Coping with health anxiety

I was already anxious before this vestibular stuff hit, but lately I have been stuck in fight/flight mode most of the day. It’s a very physiological feeling–sometimes I’m not even consciously worrying, but my body is constantly on edge. I tend to obsess about symptoms and worry something is seriously wrong with me even though I’ve had plenty of tests come back normal. I think this stems partially from a traumatic health incident I suffered as a child. One of my first memories is waking up in a hospital bed and not knowing how I got there. Ever since then I’ve always feared the worst when it comes to health. Like for the past week my muscles have been twitching like crazy and my mind immediately jumps to thinking I have some obscure disease. And even though I’ve had chronic dizziness for months, I still find myself panicking when I feel the ground shift suddenly. It can take me hours to fall asleep because my body never seems to relax. I guess it all comes down to feeling out of control and not knowing with certainty what is wrong. The stress of the pandemic only makes matters worse. Does anyone have tips for dealing with health anxiety? I’ve tried meditation, which sometimes helps, but I find it hard to sit with all the crazy sensations in my body without overanalyzing them.

I’m really sorry you feel like that - it must be very distressing. I’m sure that a lot of people on here have felt the same and I’m also sure that’s not much consolation!

Personally my take on this is that you can’t stop those feelings and probably shouldn’t try. It’s better to endeavour to replace unhelpful thoughts and feelings with helpful ones. That is rarely a simple, or fast, process. You say you’ve tried meditation and it ‘sometimes helps’. Can I gently suggest that if you’re trying to use meditation as a cure for a problem it won’t help, or at least not much. In my experience it ‘works’ by building a bolstering mechanism to provide something for the mind when it isn’t at its lowest. I don’t meditate on bad days, I don’t feel like it. But I’ve found that four or so years of meditation down the line there are very few days when I don’t meditate. It feels like brushing teeth to me - I wouldn’t choose to do it if somebody could do it for me, but they can’t, and I know I need to do it, and just get it done.

I used Headspace for two years and that’s okay and it probably helps to have some kind of structure and may be essential for some people. But I don’t like being told what to do. Then I stumbled upon this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxJ0N2vq2GM It’s a guided meditation letting the mind rest on three things: outside sounds, inner thoughts, and the breath. I find it very useful as it’s impossible to notice three things at once so I very rarely fall asleep using it. I used to listen to it about once a week - I haven’t listened to it at all for six months or so.

Alan Watts was a funny chap, and in my opinion no great guru, but he did a lot of work which is interesting. This blog post on one of his quotes I find very uplifting: What can we learn from peeling potatoes? | Balanced Action

Ultimately, meditation (to me) is nothing like the navel gazing that many people look on it as. It is simply being in the moment. If you can allow yourself to get on with things, and notice the world, in a light but attached manner, then the heavy attachment to your concerns should become less of a constraint.

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It is crushing. I’ve been there.

Also consider seeing a professional if you can, especially if this is becoming overwhelming. It was for me and I did. Ask your primary care provider to refer you to a suitably qualified therapist with experience of dealing with vestibular conditions.

This is an excellent book on the subject that I’ve used:

(NB from admin: these images link to products members have found helpful and at the same time help fund the site: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support!)

“Overcoming Health Anxiety”
More recommended books here
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I have also been there and I revert back to obsessive worry about my health from time to time.

On the advice from my gp - before this all started - I did an online CBT course on health anxiety. It’s a good educative resource and gives you homework etc. I did it and understood it a lot better. You can only imagine when VM reared it’s ugly head, health anxiety went through the roof.

Look it up, it’s called thiswayup.org.au

It’s Australian, so I hope there is something available in your location. Or you could give this a go.

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Well said, Andrew. Sounds like you’ve sussed it. Releasing the heavy attachment. Sounds like a version of CBT. The Heliocopter view point and all that.

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I know @ander454 and I have had this conversation before. He found that ‘formal’ meditation, just the very posture of it made him ever more conscious of his symptoms such isn’t at all helpful.

Not sure if you take supplements but you might just find some assistance from Magnesium Glycinate. It can help with muscle relaxation and anxiety. 400mg daily is about the measure.

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Yep me too - I have googled this plenty of times. Must be Parkinson’s or MND. I convinced myself I had rheumatoid arthritis 2 years ago. Absolutely 100% - even looked into income support.

It was MS before this.

I also have had a childhood full of health worries with my mum and I think mine all stem from there.

They are real symptoms - that’s the thing! My toe WAS numb for 12 months. My finger joints aches ALL day.

I was hoping the dizzy symptoms would fade away like the other things did. No such luck yet ha!

I guess health anxiety appears when you have lots of experiences and fears of being unwell. But I think it’s something we can try to manage.

Meditation is good to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, but I don’t think it helps the health anxiety which needs cognition re/training. CBT.

I can see this happening too.

Good luck with it

Twitching is can be a side effect of having too much Serotonin usually from taking a related anti-depressant.

