Extreme Physical Suggestibility
August 22, 2018 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Since having a stent inserted, I feel frequent chest symptoms, though I'm fine. Living in a Lyme Disease hotspot, I keep sensing non-existent ticks. Having recently returned from a trip where I discovered I'd gotten a couple swollen bug bites, I'm convinced I've brought home bed bugs, and feel them squirming while I try to sleep. None of this stuff pans out, but I can't escape the physical feelings. Is extreme physical suggestibility a condition?

I've had $5K worth of fancy tests twice now, and heart's surely fine. I no longer report chest symptoms, but continue to experience them. At times I'm positive the stent has collapsed.

A few times I've found real ticks, which really amps up this phenomenon. Every passing itch translates to my brain as "TICK!". I'm not looking/waiting for it consciously. I'm not a worrier!

I've barely slept in two nights. I've gone over my mattress with a flashlight several times, finding nothing - aside from one nearly invisibly small UCO that surely wasn't a bed bug, but which nonetheless has put my body on alert. I feel wriggling bugs, especially right as I'm about to nod off.

I'm not an anxious person. This causes bemusement, not terror. I'm not worrying obsessively; am pretty cest la vie, mentally (less so physically when experiencing faux-angina or faux bedbugs/ticks!). What I believe I'm doing is subconsciously organizing random fleeting physical sensations. I.e. a hyper-sensitivity to random nerve firings plus an innate creative tendency/ability to weave chaos into faux-signal (a feature, not a...er....bug).

Is this a "thing" I can read up on?
posted by Quisp Lover to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One other weird example. When I'm waiting for someone in a public place who I don't know well, nearly every passing stranger jars my "That's him/her!" response, even though my conscious brain knows better.

If I'm waiting for a 19 year old slim Italian guy, and a 400 pound Korean woman walks by, I may feel a small visceral leap of recognition momentarily before I can intellectually rule it out. Maybe they both have dark hair, or whatever....

I suspect this is the same process.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:32 AM on August 22, 2018

I think the term you’re looking for is psychosomatic.
posted by amro at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think of this as hypervigilance. It can co-present with anxiety but doesn't have to.
posted by jessamyn at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2018 [13 favorites]

FWIW, this sounds pretty normal to me. Two days ago, I was at work figuring out our nitrogen-enriched atmosphere system, and started feeling woozy as we talked about how dangerous leaks in said system can be after pumping more N2 than expected through the sampling line into a small space. I've also definitely gotten bug-paranoia after some really terrible reactions to bites. When I move to a new place, especially, I constantly think I recognize people on the street.

I try to figure out some reasonable response to whatever the thing is (check for ticks nightly, decide not to worry about bedbugs if you're not getting bites, apply lotion to maybe help your skin be less itchy, whatever your doc says is the right thing for chest pain), do that, and then remind myself that I did the thing and I can relax.
posted by momus_window at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

A kindred spirit! Wow! Do hay fever commercials make you sneezy, too?
posted by Quisp Lover at 11:07 AM on August 22, 2018

I have had stents placed in my heart. For the first year, every pain/ache was cause for alarm. This will go away. Or, it did for me.

Remember, just because you are paranoid does not mean they're not out to get you. If the pain persists, check them out.
posted by AugustWest at 11:21 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

You've been through a stressful situation. Your body is in fight or flight mode still, being super aware of things is part of that, it's a survival technique & your monkey brain is taking over. I'd suggest looking into relaxation techniques, mindfulness that sort of thing. Massage might help you relearn your body as receiving good as well as bad sensations, or even or just going for a nice walk & being in the moment. Keep reminding your body the "fight" is over it doesn't have to be on high alert anymore. Time is pretty much the best healer of this.
posted by wwax at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Since having a stent inserted

This is a big deal, or at least it is natural for a subset of humans to interpret it as a big deal and to process fear through heightened anxiety and hypervigillance about their physical state. Is there a reason not to see a mental healthcare professional?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

A kindred spirit! Wow! Do hay fever commercials make you sneezy, too?

TV doesn't do it to me, but I recently got diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency, and I swear the symptoms are worse now that I know what they are and I'm not just blaming it on being out-of-shape/lazy/dehydrated/whatever. I also catch myself mirroring gestures and speech patterns/accents a lot.

