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Alex B. Do I have TMS?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by introverted, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. introverted

    introverted Peer Supporter

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.


    I am a 22-year-old male and a newcomer to this forum. I wanted to ask for your opinion on a couple of questions. But first, here is a brief description of my physical symptoms, all of which have occurred persistently, 24/7, for the past 3.5 months:

    -Tingling sensation in the feet and legs; feels like little bugs crawling underneath my skin
    -Buzzing sensation in the feet and legs; feels like a cell phone going off on vibrate inside my feet
    -Prickly/pin-stabbing sensation in my feet
    -Occasionally, feeling of electric shock/burning sensation
    -Random spots of itchiness in my feet, legs, and sometimes arms and hands

    All of my symptoms started months ago when I was dealing with major, painful transitions in my life, including graduating from college, becoming removed from an intimate community of friends, the end of a serious romantic relationship, and a potential shift in career goal. I started getting severe panic attacks and anxiety, and started taking Cymbalta; however, the panic attacks have gone away now, and all I have left are these lingering physical symptoms. I have been working for the past 3 months with a therapist who specializes in anxiety and psychosomatic disorders, which has helped me better address my fears and personality traits.

    My questions are as follows:

    1) Are my symptoms reflective of TMS or its equivalents? I ask because most TMSers suffer from pain, but I rarely have pain associated with my symptoms, just a lot of discomfort.

    2) Should I go through the SED and Alan Gordon's recovery program -- is that enough, or are there other things that I should do? I'm trying to book an appointment with a TMS practitioner near my area as well.

    3) Is the key to overcoming symptoms to simply FORGET about the symptoms and pretend like they don't exist and to not let them bother you, or is the key to face them head-on and practice strategies that are supposed to help to eliminate them? It seems to me that all the exercises and strategies that I do, i.e. meditation, visiting doctors, studying the TMS websites and reading Dr. Sarno's books, only REINFORCES to me that my symptoms are HERE; that is, my life has been consumed by THINKING about my symptoms almost all day. Is this the wrong way to go about it?

    4) How come my symptom reduction takes so long? It feels like they will never go away, and this makes me very concerned. My life has been put on hold because of my symptoms.

    Thank you all for your wonderful support and the amazing work that you do.
  2. Alex Bloom LCSW

    Alex Bloom LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi introverted, thanks for the questions.

    So there is a lot going on here that should be addressed, but let's start with your first, basic questions and move forward from there.

    1) Yes, the symptoms you are dealing with can absolutely be the result of TMS. I've seen a very wide variety of ways that TMS expresses itself. Back pain is the most "common" but I've seen people with tingling, people that can't swallow, a prickly foot, you name it; if it can cause anxiety, preoccupation and fear, someone will get it.

    This brings me to my second point, which I think is really big for you, and it addresses question 4. Specifically, the purpose behind the pain and your relationship to it. All the different forms of TMS with its many symptoms serve a purpose for the people who suffer from them. Specifically, they act as a vessels of preoccupation. What I mean by this is that the symptoms and the obsessiveness, the pressure and the anxiety they all create are your unconscious mind's way of distracting you from something that (again, unconsciously) is more difficult to face than the prospect of enduring and being scared of the discomfort you write about. As long as the pain is able to create this pressure and anxiousness, these obsessive monitoring thoughts, it will continue to be "useful" (because it keeps you from these other, unwanted thoughts/feelings) and will therefore stick around. Hence why it is "taking so long" to go away. There's part of you that is happy with it being there, as it is fulfilling its purpose of distraction and preoccupation. This is a central concept to TMS and one that many people have a lot of trouble with.

    The implications of this are related to question 3 and also 2 really. In that, it is very clear that you are looking for a specific answer about exactly what you need to do, when and how to do and how it will incrementally address your symptoms step-by-step until they are gone. I can practically feel the pressure you're putting on yourself as I read your questions! The issue here is that despite ostensibly looking to treat these issues from a TMS perspective, you are still thinking structurally. What I mean by this is that the symptoms and physical issues are the driving force that motivates you. You are feeling the pressure that comes from "putting your life on hold". Getting rid of this discomfort is what is important to you, rather than compassionately addressing your needs and examining how you can treat yourself better for your own sake, instead of satisfying the demands of your symptoms. As long as the symptoms continue to be the primary gauge that you measure your success by, one that you check constantly, you are giving those symptoms the power to determine your success and your feelings about yourself. If every time you meditate or read the literature, the back of your mind is monitoring your symptoms, terrified that nothing will work, you are continuing to reinforce the pattern.

