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Common Symptoms of Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Phobias and OCD.

Last Modified 2009-10-02 20:32:00

Having a panic attack involves the whole body so it is not surprising that the symptoms associated with it can originate from any part of the body.

Whilst it is true that there are many more anxiety sufferers thinking they have a physical illness than ill people who think they may have anxiety, it is prudent and we strongly advise you to see your doctor to discuss your symptoms and get checked over.

So if you have not seen a doctor as yet, please make an appointment soon. If you see your doctor and are diagnosed with anxiety/panic then we can help you overcome these symptoms, this disorder and regain your quality of life.

The symptoms of a Panic attack are very physical and real - they are not imagined in your mind.

BUT these symptoms are not life-threatening however much you may think they are; and you will not die or even be maimed from them - despite how awful you may feel at the time. They do pass. Keep reminding yourself of these facts as they will aid in your recovery.

I'll take the symptoms one at a time and you will learn and understand what happens throughout your body that causes you to feel the way you do during anxiety/panic attacks.

The Sympathetic Nervous system kicks in. This is an involuntary system so once your body has decided to put this into action there is nothing you can do except go with it and calm yourself as fast as possible thus telling your body all is now well and it can stop the response thus limiting the length and severity of the response.

It all starts in the Adrenal glands. The adrenal glands not surprisingly secrete adrenaline - which stimulates the heart rate and the breathing rate. It also secretes noradrenaline , which helps maintain constant blood pressure, which may contribute to why we feel a bit dizzy whilst it finds a balance. The adrenals also release Cortisol, this affects the release of glucose from the liver to give us the energy to flee and why you feel so exhausted at the end of an attack and it is so vital to replace nutrients.

This in turn affects parts of us ...

Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation means over-breathing which is caused by the sufferer breathing faster then needed. This may be apparent by feeling very short of breath or you may not be aware of it at all.

In this way the body's balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen is disturbed.

Hyperventilation can lead to Panic because you start to breathe quicker and shallowly and this results in you breathing out more carbon dioxide than the body produces, thus keeping the carbon dioxide level in the blood stream too low.

Without enough carbon dioxide to maintain the acid/base balance of the body, the blood becomes too alkaline, a condition known as "blood alkalosis." Alkalosis causes the arteries to constrict, with the result that blood flow is restricted, especially to the brain. Although the blood contains plenty of oxygen, alkalosis also prevents the essential transfer of oxygen from the blood to the brain, muscles, and organs, as has been frequently verified in panic attack victims who have gone to the emergency room. This is known as the "Bohr Effect" and has long been recognized by those who study hyperventilation.

Under these circumstances, the oxygen available to the brain is reduced drastically. At first your vision begins to blur. The typical sufferer reports feeling dizzy, tense, anxious, jittery, and nervous. The sufferer often feels like crying, and feels weak and confused. Starved for oxygen, the sufferer feels as if they are suffocating.

As the condition worsens, the brain gets more confused and sends the wrong messages. One wrong message sent is the need to breathe even more deeply, which worsens the problem.

The heart is pounding by now, increasing (or lowering) blood pressure. Pupils dilate, parts of the face, hands, and feet become cold or numb, the hands tremble, and the sufferer sweats. Chest pain may be present. This is usually related to chest breathing and muscle spasms in the chest wall, but in some cases may be actual heart pain.

Another symptom directly resulting from this is tingling in fingers and toes. A sure sign of hyperventilation. The numbness is a symptom that its hard to get used to , why 3 fingers and not the whole hand or just the right side and not the left etc. This often leads people to self diagnosing strokes and fits whereas this is just hyperventilation and extremely easy to correct.

Hyperventilation is not a serious medical condition as the body will automatically readjust when you let it. However, the sensations are extremely unpleasant and frightening. In many cases the sufferer has lost the ability to control their breathing correctly and this can be remedied by re-learning a correct method of breathing , from the abdomen and longer the out breath (count of 11) than the in one (on count of 7) and as slow as you can make it.

8 breaths a minute is adequate for healthy adults at rest.

If you find that you cannot control your breathing then breathe into a paper bag or cup your hands over your mouth and breathe through them , as if it's really cold out , it does work and only takes a couple of minutes to take effect! Friends and family can help you by counting in and out for you.

Many articles on panic will tell you that although you may feel dizzy you will not faint. That's mostly true but in reality a very few people who cannot control the hyperventilation may faint which is the body's way of taking back control so it can redress the o2- co2 balance. The good news is that if you've not fainted by the time you read this it's most very likely that you will not do so. If this is going to happen, it happens on the first panic attack. If you have not fainted to date you will not start to do so - especially now you know what to do.

Dizziness or light-headedness

What you feel:

You feel suddenly light-headed, woozy or dizzy. This is sometimes accompaniedby a feeling that you might faint or pass out. It also may feel as though youare walking on a boat, or that the floor seems to move up and down and it's hardto balance. You may also have difficulty placing your feet because yourperception of the ground or floor may be wrong. In some cases it may seem thateven though you are standing on a firm floor, the floor may be vibrating ormoving.

This is a very common feeling that most sufferers get. It's usually as a result of hyperventilation but also of intense fear and the adrenalin hit.

Feeling faint is very worrying and very frightening. You feel as though you are going to pass out or the whole world seems to be spinning and you cannot focus on anything. Your vision is blurred and this causes more Panic as you are now 'sure' that you will pass out or collapse.

