERD with diet modifications and the anxiety with relaxation, and they disappear again. So even if you are diagnosed with GERD, getting through this rough mental period will probably help you a LOT in terms of symptoms.
posted by epj at 2:22 PM on June 30, 2016

Your anxiety and stress made your body ill.

You went without eating and then, I'm assuming, you took antibiotics for your sinus infection. Your tummy is now messed up. You can take prilosec and eat yogurt or you can try probiotics. You do need to get back to eating regular meals. If that means getting back on the anxiety medication, then do that.

You are at the beginning stages of a mess. While you weren't eating or sleeping, your body was missing out on all sorts of things. You may have a vitamin deficiency now, which, since your digestion is out of whack, will only get worse because you may not be absorbing your food properly right now. Get your tummy back in shape, take a multi-vitamin, and you should be fine in a few months, so long as you get your brain chemistry back to where it should be. Your body and your mind are connected so it does all work together. Your anxiety messed up your stomach which messed up everything else, which can make your anxiety worse, and then repeat and amplify.

Asthma can sometimes develop when the tummy goes out of whack and you are vitamin deficient. The problem with mild asthma is that it can mirror an anxiety attack. Just be aware of that, since you already have allergy/sinus issues.

Treat your anxiety and everything else should mend on its own.
posted by myselfasme at 2:49 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just to be sure, could you perhaps have your thyroid checked out? A lot of these symptoms •could• be thyroid-related. I don't want to feed your hypochondria (although most thyroid problems are harmless, i.e. not deadly, just unpleasant), but I know what it's like to be told it's all in your mind and much later find out your thyroid was behind it.
Maybe that's not your case, but having it checked out won't hurt.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 9:56 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Frequent, small, easily digestible meals are gonna be a huge boon to getting those GI symptoms under control, friend.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:30 AM on July 1, 2016

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