I know I'm crazy, but what kind of crazy?
December 7, 2006 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Hard to describe restless feeling in small of back seems to cause/be related to irritability, compulsions.

I first noticed this when I was a child, and it happens anywhere from once a week to once a year, normally at night.

When I was ~ 10, I noticed a small wart on the inside of my calf before going to bed and planned on telling my mother about it the next day. But as I lay in bed I, passingly, thought about cutting it off with scissors. While this should have been as ridiculous as thinking about cutting off a foot to treat an ingrown toenail, it stuck in my head somehow.

I noticed an almost itchy restlessness in the small of my back. It is hard to describe, but it is like the prickly sensation you get when you feel you are being watched, except much stronger, maddeningly so.

I tried to ignore it, to forget about the wart, but it got so bad I was hitting myself in the back and thrashing, almost like I was throwing a tantrum, trying to get it to stop. It wouldn't and I ended up sneaking out of bed around midnight, getting an eXacto blade and some rubbing alcohol and cutting the wart out.

Since then I've never had a compulsion so drastic, normally something like a sharp toenail I have to cut, but it is certainly not the run of the mill "this is bothering me I have to deal with it" neurosis like checking to see if you've shut the oven off. It happens for the littlest annoyances (a mosquito flying around) or for big problems (college exams) but not all the time and not predictable.

Sometimes, like now, I'll get the feeling with no particular worry or thought in my head and, without a compulsion to complete and focus on, it makes me very irritable and rude.

Can someone please tell me what is going on? I'm certain it's psychological, but I can't figure out what it's called or what causes it. It's not a specific compulsion and, while I like to keep my desk neat, I don't (as far as I know) exhibit any other OCD tendencies such as counting, cleanliness or orderly lining up items based on size. It also doesn't appear for the same things, but any number of fixations without a pattern I can see.

This is the first time I remember it happening in more than 6 months.
posted by JeremiahBritt to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: OK, you just triggered almost the same thing in me. :-)

With me it tends to be a compulsion to move, or change position, or get something done. It's definitely more just generalized restlessness than much else.

Tends to happen mostly when I'm stressed out in general. Yoga makes it go away, both because I think it helps with the stress and works the lower back in good ways.
posted by occhiblu at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2006

OCD affects different people different ways. Get some heath insurance which covers mental health and see a psychologist.
posted by jesirose at 1:18 PM on December 7, 2006

Best answer: It's a psychological/emotional thing for me, too. It happens when I'm angry or especially frustrated. You mention no "particular" worry - maybe there's some general worrying going on that your subconscious is cramming into your lower back?

As for the feeling... Mine manifests across my shoulderblades. I've described the feeling as "electric," based on an unfortunate experience I had trying to repair our clothes dryer. It's an alien and alarming need to move. I think I've also compared it to an itch under my skin, but I think "itch" underplays the intensity of the sensation.

Occhiblu is usually right about things, so try yoga. I've also had success with strenuous physical activity - chopping wood, working a punching bag, and the like. The activity takes my mind off my worries, works the affected area, and wears me out enough to get some rest.

Best of luck. And stay away from the X-acto blades.
posted by apocry_phil at 1:21 PM on December 7, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice. I had a feeling it was just stress triggering some ancient instinct to move, something deep in the hind brain getting awakened by a glut of stress-related neurotransmitters and shouting "You're being chased by something! Run! Fight!" But, as I didn't know anyone else experienced it, I thought maybe my brain was broken. I'm happy to see I'm not alone, even if I'm bonkers.

I'll have to try the yoga and/or physical activity. Unfortunately, I'm still at work.

posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:57 PM on December 7, 2006

I get this too, and I've found that physical exertion is about the only thing that helps. Doing something that requires a lot of concentration works best, since it lessens the restless feeling in my mind as much as the restless feeling in my body. So, running is better on a rocky trail than on a sidewalk, but either of these beats a treadmill. When it's cold, a weird cardio class I've never tried before is better than swimming laps. And if physical activity isn't possible, then some serious distraction is necessary - I'll dive into a particularly engrossing movie or book, or tackle the hardest problem I've got on my plate at work.

Basically, what everyone else said. I just wanted to add another data point to indicate that you're not the only one (and I'm glad to find that I'm not, either)!
posted by vytae at 2:17 PM on December 7, 2006

Wow, I'm so glad I read this. I have very, very similar stuff. I want you to know that I understand the impulse to accept pain in lieu of "the tickle." And that urge to just cut it out/off. I'm glad you know it's nuts, too. Aren't you glad about that??

I think it breaks down two ways. First, as a symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Second as a symptom of Fibromyalgia, which is more frequently experienced by people with anxiety disorders. I think you should read about and possibly seek treatment for these things. The basics of such "treatment" are exersize, regular sleep, breathing and some cognitive controls.

...Also, apropos to no diagnosis I've got are my lesser compulsive behaviors which are also similar to what you describe, but more constant and less violent. I pick my cuticles, driven by the feeling of insensitivity the callous-like skin gives my fingers. When I'm having a panic attack or when I've just very tense the impulse to pick and scratch gets very bad and my boyfriend gets his hands smacked for trying to quiet my *pick* *pick* *pick* fingernail sounds. Sometimes in a panic attack I get hit-myself impulses that don't seem related to the picking impulse, unless you think of the brain as a body part that can tickle or feel sore or numb... in which case it does make sense.

I'm starting to sound barmy. I'm okay, really. Just barmy! :)

I would love to keep up a conversation with you about this, my email's in my profile.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:28 PM on December 7, 2006

Again, anyone who cuts them self with any kind of knife because they feel a need to, needs to talk to some sort of professional. Not the internets.

While stress relief techniques are excellent for anyone, you yourself said "psychological". That means "psychologist".
posted by jesirose at 7:47 PM on December 7, 2006

Response by poster: I was 10 when I cut the wart off. I am now 25, and do not cut myself willy nilly (although I have cut out a splinter here or there).

I do appreciate the concern though, it's just not something that is common. I included it because that was the first time I felt the weird, being chased feeling. Cutting something off 2/3 the size of an eraser head was stupid, but I wasn't just cutting myself to get rid of the feeling or as a stress reliever. I was also getting rid of a wart.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:43 AM on December 8, 2006

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