Even when you convince yourself that you will not faint, the feeling of un-steadiness or dizziness remains. This feeling can go on for minutes or hours and there seems to be no end to it.

What causes this:

This symptom has a few variations. Some people may experience a sudden head rush feeling, which goes almost as quickly as it comes. As long as the individual doesn't react with more fear, the symptom will come and go and will vary in frequency from a number of times per day, to a few times a month.

Another variation includes a constant state of unbalance, spinning, wooziness, fogginess and so on. Often it is accompanied by a feeling that you may pass out (some people do, however, that's not common).

This symptom has a few causes. It could be from a blood sugar imbalance, hyperventilation (not getting enough oxygen) or an inner ear or ear pressure condition.

This is a common symptom and sometimes an individual can experience both forms, and at different times.

There are tests available that can accurately identify a blood sugar imbalance, however, most often this isn't the main cause. Typically, those with anxiety disorder have their blood sugar levels within the safe range when tested. However, long periods without eating may aggravate the condition because blood sugar levels may drop too low because of not eating. It's important to eat regular wholesome and natural food so that the fluctuations in blood sugar remain in the normal range.

If you are experiencing this symptom, having medical tests may be beneficial - certainly, to rule out any other cause.

If your symptom is a result of hyperventilation, deliberately deep slow breathing will reduce and even eliminate this symptom. While deep relaxation will help to diminish and eliminate most symptoms, I found that this symptom is one that hangs on the longest, and is the least responsive to immediate counter action. However, regular exercise provided me with results though not immediate.

  • Try to steady your breathing and sit quietly somewhere so that you can concentrate on it. The more you Panic and worry, the worse you will feel.
  • Try to occupy and distract your mind with something so you don't focus on the dizziness and if necessary sit down for a while to help get your balance back.
  • As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Heart palpitations, chest pain, irregular beats, flutters, skipped beats

What you feel:

One of the most worrying symptoms is chest pains or a tight feeling in your chest. The immediate thought is "heart attack" or "stroke" and this only worries you more. You may also notice that your heartbeat is incredibly fast or irregular at times having palpitations and again this leads to the worry that you will have a heart attack.

Often the chest muscles may feel very tight, and sometimes they can become painful if they are tight enough to spasm. Because the individual may become concerned that they may be having a heart attack, their fear will add to the stress biology which can not only worsen the pain, but can produce other symptoms similar to a heart attack such as profuse sweating, light-headedness and numbness in the arms, feet or face.

These increased symptoms can also cause more fear which then can turn into a panic attack

Your heart feels like it skips a beat or flops in your chest. It sometimes may feel like a tickle in your chest that makes you cough. If you take your pulse, you'll notice that sometimes the beats are unevenly spaced.

You may experience a tightness or pressure in the chest. Sometimes you may feel shooting pains, or muscle twitches, or just an uneasiness or fullness in the chest area which causes you concern

There is no evidence that panic and anxiety has any adverse effect on the heart and the pains are easily explained.

What causes this:

Stress biology causes the heart rate to increase. It does this so that the body is ready to take action. It's like in drag racing, drivers get their RPM's up prior to the green light so that they can hit the light with maximum torque. Since the stimulant hormone adrenaline, the body's super fuel, is produced when danger is perceived, the heart rate is naturally increased.

Once the stimulant is used and eliminated from the body, the heart rate will return to its normal range.

Moderate regular exercise helps to regulate this symptom.

When you start panicking the whole of your body becomes tense and this includes your muscles.

The chest pains you experience are due to the constricting of the chest wall muscles and the muscles between your ribs and not due to any actual muscles in your heart and the best cure is to start stretching these muscles gently to relieve the pain. Although you may not feel like doing any exercise whilst getting these pains, try stretching your arms above and behind your head, out to the sides and bending over gently to relieve the pain.

Naturally most people are dreadfully worried about their hearts but if your G.P. has given you the all clear cardiac wise - then do not be alarmed if the chest pains and palpitations come back and last for more than a day. If it is related to panic, although it is painful and worrying, the pains will subside if you try gentle exercise and ignore them.

Regular exercise and deep relaxation help to minimize this symptom. Also, staying away from artificial stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate, high doses of raw sugar (such as pastries, sweets, cookies, etc.) and smoking help to keep this symptom in check.

Throat tightening/Choking/Swallowing problems

What you feel:

Often one of the first symptoms of anxiety. People complain of feeling as though they will choke or being strangled. In reality its not nearly so dramatic - the muscles in the throat contract and salivary glands produce thick mucus leading to a feeling of restriction around the throat, it can produce a feeling that you are having difficulty swallowing or breathing. In fact you are not having difficulty, it just feels as though you are. You also get a dry mouth and it can feel like you cannot drink but you can.

You feel as though there is something stuck in your throat or sometimes feel there is a lump in your throat. Other times you may feel that you can barely swallow or that there is a tightness in the throat, or that you have to really force yourself to swallow. Sometimes this feeling can lead you to think that you may suffocate or get something stuck in your throat.

What causes this:

When in danger, stress biology produces a tightening in the throat muscles which produces the choking or 'something stuck in the throat' feeling. When in a nervous or stressful situation, many people will experience this feeling. It is often referred to as 'a lump on your throat'.

There is minimal danger of choking or suffocating under normal conditions, however, some people are very sensitive to things in their throat and therefore caution should always be observed when eating. Chewing food thoroughly andslowly will prevent inadvertently swallowing something that may provoke someone to gag. This symptom can come and go, and may seem to intensify if one becomes focused on it.

