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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Northeast USA

    Worsening panic disorder with very real physical effects

    I couldn't access the introductions thread, so I'll briefly intro myself here.

    Hi! My name is Kevin. I started having panic attacks three years ago almost exactly, suddenly after what I assume was a response to very mild stimulant use. After the second attack, I quickly recognized that this was going to be an ongoing problem and was devastated and frightened.

    Almost as quickly as I started getting panic attacks, I learned about them, found out my health was fine, and started managing them. It wasn't easy- I would often duck into quiet areas like restrooms to let the adrenalin flow out and calm myself- but it would normally be over in five minutes with very little aftermath- perhaps a bit of a tired spell that would end as the day progressed.

    For two years after, I had become very familiar with my symptoms as they were almost always the same, as well was the severity and duration of the attacks. I continued to work, socialize, drive- I even continued to do the heavier social functions like parties, nights out in crowded areas and sit down dinners with friends. It was like I just had my same life with a minor complication and less caffeine.

    At two and a half years, everything had changed. Drastically. I had first noticed it completely when I had visited friends for a few weeks last August (2015). 8 hours from home, but very familiar both in location and people. These are friends I love and trust to the bone, and I'm completely comfortable around them. While visiting, I was having constant, uncontrollable panic attacks with very long and torturous onset. I would feel the threat of a panic attack for sometimes hours, and it would inevitably happen leaving me helpless, and often repeating in strings for an hour or two. It was actually physically painful to have so many panic attacks in a row, in such duration. My body was wracked from the tension and my mind was gone from all of the adrenalin. It kept me from going out and even kept me from my friends as I just needed to be alone for a while at least once a day, praying it would just go away and let me enjoy my company. This led to a feeling of desperation- the first time I had felt it since my first week having panic attacks.

    That fall, I decided to get professional help. I started seeing a social worker for talk therapy. It started well enough, as I was new to therapy and didn't know what to expect. Soon after, I sort of felt it wasn't working for me. I didn't have any deep issues- just panic attacks. In fact, my family life is very loving and supportive. I was hoping for more constructive techniques to help quell my panic attacks, but all I felt I was paying for was idle conversation about my last attack. I was still pretty bad- frequent attacks that would now also happen while I was driving, would be harsh and long lasting compared to my prior years, and agoraphobia that was keeping me from social duties and friends. It wasn't long before it was also keeping me from work, which leads to what I see as a big mistake, for me personally....

    I got in a rush at this point. I just wanted my life back- even the one I had just months prior with panic attacks that were manageable. I visited a psychiatrist in a wish to "try" medication. My doctor promptly prescribed 10mg Lexapro. Now, I know AD meds help some people, but they turned my panic into insanity, my fatigue into exhaustion, my sleep into waking desperation, and my mild depression into a hopeless black hole of apathy. I told the doc I wasn't feeling the effect was good, and he assured me this was normal and to give it longer. Second month, same convo. It never got better. All of my symptoms seemed to worsen and the side effects were harsh and unbearable. I had contemplated suicide like it was nothing. Never attempted, but I was frightened how easy it was to ponder it without even trying. By the end of month 3, I demanded to be tapered off. Instead, I was put on a low dose of Prozac for a month and cut cold turkey. This was in April.

    I have not felt like myself since. I have gone through stages of mental anguish and physical discomfort that I attribute directly to AD meds and their withdrawal effects. In fact, it has now been 3 months since my last pill and I still have symptoms that have gotten so physical that I now have health anxiety.

    Let me preface this by stating, I'm very familiar with the tension and rush of a panic attack, the racing heart, the chest wall pain, and the exhaustion afterward. That way you don't simply assume that I'm bloating the idea of normal aftereffects of a panic attack.

    So, shortly after quitting meds, I started becoming lightheaded all day with poor balance. I was also having odd sensations in my forehead, eyes and ears, and my vision had become- and still is- slightly doubled and blurry all day long, sort of that "underwater" or "behind glass" effect that panic can give you- but now it's all day, even when I'm calm. I also started having days where I felt very normal. Not like manic "I feel GREAT", but extraordinarily well to the point that I could imagine socializing, driving and even working. Fir me, that was a great feeling because I haven't felt that at ease for months. Well, I started noticing that I may feel that well for a day or evening, but it would always be shattered by intense bouts of panic and anxiety the next day, that would often take 2 or 3 days to calm from. I live with my parents again, and it would get so bad if often try to control or accept it, only to have it get so overwhelming by night that I would wake my mother just to have somebody calm me- I could no longer calm myself. I also noticed that although the description of a panic attack would be the same, but it would somehow feel new and more intense suddenly- which is very frustrating because I can't describe to anybody HOW they feel different or more powerful- I just know they do. They've gone from scary to terrifying and unfamiliar.

    On top of this, I was starting to get symptoms I saw as increasingly neurological. The vision was slightly doubled, the dizziness and fatigue were getting out of hand, and my left arm and hand were getting weak, shaky, uncoordinated, slower moving and slightly numb occasionally. I went into real health fear here. I've never felt anything like this. I was struggling to get on Medicaid as I was uninsured at this point, but I somehow managed to get an MRI of my head and start seeing a neurologist. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing him for any kind of results for another few weeks- which is lining me because anticipation is a huge source of my anxiety, as is the helpless feeling of not knowing about my health.

