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Thread: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

  1. #1

    Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Hi everyone,
    I'm new here and am a long term health anxiety sufferer.
    I have been suffering foot cramping that has progressed in frequency for 18 months. It is now every day. The scarier symptom is muscle thinning on my lower legs which I noticed a few weeks ago. I have had a "normal" strength and reflex test by my GP and have a neuro referral in 3 weeks.
    I am going out of my mind with worry. I have lost a lot of weight, and really struggle to maintain a normal life, (I took early retirement). I have a constant pit in my stomach and I struggle to keep my heart rate down.
    My big, BIG, mistake was researching on the internet, obsessively. My symptoms don't fall neatly into any diagnosis, rather they are "suggestive" of several really scary ones!
    I started taking Citalopram 10mg 3 weeks ago but they don't seem to be working yet. I am in touch with a CBT therapist I had last year (for the same issue, before it got this bad..) who is happy to talk to me while I am on the waiting list for therapy again.
    I feel I am in a "sub category" of health anxiety. I am not constantly seeking reassurance for every ache and pain thinking it is the worst. I have real symptoms awaiting a diagnosis that I cannot for the life of me think might be other than a catastrophic outcome! I have been trying meditations, mindfulness, welcoming intrusive thoughts and observing them, trying to do "normal" things to retrain my mind, reminding myself to "follow the plan not the mood", but to be honest nothing is working consistently. Every minute of every day is a struggle not to body check and go on the internet.
    I have read many people's stories on this forum and can identify with their pain and suffering. I was reluctant to post, particularly in the symptom section because it could potentially feed into the reassurance seeking aspect of my anxiety, but I've done it now!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    4,783

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Hi there

    Your language here is heavily diagnostic. You are not only using Google (which you do seem to know is a terrible idea) to find out what's wrong with you, but you are also trying to categorise your anxiety. There is also the idea that you are trying lots of different things to combat your anxiety, which is good, but I also wonder if you might be getting a little impatient with it?

    "I've tried X, Y and Z....but nothing works"....for example.

    The thing about health anxiety in particular is that it is at it's core a condition of bad habit. As long as you are self checking and Googling, nothing will 'work', ever. You cannot keep fuelling the fire and expect to recover, no matter what you do. It's what you stop doing that will make the biggest difference long term, and there are no exceptions to this.

    I think it's probably worth simplifying your quest for good mental health by just focussing on the complete ceasing of ALL checking and Googling. The fact that it's hard is irrelevant, that just means you need to focus and practice it more. Your goal is only to stop undertaking the habits that keep reinforcing the health anxiety in the first place.

  3. #3

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Thank you replying and giving such sound advice. You are exactly right of course. Your no nonsense approach is refreshing.

    I totally understand the logic, but my over analytical brain often confuses my quest to quell the HA with trying to convince myself I don't have anything serious wrong physically. It's as if by distracting myself and developing mentally healthy habits, I am "running away" from the fact I could be really ill. That is the crux of the problem I suppose.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Posts
    4,783

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Yes that's true, and very common with HA. "Unless I obsessively analyse myself, I might miss something". But the fact is by doing so you ARE making yourself ill.

    Try to divorce yourself from the idea that 'your brain' is doing something you don't like. Almost all of this is learned, habitual behaviour. There might be a reason (past trauma or witnessing or experiencing real illness) but that doesn't change the fact that what you are doing now does not serve your best interest. Your brain is fundamentally a feedback machine. It observes your senses and compares with past experience. It's that wired connection you need to try and undo. When you feel triggered to check or research, do something else. Keep doing that, hundreds or thousands of times.

    When I had bad HA, I would tell myself constantly that there is nothing wrong with me, I am well, and I want to be better (mentally). It may take months do undo where you are now, but it's 100% recoverable. You don't have to succeed every day, you just have to commit to try every day.

  5. #5

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Hi there,
    Thanks for replying again. Very sound information and advice.

    I am trying every day and believe I am getting a little bit better. I'm not sure I could tell myself that I am well and nothing is wrong with me though, as I have real symptoms that need to be assessed and an outcome reached, whatever it may be. These cramps are not going away and I have to fight hard not to panic when they happen.
    I have written a list of all the things I've stopped doing in the last month and the things I'm managing to do. The balance isn't good. I'll try to incorporate more activities into my life gradually to redress the balance as well as stay away from Dr Google and the full length mirror.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2021
    Posts
    55

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    This is really amazing advice! I have extremely bad health anxiety, and I get frustrated that I have a good day or two and in that time my physical symptoms donít go away, but Iím usually still googling etc even tho Iím relaxed and quite happy!!