Eyes, Blurred vision, Eyes sensitive to light, Dry, watery or itchy eyes

What you feel:

You may see stars or movements out of the corner of your eyes that don't exist. You may also see flashing lights in your eyes or your vision may seem almost kaleidoscope-like. Sometimes you may feel that there is a dark object or something just on the outside edge of your vision, or that your vision is narrowing.

It seems your vision is blurry or out of focus, and it's more apparent now than before.

There are times when your eyes seem more sensitive to light than at others, even to a point of regular light being too bright so that you have to wear sunglasses or squint.

You feel as though your eyes are either always dry, constantly watering or itchy. And often, your eyes are red or 'glossy' looking. Even a good night's rest doesn't help.

Ciliary muscles relax - pupils dilate focusing on distant items sometimes disturbing your vision or allowing odd colours or floaters to be noticed.

What causes this:

Eyes are nerves. The nerves in the eyes send their information to the brain through the nervous system. When the nervous system is over active, the nerves in the eyes can play tricks on you which means we sometimes receive false information. These symptoms are some of the ways we receive this false information.

None of these symptoms are serious when they are attributed to anxiety disorder. However, it is important that you get a professional medical evaluation completed to ensure your condition is related to anxiety disorder.

In your Ears, Ringing

What you feel:

You hear a ringing or low rumbling in one or both ears. And when things are quiet, these sounds are a lot louder. You may also experience something like a plugged ear or fullness in one or both ears. The condition seems to come and go, however, when it comes it may last a long time. Sometimes, it only affects only one ear, and the same one over and over again.

Muscles become taut straining , can temporarily affect the balance architecture within the ear leading to further dizziness.

What causes this:

The ear is a very complex organ and is made up of a very complex system of nerves, muscles and bones. These are all intricately related to provide sound and balance information to the brain. While the exact cause of this symptom is unknown, it is quite common. Some people have been diagnosed with Meniere's Disease or Vertigo, but the medication provided produced no change. It was interesting to notice that when a few were given a tranquilliser, their ear problems cleared up.

Breathing/Shortness of breath

The hyperventilation as above plus your bronchial tubes dilate thus requiring more air than usual to fill the lungs so feels that it's taking more effort to breathe - it is , you're taking in more air at each breath.

What you feel:

You feel that your breathing is forced and laboured. You become conscious of how you are breathing and you have a hard time catching your breath. It seems like you have to force yourself to breathe, in fear that if you don't, you'll stop breathing and die. Or, for no apparent reason, you feel out of breath and find yourself doing an unusual amount of yawning in an attempt to catch your breath.

What causes this:

When stress biology changes the body, it quickens the breathing and respiration so that the individual is ready for immediate action. Unfortunately, this also means that the breathing becomes shallow in nature (unless we are physically exerting the body such as running, fighting, swimming, etc.) which results in the body not getting enough oxygen. That's why we feel out of breath. This is a natural occurring biological outcome resulting from stress biology.

Sometimes this symptom will be persistent from day to day, and other times it may appear for awhile, then disappear. Both are common. Once the nervous system calms down, you breathing will return to normal.

Also, because breathing is an automatic bodily function, you'll never have to worry about not breathing. Your body does it automatically. It may be shallow, but you'll always get enough oxygen.

Regular exercise helps to maintain regular breathing patterns.

As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Digestive system/Nausea

What you feel:

All parts of the GI muscles contract , decreasing the flow of digestive juices and slow down your metabolism - but it wants to get rid of what is ready to be excreted , now !!. You may need the loo urgently several times, have tummy pains. This can be from gentle butterflies to a severe pain in the pit of the stomach. Often you swallow air leading to feeling very nauseous or having a churny tummy produces gas that needs to be burped up.

You may feel bloated or gaseous, or that there is a lump in your stomach. Sometimes you may feel like you have butterflies in your stomach or that your stomach is tight. Some people refer to it as a 'heavy' stomach. Others experience over acidity or persistent nausea. Sometimes even the thought of eating something will make you nauseous.

What causes this:

High stress biology produces extra stomach acid, digestive juices and stomach muscle action or tension in order to quickly digest and eliminate food in the digestive system. This helps to prepare the body for immediate action. When high stress biology is maintained throughout the day, the build up of stomach acid and muscle tension produces an excess of stomach acid which then irritates the stomach and causes indigestion, bloating, diarrhoea, and so on.

Eating smaller more frequent meals will help to reduce this symptom, as well as eating blander non-spicy foods. Using ant-acids, stomach remedies and drinking plenty of water will also help. However, the best remedy is rest, although symptom relief is not immediate.

Lack of appetite or taste, a tinny, metallic or ammonia smell or taste

What you feel:

Sometimes you just don't feel like eating, or the thought of food is unappealing. Or, that even though you are eating, the food has no taste or is unsatisfying.

You have a persistent 'tinny', 'metallic' or 'ammonia' smell in your nose, or you taste it often and it's not from your food or environment. Often it's just there, but you can't figure out why

What causes this:

Similar to the other stomach related symptoms, loss of appetite is a result of an upset stomach due to the sustained increase in digestive action. Loss of taste occurs because taste buds are nerves, and an over stimulated nervous system can send false signals to the brain which means that sometimes we can experience odd, dulled or incorrect sensory perceptions (since our receptive senses are controlled and interpreted by the nervous system). The loss of taste because of this miscommunication or misinterpretation by the over stimulated nervous does occur. This is another example of how we can receive incorrect or inaccurate sensory perceptions because of an over stimulated nervous system.