    Now, fast forward to two weeks ago. I had a strange event. My parents (who I live with) went away for 12 days. I was alone. For the first 3 days, I was fine. Just taking it easy and watching movies/playing games. The next day, I felt squeezing pressure IN my chest (not ON it, as I said I'm familiar with chest wall pain). I didn't make a huge deal of it initially, but it kept happening. A few hours later, my left arm started hurting- I know I was having odd sensations for weeks at this point, but my left arm was now aching in concert with inner chest squeezing. This, of course, triggered an instant and powerful panic attack. Now, with these sensations, my heart is racing and beating HARD. I tried to calm myself but the evidence that it was a cardiac problem was overwhelming and I didn't want to mess around. I called my brother who lives close, and he came to make sure I was okay. After a bit I calmed and was severely exhausted. My brother decided to stay over to make sure I was okay. He slept. I didn't. Could not sleep until 6 or 7 am (which is actually normal for me now anyway, even though I had inched to around 3 or 4 am before that). The next morning, I woke early with a tooth ache. I have some dentistry waiting to be done, so this isn't atypical. However, I couldn't resume sleep. I had gotten 3 hours at most. The day went on and I thought I was fine. Sometime around 1 pm, it happened again. Sudden chest pressure and squeezing, arm aching in unison and now tooth pain. I called my brother and we went straight to the ER.

    EKG, blood tests and chest X-ray were all passed, and I was released. This sounds good, but I can assure all it did was confuse me. Now, many people don't know this, but an EKG is not a definitive test for a heart attack. A blood test can be a good test, but it isn't definitive and can even completely miss a cardiac event if taken too early (both tests were done within 3 hours of the event, and it typically takes 6 hours for heart damage enzymes to show in blood). Chest X-rays really only tell you if the heart is enlarged, not if there is damage to the heart or arteries, so that's anything but definitive. The reason I sound so skeptical is, I felt reassured when I left the ER, but I haven't felt better yet. It's been almost 2 weeks and my chest feels sore on the inside all day, all of my muscles are weak, my fatigue can put me in a stupor every day since, I can barely get out of bed after waking and keep falling back sleep, and my chest still has squeezing pressure inside. In fact, it's also getting harder to breathe.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi Kevin,

    I just wanted to welcome you and let you know I read your post. I'm not in a good way myself atm so I don't feel like I can give any advice. My anxiety is much more social than health (there seems to be two different types people get that I see here).

    Anyway, anxiety is just a nightmare and I hope you find some comfort here.

    Gypsy x

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Hey Kevin,

    Nearly all of your symptoms can be attributed to panic attacks.

    Symptoms of panic attacks
    Palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate
    Trembling and shaking,
    Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering,
    Feelings of choking,
    Chest pain or discomfort,
    Nausea or abdominal distress,
    Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint,
    Derealization (feelings of unreality - that things aren't real) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
    Fear of losing control or going crazy,
    Fear of dying,
    Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations),
    Chills or hot flashes.

    Advice from a clinical psychologist about panic attacks is to breathe in to the count of 3: ( count: one thousand one; one thousand two; one thousand three) each takes around a second to say to yourself, in your mind, and out to the count of 3. Keep repeating this until the panic subsides, (up to 25 minutes) which will deal with the hyperventilation aspect.

    Use the meditation methods at http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/mind...Meditation.htm
    or www.wikihow.com/Meditate

    Some people are still dismissive of them, but scientific testing has demonstrated conclusively that they increase activity and may, after regularly practising for a couple of months, result in a thickening of the walls of the prefrontal cortex, and better enable it and the hippocampus to control the amygdala, which is the fear centre of the brain, where panic attacks originate. It's thought to be the act of gently but repeatedly refocusing awareness on the breathing that causes the changes in the brain.

    A minimum of 10 mns is recommended; 15 is better, and 20 is ideally preferred. Optimal results come from use twice daily, morning, and early afternoon, if possible, although once is fine, and is probably more realistically achievable in most households today.

    Some people may be constitutionally unable to meditate, but anyone who can make a voice recording and follow simple instructions should be able to use Yoga Nidra ( a series of easy mental tasks, with no bodily flexibility required ), which is a different meditative form, at http://anxietyforum.net/forum/showth...951#post224951

    My comprehensive previous answer about anxiety and panic attacks may be viewed at http://anxietyforum.net/forum/showth...last-for-hours


    Check out https://www.google.com.au/search?cli...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 Either may cause muscle weakness, and a vitamin D deficiency can cause secondary deficiencies of B group vitamins such as B12, which are a known cause of panic and anxiety attacks.

    In the absence of a satisfactory medical explanation, unless you are sure that you have adequate levels of vitamin D and magnesium, I suggest getting your levels tested, and if necessary, supplement them accordingly.

