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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Identifying Symptoms of Anxiety or MS

01/22/2006

Question:

Hi, I am a 22 year old female, in very good health. This last semester of school was very stressfull, as my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, I was married and I was taking very difficult classes on top of working 35 hours a week. Near the end of the fall semester, during finals week, I had what I thought was a panic attack. I was sweating, yet felt cold, trembling, I was scared that I was dying from a heart attack and was experiencing tingling in my legs and arms. After the attack occured I was very scared that it would happen again. It has happened one other time since the first. But now I spend most of my days worrying it will happen again, or worrying that I have something seriously wrong with me. I still experience tingling in my feet and arms and am genereally anxious or scared that their is something seriously wrong with me. I don`t know if I am imagining it or if it is brought on by stress. I am also worried about things like MS or Diabetes. Does this sound like MS??

Answer:

It certainly sounds like you may have experienced a panic attack or are suffering from a panic disorder

People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly with little or no warning. Many develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike.

People who have panic attacks, describe many of the same symptoms you describe:  your heart may pound and you may feel sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands may tingle or feel numb, and you might feel flushed or chilled. You may have nausea, chest pain or smothering sensations, a sense of unreality, or fear of impending doom or loss of control. You may genuinely believe you're having a heart attack or losing your mind, or on the verge of death.

Early adulthood is a very common time for panic disorder to begin, and a stressful period may be the trigger for the first panic attack, but they soon become unpredictable.

Luckily, there are good treatments for all anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.  These include medications and counseling.  Several different medications have proven effective, probably the most commonly used being the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) which are also used to treat depression.  These medicines include Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Lexapro (escitalopram).  The most common method of counseling is called cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Both medications and counseling alone are effective for treating anxiety disorders, but together they are most effective.

It is always a good idea to get a check up with your primary care doctor when you become ill, and panic disorder is an illness.  Your doctor can examine you and possibly perform some testing to make sure there are no other medical problems going on.  Your symptoms do not sound like diabetes or MS to me, but I am not in a position to diagnose over the internet.  Your primary care doctor can also begin medication for you, if that is the decided course of treatment, and refer you for counseling within your community.

Good Luck.

 

Related Resources:

anxiety disorders of america
NIH NIMH anxiety

For more information:

Go to the Anxiety and Stress Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati