Anxiety Symptoms Explained

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Hi everyone, my name is Neil and I've been a member of this forum for a good few years, I've suffered from depression and anxiety on and off for the last 25 years and have had 6 relapses during that time, I have a pre disposition to depression and anxiety which means it's never far away even when I'm well but have managed long periods of being well. In my time I've experienced a gannet of symptoms and through therapy and CBT I have come to learn and understand the physiological reasons for the sensations, feelings and thoughts caused by anxiety and thought I would share these with folk, especially for those who are new to anxiety, have health anxiety or just would like to know why they are experiencing certain symptoms in the hope that it helps.

First of all anxiety is the body's alarm system and any symptom we experience when in the fight, flight, faint or freeze (FFFF) state is meant to keep us alive and is therefor benign and cannot harm us in any way. When the brain perceives a threat (real or imagined) adrenaline is released into the blood from the adrenal glands abd we experience uncomfortable feelings because the adrenaline makes the body systems speed up, diverting blood towards the big muscles preparing us to attack (anger), or escape (anxiety). The Amygdala is the art of the brain which acts like a smoke alarm ticking away in the background and is activated by things we consider to be a threat, triggering the release  of adrenaline. 

The Amygdala can be triggered by sensory information, thoughts, thinking, beliefs, certain behaviours and unresolved traumatic memories.

This is what happens to our bodies when the FFFF reaction is activated;

- Our brain is hijacked and thoughts race which makes it hard to think clearly and rationally with feelings of being unreal or detached. We then catastrophies, predict the future, become unable to concentrate and tend to focus on the trigger.

- Tingling or numbness in parts of our body especially the face or head, this is caused by the small blood vessels and capillaries contracting restricting the blood flow to that part of the body and diverting it to our big muscles.

- Dizzyness or lightheadedness caused as a result of faster breathing.

- Breathe fast and shallow, this helps us take in more oxygen which is transported around our blood system, this can some times give us a choking feeling.

- Stomach churning is caused by adrenaline reducing the blood supply to stomach as we don't need to digest when in FFFF mode, this can make us feel nausia, butterflies, or churning amongst other sensations.

- Muscle tension and "pumping up" which causes aches, pains, burning, twitching and spasm sensations is caused by blood containing vital oxygen and glucose sent to the big muscles to be ready for the FFFF response.

- Blurred vision or even improved vision is caused by the eyes widening to let more light in and cutting out our peripheral vision so we focus visually on the threat.

- Mouth dryness and difficulty to swallow is caused by the saliva glands switching off by the narrowing of the arteries as we don't need to eat whilst in FFFF mode.

- Body heats or sweats is a side effect of all the speeding up of systems and rapidly generating heat, the sweating cools us down again, it always so allows us to become "slippery" to allow escape.

- Heart beating faster and stronger is the body's way of rapidly sending oxygenated blood to the main muscles, it can also give us the palpitation sensation or skipped beat.

- Bladder relaxes as the inner sphincter muscle relaxed so you feel the need to pass urine.

I can't think of any other symptom presently but I think I've covered the main ones, I do realise and accept that everyone is unique and often present symptoms that are unusual, for me I get the corner of my mouth twitching upwards a bit like the classic Elvis lip curl, I can't explain it but know it only happens when I'm particularly anxious so know it's down to that. The other one I get is repeating songs in my head like a duke box again it's symptomatic of my anxiety and in some ways is a mechanism to stop me thinking more anxiety causing thoughts a bit like a defence mechanism.

I hope this helps folk to understand and in some ways be less frightened by their anxiety symptoms, feel free to PM me with any symptom not mentioned and I'll do my best to try and explain it but please understand I'm not a qualified Dr or psychiatrist I just have plenty experience with anxiety and the symptoms.

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  • Posted

    Well said Neil.l hope you are feeling a bit better.
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    • Posted

      Hi Markeen, I've been back on my Venlafaxine for a couple of weeks now at my usual therapeutic dose of 150mg for last 4 weeks and have made some progress, I've still a way to go 

      as am only feeling at best 50% there, I tend to take a bit longer each time I relapse, you'd think it would be easier but every time it gets harder as I think my anxiety has to find harder things to deal with to "justify" it's existence, I've had to deal with some horrible thoughts.

      Ive been ill now for 5 months and hoping to god I'll recover again, it's been by far the worst episode I've had, 

      How are you Marleen? 