    Another forum member created a thread: "Vitamin D3 Cured my Anxiety, Depression, and Panic Disorder", at http://anxietyforum.net/forum/showth...hlight=vitamin

    My post about vitamin D is at: http://anxietyforum.net/forum/showth...476#post228476

    Note that most doctors would regard lower levels of vitamin D as being acceptable than those recommended by Dr. John Cannell of the vitamin D council, or Professor Michael Holick, a former member, and an expert in vitamin D.

    Read: "Why are doctors reluctant to accept vitamin D", at:
    http://www.vitamindwiki.com/Why+are+...cept+vitamin+D and in particular:
    "Would you be opposed to my getting more vitamin D", at:

    If supplementing, (the non preferred method, according to www.vitaminDcouncil.org ) use only vitamin D3.
    My target range is now 60 ng/ml (150 nmol/lit) to 70 ng/ml (175 nmol/lit) as recommended by Drs. Gominak and Mercola, and to do that I'm currently taking 50,000 IU weekly. To ensure sufficient cofactors (magnesium, boron, vitamin K2, and zinc; most people get enough calcium) I also take a multivitamin, mineral, amino acids, ubiquinol, etc. supplement called Total Balance, Men's version, from xtend-life.com, although a high quality one like Suisse, would suffice, from pharmacies, or supermarkets. Dr. Cannell at http://vitaminDcouncil.org recommends BioTech Pharmacal for vitamin D3.

    "Below 5: 35 units per pound per day
    Age 5 - 10: 2500 units
    Adults: 5000 units
    Pregnant Women: 5000

    There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml."
    Last edited by Nowuccas; 07-03-2016 at 06:30 AM. Reason: improvements

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Northeast USA
    Hello all!
    Thank you for the replies! There was actually a whole second part of that post that I had to write separately, but it never got posted. I don't quite remember what was cut off but there was a load more.

    Anyway, I'm extremely educated about panic attacks, what causes them, possible ways to soothe or end them and all the like- in fact, for two years I was their master. It was never truly "easy" so to speak, but I could tame them with just a bit of effort and quiet. Breathing or meditation techniques would help, as would concentrating on things I was looking forward to.

    A few things have changed in the past year and it's steadily getting worse. My attacks started getting more frequent a year ago, and would sometimes go all day with constant tension, malaise, fear and strings of panic attacks that would last hours. Although my attacks were always fairly physical, a year ago I started having physical symptoms that would be with me whether or not I was having panic or anxiety and they have gotten steadily worse. I started having bouts of exhaustion and fatigue for no reason, and currently I have been having crooked vision and chest pain from within rather than the old chest wall pain.

    I have spent 2 years avoiding the hospital easily, despite the chest pain and racing heart- but recently I have been to the ER twice for worsening chest pain and pressure with aching left arm. In fact, my left arm started aching and becoming weaker just over a month ago. I'm going to start seeing a cardiologist tomorrow for the first time (I just turned 37 and am not overweight, even though I am sedentary and just quit smoking a pack a day for 19 years out of fear). My question is, has anybody here been in control of their panic or anxiety for a long time just to have it suddenly and continually get worse to where they couldn't control it at all?

    I fully expect to be cleared by the cardiologist as heart healthy after a few tests and once again blame my mysterious symptoms on anxiety. That's good, however in the past year my panic and anxiety have become so severe that I no longer drive, work or socialize. If I even try to do anything but relax I get very anxious and feel like I'm passing out. My vision gets all screwy and I get fatigued enough to go into a trance. In fact, if I'm a passenger in a car I often have to shut my eyes and sort of meditate because of the general discomfort, even if it's not painful, intense or scary. Very bizarre.

    I'm typing this in a phone and can't look back at the post without forfeiting what I've written, but I acknowledge the links you've posted and will look through them over time and glean the info out- thank you.

    Lastly, about vitamin D- I supplement because I don't get much sun (heat and humidity are major triggers for me) and I've always heard the D in milk is useless- but 5,000 IU a day? I know it takes like 150,000 IU to toxify yourself, but I just wanted to double check. I currently take 1,000 IU a day, but have always considered mega dosing. I just get scared because I often have bad reactions the changes- so even a positive change can cause panic in me. I started taking fish oil a while back and it was making me very dizzy and crabby, and worsening my anxiety so I quit. I also take one multi a day with 1000 much B-12 and another B complex. To be honest, I can't tell if they do anything or not for my anxiety or energy level. I experiment by going off one or the other every now and then to see if anything changes, but nothing ever really does. I mostly take them for placebo, because it makes me feel like I'm at least doing something. But it's also hard to tell because the way I feel changes rapidly these days, and fatigue hits suddenly and often.

    I also just started taking a probiotic with L. Helveticus, L. Rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium Longum. Quackery aside, these are currently showing promising research results in cutting anxiety in mice with enflamed colons and gut problems. Allegedly they help achieve a better vagus nerve response and help produce GABA. Figured it was worth a shot but I may not see a divergence for weeks.

    Anyway, sorry if this post is all over the place. I'll try using my laptop instead of my phone from now on so I can see earlier posts, as well as backtracking what I have written so I know where my point is going. I'll see if I can re-post the second half of my original.



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