The only remedy for this symptom is rest so that the nervous system can regainits health.

Kidneys, urgency to urinate, frequent urination, sudden urge to go to the toilet

What you feel:

You have an urgent need to go to the toilet, even though you may have just gone. Starts decreasing urine output but initially wants to get rid of everything already waiting to be excreted. May need to visit the loo urgently.

What causes this:

High stress biology produces the need to eliminate. It does so because when the body prepares for action, it wants to eliminate all waste matter in order to make the body as well prepared for action as possible. Having all excess baggage removed, the individual will be at their peak readiness in order to 'fight or run' - the 'fight or flight' response, produced by the Emergency alarm.

This symptom is very common and often experienced by stage performers just before they are to perform. Unfortunately, for those who experience anxiety disorder, a high level of stress biology will produce this symptom, and as long as the stress biology is high, the symptom will be produced. That's just how the body was engineered.

Some remedies include ant-acids, diarrhoea medication, relaxation and deep breathing.

Muscles, muscle tension, stiffness, muscle twitching, tight scalp or neck

What you feel:

You feel like your muscles are always tight or strained, sometimes to the point of frequent pain, or even persistent and ongoing pain. Some may also find the pain so restricting and debilitating that it prevents physical activity, and sometimes to the point of becoming bed ridden. It's also common to experience pain or cramps in any of the body's muscles.

A particular joint in your body feels unusually stiff and sore, or hard to move. It may even feel arthritic. Sometimes you feel you may be 'seizing up'.

For no apparent reason, a particular muscle will begin to twitch. This twitching will continue for an unusual amount of time before it stops of its own accord. Sometimes it twitches so long it becomes sore, and may continue on and off for days.

You may feel that your scalp is sore, has shooting pains, or that the back of your neck and head are very tense. Even though there is no apparent reason for this, they continue to.

What causes this:

Stress biology causes muscles to contract (tighten) so that the body is more resilient to an attack. The higher the stress biology, the more tense the muscles will be. Some people experience mild tenseness while others may experience great pain, sometimes to the point of immobility. Others experience uncontrollable muscle twitching. It can be one particular muscle over and over again, or it can be a wide variety of muscles. Sometimes the twitching can last for days.

Regular exercise helps to keep tight muscles relaxed. Some find relief through massage therapy or warm baths.

As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Shakiness or trembling

What you feel:

You may feel as though you have an all over invisible shake/tremble going on within you and this may sometimes convert to be large visible shakes often at night. It is ok and not to be mistaken for a fit - it's just the body getting rid of lots of excess energy.

Your arms, hands, legs and even your whole body may feel shaky or like they are trembling. Sometimes you feel like you can't stop yourself from shaking or trembling, and your whole body is vibrating.

What causes this:

This is another very common symptom brought about by high stress biology. Some people say that they have a 'case of the nerves' because they are shaking so much. This trembling is a result of an over stimulated nervous system, and is often intensified by a lack of sleep.

Regular deep relaxation, sleep and exercise will help to eliminate this symptom.

Temperature waves, sweating, feeling cold or chilled

What you feel:

For no apparent reason you break into hot or cold sweats. You may also experience hot flashes or excessive sweating for no reason.Some people really feel a panic or anxiety coming on by a whole wave washing through them of extreme heat or icy coldness. When your symptoms feel particularly irritable, suddenly, you feel very cold or chilled. Often this chill is difficult to shake, and only after the symptoms subside does the chill lift.

What causes this:

When high levels of stress biology are present, any nerve or system controlled by the involuntary nervous system can experience erratic and inappropriate biological responses. The respiration system is no exception. This is a common symptom and isn't one to be concerned with. It's just annoying and sometimes awkward in social settings.

Numbness or tingling in hands and feet

What you feel:

You feel pins and needles in your hands and feet, or other parts of your body. Sometimes you get a feeling like a particular area of your body is numb or frozen. Other times you may feel a burning sensation in your arms, legs or face.

What causes this:

Since the nervous system conveys touch sensations to the brain, when the nervous system is over stimulated, it can sometimes send impaired information which will often be felt as a numbness, tingling or pins and needles. For example, when an individual pinches a nerve they usually feel the results of this as numbness or tingling in a certain part of the body.

Because the entire skin area of the body is touch sensitive (nerves cells connected to the brain through the nervous system network), any part of the skin or body can feel numb, tingly or as pins and needles.

Typically this sensation comes and goes, and will affect a wide range of body areas off and on. It's nothing to be concerned with and will subside once the nervous system gets sufficient rest.

Headaches

Often described as a headband pain , it can be a debilitating headache. If you get migraines then it can lead into one.

Depersonalization, Derealization, Feeling of unreality

What you feel:

Now for the Brain , the limbic system in the brain instigates this whole response and is responsible too for our emotions and behaviour One of the body symptoms that people hate most is the one when you feel all foggy, surreal, woozy or spacey.  You may either feel that you are not real or that the earth is not real and you're a time warp away. These are often the hardest symptoms to understand and its very common to deduce that you must be going mad which makes you panic even more. This is completely untrue and you are very safe.

You feel like you are not a part of what is going on, or that you feel like you are in a dream state or 'out of touch with things'. Also, things around you may seem like they are shimmering, foggy, hazy or too bright.