      Neil 

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    • Posted

      Sorry to hear that Neil perhaps it is just going to take a little longer.l haven't been great either coming off diazepam after 10 years horrible withdrawal just taking it one day at a time.Also got trolled through my private messages on this forum so thought I would take a step back from it.

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    • Posted

      Thanks Marleen, I take Clonazepam which is long lasting like diazepam, I've been taking one 0.5mg tab a day when I need too for the past 5 months, although I can take two per day but resist, I'm starting to realise that I take it too often rather than letting the anxiety pass like I used too, I guess I'm just fed up. I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago and despite my anxiety at going I was fine when I was there and didn't need to take a tab for two days and didn't feel any withdrawal effects at all, in fact I've never felt any start up or withdrawal effects of any anti depressant I've been on, I might be just lucky that way but not complaisant either.

      Glad your back on the forum as I know your advise is valuable.

      Neil 

       

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    • Posted

      Neil it's amazing you managed to travel and do without the benzo.That has to be a step in the right direction.Thank you for the compliment.l hope l help a bit however the health anxiety sufferers l find hard to deal with as l feel reassurance doesn't work and there is no getting through to them.l hope your post works to help them understand their symptoms.A very good idea.l think Google has definitely increased this disorder.Keep going Neil you overcame this many times before and you will again.

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    • Posted

      Hi Marleen, hope your experience on private message hasn't put you off posting here as much, I read your posts and they are always helpful and make complete sense to fellow sufferers, most importantly very helpful to people needing reasurance. Get what you mean about health anxiety, can only try to reasure, 'hate googling'doesnt help anyone, 😊??

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  • Posted

    Hi Neil. Thanks for explaining it all. I've had anxiety for 30 odd years and know all the reasons why we feel the way we do. It would be great if we could wave a magic wand at our brain and say "stop" but as u no it's not that easy. It definitely helps knowing why these symptoms appear. Thank u

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    • Posted

      Thanks Moira, your right it isn't easy, I'm sure in the future there will be a magic wand medication that works, I think we are in the experimental stage. I accept that meds only help to a certain degree but therapy and CBT is also challenging, I had therapy and CBT when I first relapsed back in the late 80's and it did more harm than good but that was down to the councillor.

      I posted because I've noticed an increase in the number if people presenting health anxiety symptoms and thought that if they know the physiological reasons for their symptoms it might help them rationalise a bit.

      At the end of the day we are all fellow travellers.

      Neil 

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    • Posted

      I think if we had got the help and understanding back in the 80s or 90s we wouldn't be in the mess we are now. I'm just glad the younger kids on this are getting more help than us

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  • Posted

    Yes Aspinan.

    To understand the condition helps us control our Anxiety and Depression.

    I hope you are well and with your understanding will help you move on

    BOB

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  • Posted

    Thank you Neil,

    That has helped me understand a lot, I have also suffered for over 30 years on and off, the latest relapse is the worst I have had.

    Hope you are doing well .

    Karen

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  • Posted

    Hi Neil,

    How did you discover what your trigger is?

    I really don't know what mine is?

    It seems to be anything??

    Karen

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    • Posted

      Hi Karen, like you I'm not sure but have some ideas, I'm in therapy at the moment and will be exploring the triggers, my main thing is anxious about being anxious but need to understand what makes me anxious to the point of relapse in the first place. N

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    • Posted

      Hi Neil,

      That's exactly it !

      I get anxious about being anxious!

      My life is full of " what if's " !!

      I got my husband to read your post and he said it's the first time he actually understood about anxiety, as best anyone who doesn't suffer can, but like you, me and many others is still wondering what my trigger is!!

      I hope your therapy goes well, maybe you'll find your trigger in time.

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  • Posted

    You've described it better than any professional. It's great thank you. Also can you tell me how you on CBT I had it before but didn't find it helpful. I like therapy just no that particular one.

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    • Posted

      Hi Trish, I've had a few CBT sessions but never really engaged in it as felt my anxiety didn't fit with the "norm", I'm currently doing an 8 weeks 2 hours per week group session and enjoying it, it's going deeper into anxiety and how to manage it yet I'm still trying to get to grips with it and how it helps me, we're going to be looking at uncertainty this week as despite what I tell myself if there is any uncertainty my anxiety latches onto it so I'm hoping to get some insight into it.

      I don't like the homework they set as it puts pressure on me and too many forms to fill in which isn't me really, I'd prefer to take my time with it which they've said is ok.

      Its a work in progress for me, I'm not looking for happiness just peace.

      Neil 

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