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Has Treatment For Physical Symptoms Helped With Anxiety/brain Fog?


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I'm sorry if this has been asked before, but I was curious - for those of you who have psychological or cognitive symptoms on top of the physical ones, has treating the latter helped with the former? I know that antidepressants, benzodiazepines, stimulants, and so forth, are used for both, so I'm not as interested in them at the moment, but I am curious about treatments that are only prescribed for the physical symptoms. The reason I ask is because I recently got my hands on some thigh-high 20-30hg compression hose, and I've found that so far, as ridiculous as it is, they have helped more with symptoms of severe anxiety, brain fog, and diffuse psychological malaise, than any of the dozen or two psych meds I've taken in the past few years, maybe combined. This includes SSRI's, NRI's, amphetamine-based stimulants, methylphenidate-based stimulants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and a few other miscellaneous meds.

So, this is what I wanted to ask: has anybody else found that treatment aimed only at alleviating physical symptoms (of ANS dysfunction) has helped with symptoms of anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, and so forth?

If anyone's curious, the thing is, I was dead-sure for the past 9 years that I had primary psychological issues, and aside from pissing off a couple of doctors by being over-informed, and frustrating a few who didn't understand why I was having freaky medication reactions (though they didn't doubt that I was having them), I'm a psychiatrist's dream - the pleasant, respectful, compliant patient who will try virtually any medication, and put up with virtually any side effects, short of a paradoxical reaction. Not sure if that's relevant, but I genuinely tried to get better - in other words, I am not the reason that my treatment has mostly failed. I'm waiting to see an ANS doctor (in 2 weeks), but have no dx yet. My psychiatrist, however, is certain that my physical symptoms, at least, are due to a malfunctioning ANS. My GP thinks everything is psychogenic, though she gave me a referral once she saw my blood pressure start out at 110/60 supine, then become completely undetectable upon sitting up, then settle down at 90/70 (still sitting). I'm also hypermobile, with some skin involvement. Not sure if it's relevant, but I had a massive flare-up of joint injuries and pain, right around the same time that I first developed psychological symptoms (about 16 years old). The more severe ANS symptoms didn't begin until 2-3 years ago, after some kind of viral illness.

Sorry if this post is a mess - the fog is really thick right now. Thanks!

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So, this is what I wanted to ask: has anybody else found that treatment aimed only at alleviating physical symptoms (of ANS dysfunction) has helped with symptoms of anxiety, depression, cognitive dysfunction, and so forth?

Yes, this has been my experience for years now. In contrast I am the psychiatrists nightmare, I am resistant to take meds as I have awful side effects from them. However when things broke down so terribly in the spring ... even I became convinced it was primary panic. I tried every benzo they gave me (valium, ativan and xanax) over a three month period. All this time my symptoms became worse. The drugs made me feel disoriented and spacey which made coping with the hyperadrengeric surges even more difficult.

For me what helped was getting my blood sugar back on track. Now that that is under control, I am going to re-focus on the POTS protocols that have worked for me in the past. All of my thigh high compressions were only 20mg and were no longer helping ... so I've ordered a pair of 40's that came yesterday and I am going to try them today.

My therapist who I have known for five years firmly believes that I have panic disorder DUE TO physical illness (e.g. POTS, Hashimoti and Hypoglycemia.) I am fortunate that my primary physician is also supportive and he was the one who kept telling me during the breakdown last spring that he was convinced there was something malfunctioning with my ANS. He actually refused to prescribe any SSRIs during that time as it felt it would mask what was really going on at the primary level.

Good luck finding something that works for you.

~EM

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For me the cognitive symptoms exaclty mirror my physical state. When my BP and HR are playing up is when my brain-fog is at its worst and that seems to lead to feeling depressed and hopeless, or if in high-pressure situations anxious.

It makes sense that if the blood supply to the brain is poor then the brain can't function properly and produces brain-fog or abnormal thought patterns.

flop

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YES!!!! I have gone years where I feel I was only half present, where I couldn't even read a book. I'm on a great med/life style combo now and I have almost no cognitive symptoms. BTW, my son takes Lexapro for his physical symptoms only. It is regularly prescribed to balance the autonomic nervous system.

All the best-

Julie

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Julie - that sounds so familiar! No psychiatrist has been able to explain why I read every book I could get my hands on when I was a kid, but gradually lost the ability to read starting in late adolescence. I'm diagnosed with ADHD, but ADHD doesn't suddenly "get worse" like this. Concerta has helped marginally, but it has been one of the most difficult symptoms to treat. The feeling like I'm only "half there" is too familiar, as well, and is maybe the symptom I've had the most difficulty living with. It's great to hear that you've found something that helps!

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Katja,

You sound a lot like me with the reading everything when younger that came across, to not being able to concentrate and comprehend what I am reading. I too have the ADHD diagnosis (determined in adulthood). The "half there" sounds a lot like me! I too have tried about every ADHD med, with a lot more side effects than relief of symptoms. I so far have no great answers. Zoloft so far has been what helped me the most with wacky HR/BP issues and heat intolerance.

:)

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Thanks! I'm glad to hear that other people have had similar experiences. I knew that ANS dysfunction could cause anxiety and brain fog, but it seemed odd that simply normalizing my BP/heart rate (to some degree) could make a very significant, immediate difference.

ajw4055 - I haven't been able to tolerate any serotonergic meds, starting with Zoloft. I hope you find something that helps with the cognitive part, as well.

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Katja, have you tried starting with a really tiny dose of an SSRI or SNRI to see if it is tolerable? Sometimes using a syrup / liquid formulation allows you to start on a much smaller dose than normal and then gradually increasing the dose.

Flop

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flop - thanks, that may be an idea I could bring up with the doctors. In my case, the problem is that I have consistently had dangerous paradoxical reactions to them - not simply a matter of feeling really crappy. This has happened, in each case, at the lowest (conventional) doses, and includes any meds that mess with serotonin receptors, not just antidepressants.

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Hi Katja,

I've told this story here before, so forgive me if you've read it in response to something else. My son, when he was 12 y/o suddenly began experiencing anxiety for the first time ever. His normal personality is very (too!) laid back. We figured out it was NMH and my son's doc theorized that Mack's body was sending out huge amounts of adrenaline every time his BP was about to crash. Sometimes Mack wasn't even aware his BP was dropping, he's just get really panicky. Then within 30 mins or so, it would fall. During his TTT, he didn't faint until 35 mins., but he was VERY symptomatic the whole time. His body intuitively knew what was coming.

On top of fluid, salt, and florinef; Mack's doc wanted to add an SSRI as the anxiety was lingering. Mack also had awful reactions to any that we tried. I think we started with paxil, then moved to lexapro- smallest doses. Within 30 mins of taking the med, His BP would drop out, he'd have to lie in a dark room, his head would ache. All of his normal symptoms would basically crescendo. A member of Mack's medical team theorized that Mack was soooooo low in serotonin, that his body "freaked" when it was suddenly added to his system. We stuck with the lowest possible dose of lexapro (maybe even cut it?) for several weeks. I gave it to him in the evening as he basically melted down right afterwards and I hoped he'd just drift off to sleep rather than suffer. Lo and behold, it worked after a few weeks. He had little or no negative side effects and the anxiety was gone. He had to very slowly titrate up to a therapeutic dose.

Consider this theory for yourself, especially if you are already treating the phsyiological end of things and not getting results. Maybe discuss this idea with your psychiatrist.

Best of luck-

Julie

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Hi Julie,

Thank you so much! I haven't read your story before, but I'm so glad you told me. Maybe that could explain why I'm so sensitive to meds that mess with serotonin. Two of my psychiatrists have theorized that there is something idiosyncratic about my brain/body that makes it go completely haywire, whenever I try to take one of those meds.

Concerning trying an SSRI at an incredibly low dose, I'll bring it up with the ANS doctor, as well. If I gave the impression, I didn't mean to sound like I am unwilling to take psychiatric meds. Of all people, I've never been uncomfortable with having a "crazy" label (aside from dealing with the ignorance surrounding it), and am very pro-med, if anything. The reason I was asking if anyone was similarly helped by treatments that have no direct influence on mood or anxiety levels, is that I am trying to figure out if my anxiety/depression could have a physiological basis. If it is secondary, then it may have practical implication for my treatment. Does that make sense? For me it's not an issue of quitting meds, or shedding a label, unless either is warranted - I just want to find something (anything) that actually works :blink:. Bleh.. Sorry, I'm very fuzzy tonight, so the preceding paragraph is probably a mess.

So when it comes down to it, if there's any reason to believe that it may help my physical or mental symptoms, I'll gladly try it. The reason serotonergic meds freak me out at this point, is that they really screwed me up (I'd rather not elaborate) - and I'm usually far more willing to put up with nasty side effects than my doctors are! My psychiatrist would probably be even more scared than me to try them again at this point - she's never had a patient so med sensitive, and with so many freaky idiosyncratic reactions, as me, and she's one of the competent ones. She likes me, but I think she finds the process of treating me kind of nerve-wracking.

Thanks again! This may really help :blink:.

-Katja

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Katja-

You make perfect sense. I truly think your supposedly psychological symptoms may very well be physiological. And, I'm happy that you're open to SSRI's even after such awful experiences. I know you'll be very careful and do what your psychiatrist advises.

Mack really did have awful reactions initially, even vomiting, presynsope, shakes, etc. It's hard to believe he stuck with it, but he did and the results have been nothing less than miraculous.

Let us know what you decide.

Julie

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