What causes this:

As we learned in Understanding, the body and mind are tightly integrated. What affects one affects the other. This symptom is another example of how an over stimulated nervous system can cause us to experience odd and impaired feelings, emotions and perceptions. Much like how a psychoactive or recreational drug can alter one's mental state, an over active nervous system can affect certain body chemistries thereby producing mind altering effects. The feeling of unreality or disassociation is one type of altered mental state that high levels of stress biology can produce.

It is not completely understood what goes here but it is generally thought that the limbic system in the brain decides there is too much going on and goes into a self protection mode and shuts out excess stimuli. As the adrenaline levels decrease and you calm down it clears. This can be several hours days or weeks.

Emotions

Whilst acute with anxiety and panic it is normal to become extremely emotional and frustrated. Some folk cry all the time , some cannot cry but feel like they should be crying. Irritability and anger can be high and you may snap at loved ones who are just trying to understand and help. It feels as though you will never be the same again , but you can be. Depression is common along with a feeling of despair.

Fear of losing control

What you feel:

In a crowd or group, you may feel that you will do something to make you feel embarrassed like passing out, vomiting, gagging, stumbling and so on. You may feel that you might not be able to control your body or what you'll say. You may become very self-conscious among people.

What causes this:

When an anxiety attack occurs, the high stress biology causes fear and anxiety as a side effect. This means that our state of reasoning is impaired and often overshadowed by anxious thoughts. At the root of these anxious thoughts is an underlying sense of doom which threatens our mental stability. Because an over stimulated nervous system can also impair our judgment and reasoning, the feeling of losing control is very common for those who experience anxiety disorder. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most common symptoms.

When you experience this fear, just remember that it is a 'false' impression and that as the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and subside. You can also thought stop and thought swap to remain calm as the fear of losing control is only a false thought or impression, nothing more. By not reacting to it with more fear, it will fade away as the other symptoms do.

This symptom will come and go in nature, but can become ingrained if the individual begins to dwell on it. But again remember, it is only a false thought, a symptom of an over active nervous system, nothing more. With sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually fade away completely.

The Fears: going crazy, of dying, of impending doom, of normal things, unusual feelings and emotions, unusually frightening thoughts or feelings

What you feel:

You suddenly become afraid that you might lose your mind or that you are not able to think. You may also feel that you are not able to remember things as easily as you once did. Sometimes you become afraid of having a nervous breakdown. You also may have periods of 'crazy' thoughts that frighten you, or those thoughts 'just pop up' are bothersome by the content.

You fear that what you have is terminal and nobody knows. You may also fear that the chest pains are a deadly heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head are the result of a tumour or aneurysm. You feel that any one of the symptoms you experience are life threatening. You feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or can't get it out of your mind.

You feel as though something extremely bad is going to happen but you are not sure what. You may also feel as though your world is coming to an end.

You may become afraid of something that you had normally thought was not fearful. It may be a sudden fear of being alone, a fear of inanimate objects moving or talking, or an unsubstantiated fear for your safety to name a few (the fear that you may hurt someone or yourself when using a household knife is common. For example: you fear that you may uncontrollably stab a child, mate or yourself when using a kitchen knife).

You may feel that now you are frightened or have fearful feelings about almost everything, even things that have no real reason to feel that way do. Even small challenges well up fear in you, and seem difficult or destined to doom or failure.

What causes this:

An over stimulated nervous system can alter our feelings, impressions, thoughts and sensations involuntarily (by itself), because it is so interconnected with the brain. In addition, high stress biology produces increased feelings of fear and anxiety as a side effect. When you couple these heightened levels of fear and anxiety with randomly altered moods and thoughts, it becomes clear how these distressing and bizarre thoughts can seem so frightening, confusing and real. Simply stated, when the brain and nervous system are stressed, they can play tricks on your perceptions.

When these symptoms first appear, they often shake the individual's composure. Further episodes can erode their confidence leading the individual to question their sanity and stability. With the growing apprehension and concern over their questionable mental state, added anxiety increases the already high levels of stress biology which in turn produces more fear and more anxious thinking. If left unaddressed, these symptoms and the concern about them can become entrenched.

In this situation, it is important to remember that both the increased fear AND irrational thoughts are symptoms of an over stimulated nervous system. Despite how real these feelings may seem, they are false impressions caused by high stress biology. They are not signs of serious mental illness. They are symptoms only.

To remedy this, when the symptoms appear:

Recognize that these irrational fears are caused by the over stimulated nervous system and are symptoms only, not a serious mental illness. Do your best to remain calm, since added fear only compounds the symptoms. Thought stop or thought swap to change your self talk about what you are feeling. Make sure you are giving your nervous system ample rest. Accept the fact that these symptoms will come and go until your nervous system has received sufficient rest. Remember that you have the choice on what to do with each thought that comes along. You can dismiss, change, or act on them. You do so by choice.

Chronic Fatigue

What you feel:

You become extremely exhausted, burnt out or have no energy. You may feel tired all of the time and find even small tasks to be unusually tiring. You have no stamina and feel that you could sleep all day and then wake up still tired.

What causes this:

An over stimulated nervous system causes the body to rapidly use energy. Even though the individual may not be physically active, the nervous system, because of its accelerated state continues to tax the body's energy supplies. This continual and often invisible energy consumption leaves the individual unexplainably exhausted. Even menial and common tasks seem difficult and tiring to accomplish.

In some cases, even though the individual is exhausted, they find it difficult to sleep or rest. This then becomes a vicious cycle of being exhausted but can't rest. One aggravates the other.

