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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Anxiety Disorder or Something Else

07/23/2008

Question:

I am a female, age 54, presenting with very mild lightheadedness/balance issue and high blood pressure. After CT scan, MRI brain scan, nothing was found except for a partial empty sella. I have been agonizing incessently about what awful disease I might have. I can`t stop thinking about it. My blood pressure is under control now, and the mild lightheadedness/balance has improved. But now my carpal tunnel previously diagnosed has gotten worse, and includes some additional numbness and tingling in the other arm as well. I also imagine that my legs are numb and tingling, but I really have no concrete proof of that. I have been under a lot of anxiety in the lst 5-10 years due to my husband becoming disabled, and having a disabled adult child as well. I have been trying to cope with all the financial issues and everything else by myself for all these years. Then when I added an illness of my own to the mix, my anxiety went off the charts. I also found out 2 weeks ago that I am being let go from my job in August. I can`t seem to think of anything else except the fact that I may have some awful disease. Please help! Do you think anxiety could be causing some of this? I saw a neurologist last week and he seemed very disinterested in my symptoms and did not schedule any further testing. I appreciate any advice you may have for me.

Answer:

It certainly sounds like an anxiety disorder could be a significant part of what is going on with you at this time.  From your story, it sounds like you have likely had a low level generalized anxiety disorder for many years, and now the symptoms have escalated and are focusing on fear for your health.

 As the national institutes of mental health describes, "People with generalized anxiety disorder can't seem to shake their concerns. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes."

Anxiety disorders are not just reactions to difficult situations.  Reacting emotionally to a hard time, stressful situation or difficult relationship occurs commonly for everyone, but these reactions don't significantly interfere with how we live our lives and they don't last that long.  An anxiety disorder is worry out of context to real life experiences that interferes with how we live and lasts for at least 6 months (and sometimes years).  Anxiety disorders are REAL diseases, felt to be due to an imbalance in brain neurotransmitter chemicals. 

I encourage to seek a mental health evaluation and counseling as soon as possible.  Anxiety is a highly treatable disorder with both counseling and medication.

Good Luck.

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Response by:

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