Health anxiety!

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NigeI
1

Hi, newbie here looking for... well to be honest I don't know whether it's answers, reassurance, or just a friendly opinion I'm looking for, but all are welcome. I'm a man in my 30s and for the past few years have been suffering from anxiety. Before the anxiety I was confident, enjoying work, had more friends than I had time to spend with, and was earning good money. Everything revolved around my social life. It was the reason I worked, and all I thought about during the day - what I could get up to at the weekend. Stress and anxiety was something that other people suffered from, but not me. I wasn't interested in settling down, not unusual for a guy in his 20s. Then completely out of the blue, I met a girl. A wonderful, gorgeous, kind, and funny girl, and immediately this changed me. She was the one. In case anyone assumes this is a story about how this girl broke my heart, this is not the case. We are still together, very much in love, engaged, and have a beautiful 2 year old son.

Immediately after getting together with Lisa, I was paranoid about losing her. I knew there were other guys interested in her before we got together but she assured me countless times she was happy with me and wasn't interested in anyone else. I still couldn't shake the thought that someone would take her away from me. After 6 months of us being together I noticed that I'd developed a strange irregular heartbeat. My entire department was about to be made redundant, which was on my mind as well, so it could be that these combined stresses caused this heart beat problem. Every now and then my heart would skip a beat and then catch up with a heavy beat, and I'd feel a flutter in my chest and have the urge to cough. I thought this was the beginnings of heart failure or an impending heart attack, however after a bit of research, a couple of visits with my GP, a chest X-ray and a 24 hr ECG, it was deemed to be premature ventricular contractions (PVC's) which are apparently harmless and very common, but I believe that by the time this was diagnosed the damage was already done and I was convinced my death from heart failure was just around the corner.

Six months later and I'm in a new job, mostly dealing with upset clients on the phone and sometimes face-to-face, and handling their complaints. I have always had a habit of taking things to personally and this type of job certainly had that effect on me. I was now also suffering from bouts of chest tightness and occasional dizzy spells as well as the PVC's and my fears about my health increased as a result. At the same time I had a house move hanging over my head as myself and Lisa were moving into our first home, which gave me added stress. I was going home every day fed up of dealing with angry and upset people and this brought me down. Rather than enjoy my spare time I would spend my nights dreading the return to work the next day, and this was causing frequent panic attacks. I had realised that all these symptoms I was experiencing were down to either stress or anxiety rather than heart failure, which was both good news and bad news; good news that I wasn't suffering from heart disease, but I was ashamed that it seemed I wasn't mentally strong enough to deal with the kind of stresses that millions of other people take into their stride on a daily basis. It made me feel weak.

Moving forward another year, I'd now grown fed up to the back teeth of being a complaints person and had found myself another new job. Not only was I looking to get out of that job but I also needed something with much more flexibility in its hours as we now had a 6 month old son. I was looking forward to a fresh start and had assumed that as soon as I was out of this job, all the stress and anxiety would just float away. Unfortunately this proved not to be the case. 1st day on the new job and they told me that, since my interview, they had removed the flexible hours option from all employees, and I was now expected to do shift work, meaning the child care plans we had made were useless. The job was over an hour commute each way and I found myself in constant trouble for being a few minutes late due to late trains. During the next 4 months I went through the worst time of my life with anxiety. There were times I would just freak out for no reason. I'd be struggling to breathe, my heart would be thumping, my entire body was tense, and I could feel my blood boiling inside of me, for no apparent reason. There were times I was thinking of jumping out of my top floor window rather than spend another minute suffering with whatever the hell was going on in my head. I knew there was no reason for it, but I could not stop. Thoughts of doing every day things, like being in a crowd, or in a supermarket, or on a plane or a roller coaster, a bus, in a queue etc. filled me with dread and I felt I couldn't handle such routine situations. My GP put me on propanolol and, to be fair, it did help. Whether it was actually the medication or the placebo effect of just taking it that helped I'll never know, but sure enough it started to get better. On my next visit to the GP it was decided that I would now take the propanolol every 2 days. I had left the new job after only 4 months and had taken a part time job which allowed our son to spend more time at home with me. I was improving and after another month I had completely removed myself from the propanolol. 9 months ago, my GP told me I could take one as and when I needed to. I haven't taken one since. I haven't had an anxiety attack for ages and I feel I can handle things much better. I haven't got my confidence back fully yet and every now and then I do feel a little overwhelmed, but my attitude has changed.

So, why am I here? Well over the past 6 months, I have started suffering with terrible health anxiety, or as it used to be called, hypochondria. Despite me managing to get on top of my anxiety, my mind doesn't seem to want to let go of it and I find myself racing away with thoughts about my health. Now, every headache I have is a brain tumour. I get an occasional tingling in my face sometimes which I know can be attributed to anxiety or a trapped nerve, but to me that's the start of a stroke. I have a cough for a couple of days and I'm convinced I have lung cancer. My arms get tired easily and all of a sudden I'm diagnosing myself with MS. If I have a stomach bug which causes unpleasant bathroom episodes, and all of a sudden I've got bowel cancer. I'm now convinced again that my PVC's (which I still have but are less frequent) are heart disease and I'm on the cusp of a heart attack. Over the past 6 months I've diagnosed myself with more diseases than I've got teeth (and I've got all my teeth!). If you looked at my web history you'd be forgiven for thinking I'm studying pathology!

Could it be that my mind is so used to anxiety that it's now creating more? Did this health anxiety stem from the general anxiety I was suffering from? Can it be overcome? I'm fed up with convincing myself I'm going to drop dead tomorrow and worrying about leaving a son without a father, and worrying about how my family will pay the bills and keep a roof over their head when I'm gone. I want to embrace these years and live them fully, without fear of cancer, or strokes, or locked-in-syndrome, or heart attacks, or MS, or any of the other multitude of ailments I've been convinced I've got. My doctor is fed up of seeing me, I'm fed up of seeing him, and my colleagues have stopped listening to me when I tell them of my latest disease! Can CBT help? I don't want to go onto any meds, as these forums seem to be full of horror stories of medication and withdrawals from them! My worst fear is that this will bring back the anxiety I was suffering a year ago. I can't go through that again. It's a long way down from my top floor window and I'd rather just use it to admire the view! Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

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  • Posted

    Hi Nigel

    Well after reading your post I feel I am not so bad! you need to talk to a therapist for extreme health anxiety.

    You can self-refer at any time.

    www.iapt.nhs.uk

    they will contact you with a questionnaire and then refer you to a therapist.

    You need to do this soon as waiting lists are increasing.

    best for 2014

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  • liz54943
    2

    Posted

    Hello Nigel

    I have some experience with exactly the symptoms you describe, even down to the PVCs. And, just like you, I was always the confident, outgoing person, with lots of friends - known for being a bit audacious, and the life and soul of any get together.

    But, I suffered with the feelings of extreme anxiety/hopelessness/PVCs/negative thoughts - the whole shebang, when my first daughter was born. My GP diagnosed post natal depression, which I'm sure was right. It was a living Hell, which made me feel like I was slowly falling down a vast, black hole but never reaching the bottom.

    But, actually I had already suffered similar episodes a few times during my life before, caused by huge life changes. And, I firmly believe that once you have suffered once with anxiety/feelings of despair/hopelessness etc then your 'emotional immune system' is changed forever. I wouldnn't say it is weakened, but I do think you are far more susceptible to similar episodes in future. Similar to when people used to suffer with malaria, etc.

    When I was diagnosed with PND I took anti-depressants for 2 years which definitely helped. And, that was over 8 years ago, and I've taken nothing since. For the last 18 months I've been under huge stress thanks to to financial worries (the recession badly damaged my husband's business) and there have been many days when the phone rings with people chasing money, or I've had to choose between buying shampoo or shower gel. I find it almost incomprehensible that we've been reduced to living like this. I am a privately educated, university educated woman married to a very highly qualified husband.

    But, I was coping, and I was dealing with it. But, these last 6 weeks something has changed inside. The feelings of hopelessness are back, the total lack of optimism is back. The wanting to just run away is back. I look at my husband and I feel nothing, and feel I don't want to be with him anymore (when we've been happily together for over 20 years). Basically, all the emotions you are describing (aside from the health anxieties) have arrived back with a vegence, and I'm devastated.

    And, I think it's because all the normal, positive emotions that have built up over the last 7 years since recovering from PND have been eroded by these 18 months of stress. I think, as probably with you, these episodes have left us emotionally vulnerable and we don't have the inner resources to battle them off for very long. Plus, because we already KNOW how horrible these feelings of anxiety/hopelessness feel, I think we live in hidden fear of experiencing them again which is very draining.

    I have spoken to my very help ful GP, and she explained that very often it's only after the traumatic episode has passed, that we feel we can let down our defences and stop coping, and that's when our emotinal walls crumble a bit and all the negativity rushes in. So, this may be why, even though your life is now calmer, your anxities have got worse? Similarly with me, our financial situation should be soon easing up - because we've finished repaying some debts and my husband has won a new, large contract. But, instead of feeling I can now relax and stop battling all the negatives thoughts have rushed back in. I thought life was about to get better, I let my defences down, and I'm back battling with anxiety.

    I have been given a script for anti-depressants, but like you I'm very reluctant to take them again. Because I view them as a backward step, and I dislike myself for needing them. I resent feeling I need them. But, maybe another way of looking at it is that taking anti-ds ISN'T a backward step? Maybe they're a necessary sideways step in order to move forward again?

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  • Posted

    NIGEL...what you have written is exactly what i have Been going through . Word for word i can relate to everything you have listed. I feel relieved that i am not alone mate. its a scary place to be. You need good people around you to keep re-assuring you its ok. I have had rhetorically worst xmas and new year to date. So chin up mate we will beat this.
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  • Posted

    Hi guys, im 27 years old and have had serious anxiety and depression issues for 10 years now. I am only now beginning to try and combat this hell because i just can't deal with it anymore. The symptoms i am reading on here are so similar to mine. The problem i have is that because of my personality and age no-one really takes my symptoms seriously including my doctor. I have never taken anti-depressants but im at the end of my tether. Please can anyone give me some solid advice on techniques or medication to help me start living my life properly instead of being governed by palpitations and sheer panic/fear.
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  • Bill79
    2

    Posted

    Hi all,

    I'm not to sure what I'm looking for here whether it be some reassurance or what, around the being of November I a friend of my had mentioned about some one he knows had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, upon hearing this that night I had started getting slight headaches/shooting pain in different part of my head be it the back, sides and top, this set my mind thinking and over a couple of days I then started to get a real heavy burning pressure on the top of my head which would come and go, due to this real worry an thoughts had kicked in so I had made an appointment to see my GP, I explained to him that as mad as it may sound I was convinced I had a brain tumour, he did some checks blood pressure, check in my eyes etc... And said 99.9% you don't have a tumour to which was big a relief just to hear, later on that evening just my luck I had hear of a distant relative to be honest I've never met who had a fall hitch caused her death it was apparently confirmed she had a brain tumour upon hearing this this again set me worrying,

    A day or so after due to worry I went to see my other GP who again did some checks on me and again assured me there was no signs he arranged for me to have bloods done which came back clear he also suggested an eye test, I had informed him that I had already made an appointment that morning, glad to say my eye test was fine and the took some photos of the back of my eyes after which the optician said if the was anything there they would be able to see something as it's to do with the nerve at the back of the eye again this gave me some reassurance, only a couple of days after I found myself attend the walk in at the hospital as I was still very very worried, with in minuets of seeing the Dr there she suggested I'm suffering (if that's the right word) from Anxiety, she asked a bit about my life to which I had mentioned that I had a daughter who had past away 5years ago now to which I broke down and became very upset as would be expected, the Dr had referred me to a friend of hers who is also a GP at my local surgery, I made an appointment to see this GP who also suggested it's anxiety, she proscribed me some medication (Propranolol ) Only a couple of days after taking the medication I started getting a real acid feeling in my stomach so after a couple of days I was back to see the GP as I was still very worried, I was then also proscribed Citalipram and some oemoprozol (antacids) unfortunately the oemoprozol didn't make any difference so I made an appointment to see my first GP again who suggested they proponolo maybe disagreeing with me and wanted to ween me off so I was weened off them after twomonths, the day after coming off them (Boxing Day I made a trip to A&E as I started getting chest pains, the Dr's did an ECG which showed my heart was fine, took my bloods which came back clear, also a blood sugar test also fine they suggested I had been taken off the propanolol to soon and should go back on them, over this period I've been having soft and hard stools for which I checked on the internet which suggest bowel cancer so all of a sudden I've gone from a brain tumour to bowel cancer, (APOLOGISE for being a little graphic) butI have now found myself constantly checking my stools and worryin about the shape the fact they are soft and flat then as people may say normal, I still have the acid feeling in my belly so as I said I'm now convinced I have bowel cancer

    I attended the Dr's who has again prescribed me a new beta blocker instead of propranolol, as I was a little frightens of take them I have again seen the GP I was referred to who has told me they are fine to take BUT she would like to take me off the Citilopram and has proscribed me Amertriptaline (apologise if it's spelt wrong)and she assure me I don't have bowel cancer, so all in all I've seen three of my GP's who all say the same thing, I've also seen the Dr at the hospital saying ye same thing, and also the Dr's at the A&E surely all these Drs and two blood tests should reassure me I'm ok but due to the soft stools & acid I'm not convinced and my mind won't relax or let me believe I'm fine,

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  • Posted

    I posted earlier about.... I A P T

    I don't. Know where you people live. But if you are in the UK then this is available free. They teach you how to overcome your anxieties with things like cognitive behaviour to take your mind off.

    You know, I have anxiety about reading of how dangerous diverticulitis is, I have diverticulosis and , I know this might sound trite but I start whistling! I have diverticulosis, a gallstone and an under active thyroid, I don't know when one of these is going to kill me so I am anxious.

    I feel better after a good session. It is not as stupid as it sounds ...try it or something like it, sing , hum anything ...do something positive, I am wallpapering a bedroom right now.

    You need to be able to tell yourself that you are just worrying over worrying!!

    Good luck to all

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  • Bill79
    2

    Posted

    Hi Rick, I was proscribed propranolol for 2 month 20mg a day for Anxiety i found it gave me a dry throat that'sall to be honest, although the acid felling I still have at the moment only came on after taking them but no other experiences
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  • Tomyork
    1

    Posted

    Hi everyone. Also a newbie here. I read a lot of anxiety forums but don't generally post; however I was moved to write on this one because there appears to be a lot of UK posters (like me) and it's very recent.

    I won't recount the 5 or so years I have of anxiety symptoms, or the life events that I think triggered them. I just want to say that I can identify with all of you on here and have experienced many of the various anxiety manifestations you describe (irregular heart, weakness in limbs and dozens more over the years). Like you, I've been through some horrible times and find it exhausting how my happiness and sanity fluctuates at the whim of my mental health. Only today I was at the hospital having a chest X-ray for an unexplained tickle in my trachea that makes me want to cough (that search was how I found this forum). I've had it for 5 weeks. It will turn out to be nothing and it will go away. It always does. I have a GP who believes in ruling out physiological causes before accepting it is mental health related, which is great and why I ended up having a precautionary X-ray. That can work when you don't have a constant stream of different symptoms, which I don't right now, but some of you sound like it changes very regularly and you don't necessarily have a single focal point for your worry. I've been through periods like that too, where it changes a lot.

    A few years ago a young GP referred me to psychological services for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I would urge all of you who haven't done so to try this if you can; certainly before you start taking pills. The very least it will do is allow you to talk to somebody completely openly about what's going on in your head. That alone makes a massive difference. It's impossible to explain to the rest of your friends and family what's going on. The odds are they don't understand what you mean and they're not equipped to deal with it in a way that will help you. That's not their fault. CBT practitioners are trained to deal with it. They will also offer tricks and mechanisms for addressing the causes and effects of your anxiety. The extent to which they work will vary I suppose. I found some of it quite useful and some of it not so. I do know that since I had it, I am a lot clearer about what is wrong with me and feel stronger in dealing with it.

    To joseph12673: please please don't try deal with it on your own or hide it away. There are so many other people out there who are just like you and there are people and services that can help you. You're not dying. You're a young man with your whole life in front of you. Get the help you need and it will get easier. You need to talk to your doctor but not about your anxiety symptoms (on this occasion at least). You need to talk about mental health. If your doctor doesn't listen to you, see another GP. I have seen several GPs and talk very openly about my mental health. They will not turn you away and they will understand the seriousness of the issue. That doesn't mean they won't take you seriously if you have physical symptoms down the line, but you need to start to address the anxiety, not the symptoms.

    Best of luck everyone.

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  • Posted

    Hi bill thanks for feedback, been taking 40mg 2/3 times a day for five days now and have reduce to 1 today as they start to work so if helps anyone I'm finding propranolol very good for my anxiety with no side effects as yet. How are you bill?
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  • Bill79
    2

    Posted

    Hi rick, I started off on 40mg of propanolol but have to admit I only took the 40mg for the one day as the feeling was very strange and made me feel very uncomfortable so continued on 20mg before stopping, I have now be on the Atenolol 25mg a day and Amitriptyline 10mg which I can take one or two at night, I have only been taking the one for four nights now as I'm a little nervous about the side effects, but just over the five days I have had some some good days and just keep trying to reassure myself that I'm fine but have to say it is difficult, even try to convince myself that I'm not losing weight,

    I'm also waiting for some dates for my CBT, which I think or hope will help me over come this, my GP has assured me that anxiety can go just as quick as it comes on

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