Because a lack of rest further taxes the nervous system, it's important to do whatever you can to ensure proper sleep and rest. Unfortunately, many continue to struggle through their day with little sleep hoping to catch up later or thinking that this is how they are supposed to feel. This approach will only worsen the condition.

If you are experiencing this situation, I highly recommend that you do whatever it takes to get your sleep and rest patterns back on track, because nothing else will improve this condition. Even if you have to book days off of work or have someone come in to look after the children so that you can get some sleep and rest, it is well worth it. Sleep and rest are the remedies for this symptom. As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Dry mouth

What you feel:

You find it hard to swallow because of a lack of saliva. Your tongue feels dry or sticky.

What causes this:

High stress biology reduces saliva in order to prepare the body for action. Sustained high stress biology produces a dry mouth.

Excess of energy, you feel you can't relax

What you feel:

You feel so excited that you could do everything incredibly fast and then look for other things to do. You may also feel like you have to run or do something right now just to burn off the energy. Sometimes you can't sleep because your mind or body is going a million miles an hour. You feel as if you have energy to burn, and then some. You feel always 'pumped'. You also may feel as if you can't sit still or relax. Even slowing down for a moment is difficult. When you want to relax and rest, you can't sit still, or have a million thoughts going on that make it hard to relax.

What causes this:

High stress biology produces the body's 'super fuel'. This 'super fuel' is a natural body stimulant which keeps the body energized. In addition to the 'super fuel', high stress biology continues to tax the nervous system and this continual activity becomes a vicious cycle where the high stress biology stimulates the nervous system which in turn stimulates more stress biology. Higher activity of one stimulates higher activity of the other. Based on this, it becomes clear to see that by not deliberately breaking the cycle, it can continue on its own quite easily.

To break this cycle, you have to deliberately calm down the nervous system so that it stops stimulating the stress biology. Rest and relaxation is the only way to calm the nervous system without using drugs. Medication is used as the first line of treatment when anxiety disorder is diagnosed because it dulls down the nervous system activity which in turn helps to reduce the stress biology. In a sense, medication helps to break the cycle.

I'm not a big proponent of medication because of the high relapse rate when medication is removed. Since the body has its own natural treatment in the form of rest, and rest doesn't produce any negative side affects, why not use rest instead. Besides, rest feels so good and was intended to heal the body naturally.

As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, these symptoms will diminish and eventually subside.

You often feel you are carrying the world on your shoulders, dramatic mood swings, emotions feel wrong, always being on edge or 'grouchy', you feel like you are under pressure all the time, constant feeling of being overwhelmed, always feeling angry and lack of patience, feel the need to cry all the time, depression

What you feel:

You often feel that you are responsible for far too many things, and that if you stopped, nothing would get done. Often you feel that you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and no way to get rid of it. You are extremely happy one day and, for no apparent reason, become extremely sad or down the next. One minute you are optimistic and the next you are depressed. Simple discussions may seem too difficult to handle.

For some reason, your emotions don't feel right. For example, someone whom you care deeply about for some reason you now get a weird feeling from. You can't put your finger on it, and you know it shouldn't be that way, but you do for some reason. Or another example maybe, doing something you really like and for no reason, all of a sudden doesn't feel good and you don't know why.

Sometimes your patience seems like it is totally gone and little things that won't normally be a concern now become really irritating and frustrating. Your patience seems non-existent. Every little thing sets you off, even normal family sounds become almost too much to handle, and you have a hard time controlling your temper.

You may feel like you just can't get any breaks, or that you are under pressure all the time, with no way to relieve it. You may also feel that you can't stop either.

Everything's success depends upon you.

Every little thing sets you off. While you used to be calm and collected, you now find yourself angry at almost everything, and it's been a long time since you felt otherwise. When it comes to managing tasks, you find you have very little patience, and even simple matters make you angry and impatient.

Once strong and resilient, able to handle anything, now you find yourself breaking down into tears for little or no reason. You also may find that you suddenly feel the urge to cry, and you are not sure why, but you feel sad or depressed. Sometimes you may feel that things don't seem to be going your way even when they are. Or, you may feel that you don't love someone anymore, even when there is no explainable reason to feel that way. You may also feel that nothing is going your way and that there's no pleasure, or point in living. You may also feel like just giving up.

What causes this:

The nervous system affects our feelings, mood, thoughts and emotions. An over stimulated nervous system will often cause erratic swings in feelings, mood, thoughts and emotions. When the body is continually stimulated by stress biology, this causes the nervous system to continue to involuntarily over react, which in turn causes the involuntary fluctuations in how we feel and think.

A healthy nervous system means that we are more in control of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. They become more closely connected to the real issues in our life. This is why we can most often rationalize why we feel the way we do because we can correlate our feelings and emotions with the events in our life.

However, when the nervous system becomes over stimulated, it then acts on its own and can send us false impressions, feelings, moods, thoughts and emotions, all by itself. That's why these symptoms are so bothersome, because we can't correlate why we feel the way we do. These swings often defy our logic and when our logic makes no sense, we have a tendency to react with fear, thinking that there must be something mentally wrong because of how we're feeling.

An over stimulated nervous system will send us erratic feelings, moods, thoughts and emotions as well as sensations. Really, that's what these symptoms are as a result of a hyper-stimulated nervous system.

