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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Identifying Symptoms of Anxiety

11/14/2006

Question:

I am a 24 year old male, I do not smoke or drink currently and haven’t for about a year and a half now, although I used to do both heavily. In the past six months or so I`ve had three trips to the ER; due to what I was sure was a heart attack or condition of some sort. I`ve had blood work and an EKG each visit, along with an echo test, and chest x-ray and CT scan of the head, and a face to face with a cardiologist who like the three ER doctors told me it seems to be Anxiety. Some of my symptoms over the last six months have been; Fluttering feeling in chest Heart racing and pounding Heart racing or fluttering if I am woken up before falling 100% to sleep. Tingling in all limbs not necessarily at the same time, it’s kind of random; also sometimes certain fingers will tingle or feel hot. Ears randomly get red and hot Heavy night sweats Dizziness Nausea Full feeling in chest Sharp pains in chest (not in the center, more on the pectoral area) Shortness of breath Panic Fluttering feeling in throat which I had my first time in 5th grade second about 4 years ago, and an occasional very quick spell of dizziness up until about six months ago when all these others set in. Just the last few days I’ve been very nauseas all day long. Extreme worry over these symptoms (to the point of obsession) I eat fairly healthy and work out with free weights five times a week. Some stress factors are my job in the Military, and two young children. The only event I could connect up to the time these symptoms started is a letter I received from my father basically telling me he was homeless, which impacted me very hard, he is now currently in a good situation which to me would say that any worry I had over him should be gone. I’m scared to go to a physiatrist because I am afraid of being diagnosed with something that would disqualify me for my job in the military. Please advise. Thank you

Answer:

You certainly are describing some classic symptoms of anxiety.  There is more than one anxiety disorder, and you describe what are probably panic attacks, possibly moving into some generalized anxiety.  You state you have no current stressors in your life, but past traumatic events could also be responsible for post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) and your symptoms could be related to that.

You need to talk to a mental health professional.  This could be a counselor, psychologist or a psychiatrist.  many primary care physicians, like family physicians, are also able to diagnose and begin treatment for anxiety disorders. 

Anxiety disorders are true medical illnesses, often chronic, and waxing and waning in the severity of their symptoms.  Mental illness is common among military personnel, especially PTSD, and the VA and military medical establishments have some excellent resources for evaluation and treatment. 

It is important to ask yourself if, with your current symptoms and problems, you are functioning to your potential as an employee, worker, parent, etc.  If the answer is no, then it is important to seek a diagnosis and treatment.  You will improve your ability to work, to relate to others and your enjoyment of life.

Good luck.

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Response by:

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