    So I know it wasnít posted for me, but I appreciate reading this!! ♥️♥️

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Posts
    2,761

    Re: Scary symptoms and extreme anxiety

    Quote Originally Posted by karma12 View Post
    I have been suffering foot cramping that has progressed in frequency for 18 months. It is now every day. The scarier symptom is muscle thinning on my lower legs which I noticed a few weeks ago. I have had a "normal" strength and reflex test by my GP and have a neuro referral in 3 weeks.
    Most people are deficient in magnesium - a symptom is foot cramping. I had this symptom a lot before I was taking magnesium. I was taking it for something else but discovered that it sorted out the cramping too!

    As Joe says; you need to lose the 'scary' dialogue. In reality, these are common symptoms..

    I am going out of my mind with worry. I have lost a lot of weight,
    Severe anxiety = weight loss or weight gain. I lost two stone.

    My big, BIG, mistake was researching on the internet, obsessively. My symptoms don't fall neatly into any diagnosis, rather they are "suggestive" of several really scary ones!
    I'm not seeing even remotely 'scary' symptoms..

    I feel I am in a "sub category" of health anxiety. I am not constantly seeking reassurance for every ache and pain thinking it is the worst. I have real symptoms awaiting a diagnosis that I cannot for the life of me think might be other than a catastrophic outcome!
    To me, and this is based on my own experience of having severe health anxiety (including a mental breakdown) your health anxiety isn't a 'sub-category' - it's the primary category, and the cause of most every 'scary' symptom that's currently happening to you. Loss of muscle mass is a common age thing and your cramps can easily be sorted by taking magnesium. The rest is anxiety...

    Also, 'catastrophic outcome'? Just say that you do have a physical condition.. it's 2021, not 1857. We have doctors and excellent drugs! However, nothing you've mentioned makes me think that this is anything but anxiety and common complaints which can easily be remedied with minerals or exercise..

    I have been trying meditations, mindfulness, welcoming intrusive thoughts and observing them, trying to do "normal" things to retrain my mind, reminding myself to "follow the plan not the mood", but to be honest nothing is working consistently. Every minute of every day is a struggle not to body check and go on the internet.
    But you are using dialogue from the F.E.A.R dictionary. What use is practicing mindfulness when you are constantly actively sending messages to your brain that you are in 'danger'? Your brain will respond by releasing all those stress hormones which make you feel terrible because you're not using them as they are designed to be used; as in fight or flight. The adrenalin. cortisol etc stays in your body and is constantly being topped up by your fearful thoughts.

    Recovery from health anxiety is hard work. It requires graft and determination, and there's no time limit on it. Five minutes staring at a teabag won't cut it. At the moment you are clearly 100% convinced that there is something physically wrong with you, and that it will be 'catastrophic' so I very much doubt that you are giving 100% to what will help you out of this hole.

    What you are aiming for is to understand anxiety and the effects of stress on the body (and the hundreds of unpleasant symptoms anxiety is responsible for) and acceptance that, even if you were to become ill, you would deal with it because the one thing we can control is our response when shit hits the fan- even if our initial response is a negative one.

    I have been in a life-threatening situation. My life was in danger and so was my unborn baby's. And I was calm as anything throughout the entire time, and that was before the morphine! This is because the brain tends to handle what's real a lot better than what's fearfully imagined.

    Your body is swimming in stress hormones. If you were able to switch your mind off your health today - it would take your body months (at least) to settle back down because the body becomes sensitised. So you have to do the relaxation therapies, and keep doing them - even when you feel horrendous. In fact, that's the very best time to be doing it because breathing deeply actively turns OFF the stress response. It goes without saying; Google is off limits - unless you can control yourself to research anxiety?

    RE muscles: As we age, our muscles lose mass and shrink. It's completely natural and it takes a lot more work to build them up and maintain them. I'm in my fifties, and this is definitely the case for me.

    I have read many people's stories on this forum and can identify with their pain and suffering.
    That's seeking reassurance. Have you ever taken a look at the success stories section? Funnily enough, the symptom sections on here are the busiest and the people viewing the success stories is usually in single figures. I wanted to know how people got better from HA, so I wanted to read those success stories. Reassurance is a short term fix and can be as addictive as Googling. Neither requires much effort though. It's easy to write about how shit we feel and it's easy to read about how shit other people feel; it's a lot harder to actively try and control the situation we are in..
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