When these symptoms appear:

  • Recognize them as symptoms of an over active nervous system, and not as the onset of a serious mental illness.
  • Do your best to remain calm and not react with fear.
  • Thought stop or thought swap to change your self talk about what you are feeling.
  • Understand that these symptoms will come and go as long as the nervous system remains over stimulated.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Don't worry about them. They are symptoms, nothing more.
  • Know that they will go away when the nervous system gets sufficient rest.
  • Don't dwell on them, as this only adds more stress biology.
  • These are very common symptoms for those who experience anxiety disorder.

Insomnia, or waking up ill in the middle of the night, jolting awake, bad or crazy dreams

What you feel:

You may feel fine and be able to quickly fall asleep but then wake up a short time later. Once up, you can't easily fall back to sleep because your mind is racing or you are too ill. Or, you may have a hard time initially falling asleep and when you do, you wake often and again have a hard time going back to sleep.

Just as you are dozing off to sleep, you feel like you hear a lot bang, buzz or shot, and that jolts you fully awake. Or, as you are dozing off, you feel like you are falling and that frightens you fully awake. Or, you are just dozing off and your body radically twitches awake.

You may wake up in a panic and recall the dream you just had as being bizarre and totally crazy. This usually has you spending some time trying to figure out what caused the bad dream and what the bad dream is trying to tell you.

What causes this:

Stress is one of the main factors associated with sleep disorders. When the body is stressed, natural sleep patterns become disrupted. While there are many types of sleep problems, the ones mentioned are common for those experiencing anxiety disorder.

Because sleep is controlled by a functioning of the brain, an over stimulated nervous system will interfere with the brain's normal functioning, thusly, producing erratic and odd responses when we want to fall or stay asleep. Similar to ingesting caffeine, high stress biology will keep you awake, and it can do so in a number of ways.

Examples include:

  • Immediately falling asleep only to wake a few hours later all revved up and ready to go. You then have difficulty falling back to sleep, even though you may also feel exhausted. Your mind may race and you may experience a number of anxious thoughts that continue to disrupt your sleep.
  • You have difficulty falling asleep and when you finally do, you wake a short time later and can't go back to sleep.
  • As you are dozing off, you are suddenly jolted awake by a sound, twitch, a bang in your head, etc. This makes falling back to sleep difficult.
  • You may have a bad or crazy dream that jolts you away, and sometimes in a full panic
  • You wake up regularly and continually have to go to the bathroom.
  • You may be chilled even though you are well blanketed. Or, you may be sweating profusely even though the room is cool.

There are many other types of disruptions, however, they are all related to an over stimulated nervous system. These symptoms may also vary from one type to another type, and so on. They will also come and go, and sometimes persist.

The best remedy for these symptoms is rest. When you are experiencing regular sleep problems, it's important to get as much rest as you can. That means taking time out of you schedule to do so if you have to. When my sleep became problematic, I made sure to get to bed earlier than normal and to do so for a number of nights until my sleep patterns returned to normal.

You may have noticed that the more sleep difficulty you experience, the worse you feel and the more difficulty you continue to have. This can become a vicious circle if not deliberately stopped. Rest is the only thing that will do this.

None of these symptoms are important, only disruptive.

Having difficulty concentrating, repetitive thinking or incessant 'mind chatter'

What you feel:

Normal tasks seem hard to focus on, or that your concentration is a lot shorter now than before. You may also start something, and uncharacteristically forget what you were doing soon after. You may also have difficulty remembering where you placed things, who you just called, or what you were looking for or thinking about.

Your mind is racing all the time, and it never stops its chatter. Even when you are trying to relax your mind is going a million miles and hour. Sometimes songs will pop up that you can't get out or your mind, and you sing them all day long.

What causes this:

High stress biology and an over stimulated nervous system will often cause us to think rapidly and incessantly. Many refer to it as 'unceasing mind chatter'. It's this fast paced unfocused thought generation that impairs the memory and concentration. Since high stress biology produces natural stimulants, these continual doses of stimulants make it difficult to focus because the body and mind are so agitated. As the stress biology and nervous system calm down, normal thinking patterns re-establish and this symptom subsides.

However, as long as the stress biology and nervous system are over active, individuals will continue to experience this condition. It will come and go and most often depends upon how the body is reacting at that time.

Another consideration is that for those who have been experiencing anxiety disorder for some time, may have established a mental habit of internal focus.

This is where they become so focused on their ill health that they are easily distracted by it and the pursuit to regain their normal health that they quickly lose interest in what they are doing and refocus their minds back on their problem. This action can be so automatic that the individual may not even realize that that's what they are doing.

Unfortunately, when this symptom appears, many become frightened by and think that they may be losing their mind or experiencing a serious mental illness. This adds more stress biology which only prolongs the symptom.

When this symptom appears, try not to react with fear, but remember that it is only a symptom, and that it is telling you that you need to rest the nervous system so that you can regain your concentration ability. Once you have sufficiently rested your nervous system, your concentration will return to normal.

Startle easily

What you feel:

You feel you startle more easily now than before. Even small sounds or common sounds startle you, and almost to the point of panic. Or, an event may frighten you, but more so than the event calls for. You may seem very over-reactionary or unusually 'jumpy'.

What causes this:

This symptom is a very good indication that you need to rest your nervous system. People refer to this symptom as 'a case of the nerves', on edge, being jumpy, and so on. An over stimulated nervous system and high stress biology keep the body on high alert and ready for immediate action. It does so by putting every sense on high alert. With a physical condition such as this, it's no wonder sudden sounds or activities will make you react. A stimulated nervous system is geared up to do just that.

