Anxiety and panic attacks produce a whole host of wretched symptoms that can (and have often for me!) make us think we are dying! We can have anxiety with unknown triggers and anxiety with symptoms that we know full well are triggers! It can be like a merry-go-round! For instance, a chest pain, that may just be a normal little pain that everyone gets at some point, can feel like a full-blown cardiac episode to an anxiety sufferer. And that's because of two reasons, in my experience:
a) because we are so hyper aware of all aches and pains in our bodies, and;
b) because our anxious minds make us hone in on said pain and make us believe that we are doomed to be leaving the Earth far too early.
And so we, some more often than others perhaps, end up in the emergency department being attached to ECG's and having blood taken for testing.
I have been in predicaments like this often. And I have to admit that the peace of mind I received from the negative test results far outweighed the feeling of silliness for ending up there in the first place. Although, I did feel I had to justify, usually out loud, to anyone who would listen, that I needed to go because 'what if it was a heart problem?'
This is just one of the manifestations of my own anxiety. Another was the terrifying physical symptoms that I talked about in my eBook when a panic attack was approaching. The tingles down my arms, the light-headedness, blurred vision, tight chest, palpitations, headaches, profuse sweating, feeling hot and then cold, the feeling of incontinence (my body never did let go but the feeling was horrible!). And then the tiredness after the attack! I felt I could sleep for a week after every panic episode. It left me completely and utterly drained.
Other symptoms include changes in mood, changes in behaviour, changes in appetite, stomach issues, IBS. One of my regular symptoms was the feeling my throat was closing and I literally could not swallow! One hour to eat one piece of toast was a recurring thing in my life then.
Similarly, when we actually do have a medical issue that does need addressing, anxiety thinks that's a good time to pounce too. So it feels like we can't win.
I had a conversation about anxiety being a normal bodily response, and it is. It is fight or flight. It is designed for us to react when faced with what our brains perceive as danger. It produces the adrenaline we need to become unstuck. For instance, if we are being chased, we will naturally find the energy to run as fast as we possibly can to safety. And then wonder where the hell we found the energy to give Usain Bolt a literal 'run' for his money!! However, when we suffer with anxiety on the daily, our bodies over-react to dangers that aren't actually dangers. And sometimes react so quickly to a perceived danger before we even work out what said danger is. And sometimes its nothing!! Sometimes it can be in our sub-conscious. Sometimes we just do not know why our bodies are reacting in this way.
I have written about personifying anxiety and this has helped me so much in terms of management. It's true, anxiety will always be present but I like to separate the bad anxiety from the good. My good anxiety will be there to protect me in real situations where I have to make a quick decision, and my bad anxiety gets a whole new identity. The bad anxiety will always be with me, I accept that. But I can control 'her' now.
Symptoms of anxiety will vary from person to person. Some may resonate with the symptoms I have described, some may have other symptoms. But one thing we need to remember - they are SYMPTOMS. And the symptoms of anxiety alone can not hurt you. Once you know how your anxiety manifests and the feelings it graces you with, you will start to recognise them and associate them with anxiety and panic attacks. A mantra that helped me get through an attack was "it's just anxiety, it can't hurt me!"
I'm definitely not asking you to put all of your symptoms down to anxiety, God no! If you need peace of mind or you believe it is something more than anxiety, then please consult your GP.
My experiences have made me change perspective. They have made me change course in my life because anxiety has had a knock-on effect. Some good and some not so.
The purpose of this post is to ask you to recognise your symptoms. Is there a pattern? Is it always the same feeling you get when you are having an attack? Is it a feeling that you've never felt before? Have you had tests that have come back with the conclusion that everything is normal? Can you pinpoint triggers such as pains or sensations?
Please try to refrain from googling symptoms. This created more anxiety for me because it is just a search engine that comes up with a million possible conditions depending on what you put in and is almost always worst case scenario! Don't do it, for your own sake. (See the doc if you need diagnosis)
Start to write your feelings and sensations down. You may see a recurrence. Writing them down helped me make the connection. It may help you too.
Love as always