I checked your User Cards, but cannot see which drugs you are both taking currently.

There’s a spot for them on the Profile settings :+1:

Hi, Dizzyqueen

As you can see you are not alone. I’ve been dealing with this crap for decades and I still get really panicked if I have a bad spin. I often feel like my whole body is “out of sync” and I tell it to calm down but it can’t. I think distraction is key. If I’m well enough to tolerate screens and headphones I often watch a bingeable box set for immersion in something else or do some really gentle qi gong/chi kung to help control my breathing and reassure me I can still move my limbs. I always thought it was a bit woo - but I try to think about a few things I’m grateful for that have happened each day, even if it was just being able to crawl to the bathroom, or not feel at sea after a shower.

I think our brains tell our bodies we are stuck on high alert. Our brainstems are irritated due to the bodies balance systems giving confusing and inaccurate input to it, as the vestibular input is off with MAV (according to my specialist)
image

I think we all have a form of CPTSD with being stuck on flight for so long and so often. I often wish there was a health retreat/spa we could all go to and be nurtured andpampered and receive treatment back to full health.

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I am not currently taking any medication. The twitching is probably just a physical manifestation of built-up anxiety. It only seems to happen when I am sitting or lying down. And the more I focus on it, the worse it gets.

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You might want to seriously consider this.

My life was night and day after starting on low dose Amitriptyline.

Discuss that with your specialist.

I’m definitely open to meds. Just have to get some more tests done to make sure it’s not a peripheral problem.

Mine was almost certainly a peripheral problem.

They use the term ‘migraine’ meds, but really they mean ‘dizzy’ meds in this context.

People with peripheral vestibulopathy also take these drugs (in fact I suspect peripheral problems can cause migraines - they certainly did in my case).

Amitriptyline, for example, is both a vestibular suppressant as well as an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug.

If they identify an inner ear issue, there’s not a lot they can usually do apart from symptom support - ie meds.

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So sad to hear the anxiety you are undergoing. Anyway, try to relax and not worry too much, based on your narration, you are overthinking too much that when something goes wrong it would be detrimental. I’ve got that feeling sometimes, but I’m diverting it and trying to think positively and it works. You just have to let go of your fears.

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Love that @sputnik2!

A little like me enduring a very short car journey (as was feeling able) and today being very much back where I started as it were. Hopefully not.

@dizzyqueen

I do think therapy is key here. I am very much feeling in the same rocky boat as you are at the moment and I just know I have to try and combat the fear of MAV and the anxiety. I am seeing a Therapist in fact on Monday for the first time. I hope it will go well and I can discuss coping mechanisms that I can put into place when I feel out of my own body.
I will also talk to the GP about some medication (even if it’s for a short time) just to try and help me cope.

I think at this stage it’s important to take control of our own mental health because it does effect every part of our physical body too. Do let us know what you decide to do going forward. I’ll be interested to read.

Wishing you well :sparkling_heart:

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Well done Kirsty, thats a great step. It might not have immediate effect but I found it greatly improved my quality of life very quickly. It was fantastic just to be able to ‘offload’ my feelings to begin with!

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Thank you James :blush:

I think there is a way to go and I’m happy to be at the start line. I guess in time I’ll see the benefit, I’m just really wanting to start to take some control because it’s obviously not working me trying to go it alone. I think this god awful illness takes it toll on the most calmest of people so knowing I’m not one of them is reassuring.

I hope one day gaining help for your mental health can be seen as a strength by everyone and not a weakness. It takes great courage to ask for help and I applaud anybody taking that step. It’s amazing :sparkling_heart:

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Indeed. On a lighter note. During my latest attack I was delighted to find I could actually ‘crawl to the bathroom’. After all those years a big first for me. Always remember people suggesting I crawled when I told them that during attacks I lost my balance to the point I couldn’t stand unassisted. I never could even attempt crawling before. Impossible. Oh the actual crawl might just have been possible. It would be the moving between the two planes that would get me every time. During an attack that would get no different for me than lying flat on a bed and suddenly sitting up.

More on the anxiety angle. A sports psychologist MAVer I used to be in touch with always said once you’d had to crawl to the bathroom because of loss of balance the World never looked quite the same again so it’s no wonder people become anxious.

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Ain’t that the truth.

I’ve caught myself out doing things like putting earphones in my ears to try and counteract the fact they’re so full and so knowing I can feel something in them kinda felt like it eased it? Weird I know… I think we do all kinds of crazy things to feel better don’t we? Anxiety makes me think outside the box :brain:

@dizzyqueen

I just spoke with the GP about going on an anxiety med. I have to get someone to collect the prescription for me today but once I know the name I’ll post it on here for you. Incase you want to look into it. She reassured me it was just for anxiety and panic and you can take it as a rescue med as and when. Something to potentially help.

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The Mystery Medication eh? Valium I’d bet.