People are wired to look for patterns and cause/effect (even when they're not there).
posted by momus_window at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Stent's been in four years and all is fine. Anxiety is not a problem, I'm an advanced yogi. This is a long-standing issue of perception, not emotion, so thanks, everyone, for concern but I'm curious to hear from kindred spirits or anyone who can shed light on hypervigilence. More to understand than to "fix".
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:07 PM on August 22, 2018

I've been through something similar which kept me from sleeping for a week. It was an isolated episode and wasn't preceded by any sort of medical procedure, unless you count ethanol ingestion on a hot weekend. It started with the hypervigilance, then escalated to sweaty feet and repeatedly waking up in a panic thinking my heart had stopped.

What eventually put on the brakes for me is calling my GP and getting a very mild prescription for a SARI and 14 hours of sleep. Since it was temporary for me, I tend to think you could call it a "condition", though idiopathic.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:18 PM on August 22, 2018

Not exactly the same thing, but you could look into the nocebo and placebo effects. Nocebo is what's happening to you (you're experiencing negative effects from the stent even though there should be no measurable effect at all). Placebo could be a potential fix (you could take a placebo pill or do some kind of ritual with the belief that it will make these sensations go away, and there's a good chance it will help at least somewhat).
posted by danceswithlight at 1:43 PM on August 22, 2018

I am very similar: I specifically get heart stuff and bedbug stuff too. I’ve heard that phantom bugs/bites is really common in people who have had a prior bedbug infestation or scare, even if the bugs are long gone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:15 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fomication can have a number of physical causes, too. You might want to rule them out.
posted by praemunire at 2:23 PM on August 22, 2018

Being an advanced yogi doesn't mean it isn't anxiety. Hypervigilence is associated with trauma - such as needing a stent - and it responds to therapy and treatment for anxiety, PTSD and OCD. Anxiety doesn't just mean having anxious thoughts. It also has physical manifestations, such as what you describe. Also, the worrying that you describe about these events is a description of anxiety. I would strongly recommend following up with a trauma informed therapist who can help you ramp down your vigilance. It can go away on its own, but it's fundamentally different from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which I suspect is what's making you say that anxiety isn't a problem. You are describing pretty extreme anxiety that is causing you to spend money on medical testing. Working with someone on techniques to set down your hypervigilance seems like it would be well worth your time. Mindfulness, such as is associated with yoga, can actually make this kind of anxiety worse not better.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:47 PM on August 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

Seasonally, I frequently think there's a mosquito on me, or a flea on my leg. It's much worse if I'm tired or unwell. Distraction helps - music, a very good book, conversation, playing with the dog, writing
posted by theora55 at 2:56 PM on August 22, 2018

Dry skin causes these feelings in me
posted by Jacqueline at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don’t think you should be so sure it’s not anxiety.
posted by amro at 3:56 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

My sister calls this the "Fleabee Jeebies." Even after the flea infestation was over, we still kept feeling phantom flea bites for weeks.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:59 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Distraction is the big coping mechinism for me (and I had a job that put me in contact with bedbugs way more often than the average person) and I'd actively have to ignore it. I noticed it happened more with a trigger (someone telling me they have bedbugs, for example).

Echoing the stent is a trauma. Your body cannot tell the difference between medical surgery and someone stabbing you. In many ways the body just acts the same way. Your life was threatened and your body was hurt. It was purposeful, and kept you alive, but your body doesn't quite get that on a physical level.

There is a thing called psychosomatic flashbacks, which SUCK and really are your mind replaying physical sensations over and over.

It helped me to be able to identify triggers, and then i could focus on that when i felt the things. For example, "Bob talked about doing a bedbug extermination and now im itchy" or "that tv show showed an open heart surgery and now my chest hurts."

The context helps me to decide when i should maybe look into what's going on and when i should just ignore. Of course, not everytime can i figure out if there was a trigger, so occasionallly i do check the bed for bugs when it is unwarrented. But way less than before when i took every physical sensation seriously.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:05 AM on August 23, 2018

« Older Washer Woes   |   lookin for music with 'organic' percussion... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.