Rest and relaxation will help to bring the body down from high alert. Many medications do this also by dumming down the nervous system and how it interacts with the brain. Unfortunately, most medications bring side affects and some are very unpleasant. Since sleep and deep rest do the same thing, and even better, that is the course of action I recommend. Once the body and nervous system have received sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Constant craving for sugar or sweets

What you feel:

For some reason you have an increased and ongoing craving for sugar, sweets or chocolate. Although you may have a 'sweet tooth', these cravings usually go unsatisfied, while ingesting even more sweets leaves you with the same result.

What causes this:

High stress biology and an over stimulated nervous system continually use up the body's energy supply, even when the body is not physically active. Because of this continual energy consumption, the body requires more fuel in order to meet the demand. This fuel comes in the form of blood sugar. When you are feeling a craving for sugar, that's the body's way of letting you know it requires more fuel.

This in itself is a good thing because your body is letting you know it needs fuel (symptoms let the body know something needs attention). However, if you respond to this request with raw sugar (sweets, chocolate, soft drink, milkshake, flavored coffee, etc.), two negative affects happen:

The ingested raw sugar rapidly increases the body's blood sugar. As a result, you may feel a slight surge of energy and well being immediately after the ingestion of a raw sugar. However, this rapid increase in blood sugar causes the pancreas to stimulate an appropriate dose of insulin in order to keep the body's blood sugar within a normal range. This may make you may feel fatigued, dizzy, weak and emotionally poor because the insulin has reduced the blood sugar level too much.

In addition, if the insulin reduces the body's blood sugar too much, the brain may automatically trigger an emergency response alarm which then adds more stress biology which may also make you feel sick, anxious and can even trigger a panic attack. It's these types of blood sugar swings that can really upset you.

Usually these raw sugars also include caffeine (such as chocolate, cola, soft drinks, coffee, etc.). When they do, the blood sugar swing is magnified because in addition to the rapid increase and decrease of blood sugar, caffeine is a stimulant that activates the stress biology. So now you have two boosts of energy which the pancreas has to work extra hard to keep in the normal range.

In affect, you are giving your body and nervous system a double whammy. As well, because caffeine is longer lasting than raw sugar, the body has to work longer to stabilize the blood chemistry. This longer action can often play havoc with a person's symptoms and mental functions.

When you feel a craving for sugar, you should acknowledge it by ingesting natural foods such as vegetables and fruit. Since these foods contain natural sugars, they are broken down and slowly released into the blood stream. This prevents the sudden and rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. As well, these natural foods contain no artificial stimulants so you won't be subjected to an increase in stress biology.

Obsession about sensations or getting better

What you feel:

This a big one. A thought process develops where the person is constantly trying to figure this illness out, or is constantly checking their body for twinges, aches or pains, and odd sensations. They also begin checking (often referred to as 'testing') their mental thoughts to see if there is a hint of physical or mental illness somewhere. As a person begins to get better, this process seems more entrenched and becomes more apparent. Also, they may find them self doing this at every leisure moment, then getting into a mental battle with them self to try and stop doing it. It may also seem that their mind is always 'going', and they can't seem to stop from thinking, analyzing and problem solving about getting better.

What causes this:

This symptom is very common. Sometimes people may even feel that they have obsessive compulsive disorder because of the obsessive nature of the thoughts they generate.

Sustained ill health will often lead the individual to dwell on it, especially if it is something that appears as mysterious as anxiety disorder can often seem. With symptoms that are often confusing and surreal, attacks that can render anyone fearful, and a cure apparently nowhere to be found, it's understandable why we can end up focusing our entire attention on it.

If you experience this symptom, the important thing to remember is that this is a developed mental habit, not a serious mental condition. And, as with any habit it can be replaced with a healthier habit.

When you feel yourself experiencing this symptom:

  • Recognize that this is a symptom of an over stimulated nervous system.
  • Do your best to remain calm.
  • Recognize that it is a mental habit, not a result of a serious mental illness.
  • Thought stop or thought swap with another affirming or more pleasant thought.
  • Take a few moments to relax and deep breath.
  • Carry on with a distracting activity.
  • Rest, understanding, thought stopping and thought swapping will help to diminish this symptom. It's important to truly identify it as a symptom and not a condition.
  • Remember, it too will go away when the body and nervous system get sufficient rest. If it seems to be lingering, then it has become a habit and one that you can replace.

Weak legs

What you feel:

Your legs feel so weak that you think they won't be able to support you. In some cases you might feel you won't be able to walk. Sometimes your legs may feel like jelly or rubber, or that you have to force yourself to walk. You may even feel as though your legs or knees are too stiff to move.

What causes this:

When people feel nervous, often they will feel 'weak in the knees', which means jelly legs or weak legs. This is a very common symptom of stress biology and most people who are placed in stressful situations will experience this. However, the degree of which is dependent upon the amount of stress biology. The higher your stress biology, the more your legs will feel weak.

Physically, your legs are fine. You may just feel weak. Sometimes people become played out by this condition because it taxes all of their strength, leaving them feeling weak. Through rest, this symptom will subside. Also, regular exercise helps to keep muscles and body tone in shape which helps to eliminate this symptom.

As with all symptoms, when the nervous system gets sufficient rest, this symptom will diminish and eventually subside.

Whole body symptoms

Having panic and anxiety takes up a lot of energy and it is common to not sleep well so insomnia and exhaustion are also common whilst acute It is also fairly usual to lose your appetite and to drop at least a stone in weight in a couple of weeks. Not surprisingly the sex drive also disappears during this time.