    That being said, it is unrealistic to expect you to simply ignore them altogether. What is important is to see these symptoms for what they are, recognize the purpose they serve and then address how they make you feel instead of pressuring yourself to just make them disappear or ignore them.

    As far as specific interventions, I'm a big fan of the recovery program. But it's important to see that there is not only one very specific road to improvement. You can't really make bad moves, as long as you continue to work towards caring for yourself. Try different things and see what works for you personally. And try to have patience with yourself.

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    North Star likes this.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, introverted. Alex Bloom's reply covers what I would suggest for you. You are feeling tingling and other symptoms
    typical of TMS. I encourage you to start the Structured Education Program. It will take you through steps helping you to heal
    by discovering the repressed emotions that are causing your pain. They probably go back to your boyhood and were triggered
    by all the emotional whammies you've had recently.

    Don't let fear or worry take up your time. Keep reminding yourself that tomorrow is going to be better and that you are going
    to be healthy and happy. Becoming pain-free takes time. Just don't worry how long it takes. The SEP will teach you more
    about yourself and others and that is all for the good.
  4. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Hey, introverted, me too! Good to see you on the forum. I have "delusional parasitosis" and my symptoms sound the same as yours. Sure feels like real bugs, doesn't it?

    People with "delusional parisitosis" rarely have a serious mental disorder. Mostly, they are perfectionistic, rather anxious people. In short, TMS-ers. In my case, I've found my "bugs" are no more than an overreaction to a flake of skin, a hair, a thread or a grain of sand. Luckily, using TMS techniques I can keep the situation under ontrol. The "bugs" are usually a sign that I'm overstressing myself. Often, they warn me to get off the computer and go outside for some fresh air and a change of pace. Or phone a friend. Or see what's new on this forum.

    Most people with TMS don't have to delve deeply into the source of their problems. I'm an exception so I am working with an IFS (Internal Family Systems) practitioner which helps enormously. Also, I take a sleeping pill at night to be sure of getting enough rest. Otherwise I tend to have anxious, repetitive dreams that interfere with sleep.

    In a way, I think that "bugs" are among the easier TMS symptoms to deal with--unless, of course, you decide they must be real in which case they can make your life a misery.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2014
  5. E. Lynn

    E. Lynn Peer Supporter

    Oh, I feel for you. I had that pager/buzzing going off in my foot. Hard to sleep with that! My foot dr said he had had that before too and stretching out the hamstring and back of the leg sometime helps. It got rid of mine. You have to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds though. I had/ have tms back pain, so he recommended laying on the floor and stretching my leg against a door frame. I stretched each leg three times once a day. I don't know if this applies to you, but I have really tight hamstrings.

    Your other symptoms sound like they are anxiety induced and/or TMS.

    E. Lynn
    North Star likes this.
  6. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I find mindfulness, living in the present moment, and telling myself I am well and calm and happy are some helpful healing techniques.
    I've been watching some Youtube videos for help in sleeping and like them. They're all very much alike... breathe deeply, imagine being
    in a calming, sunfilled environment, hearing the sounds there, smelling the aromas... and saying "I feel calm and healthy. I will fall asleep now."

    They're forms of self-hypnosis, and that's a big part of TMS recovery... repeatedly telling your subconscious that you are going to heal.

    The worry and fear we put into our minds stays there and intensifies. The good things we put into our minds do the same to make us heal.
    North Star likes this.
  7. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Introverted, I chuckled over the buzzing symptom. I remember that striking me off and on….often with a regular tempo. I remember once, it struck in the middle of the night and I bolted upright in bed, convinced the myelin sheaths were dissolving around the nerves. :woot: (My nursing background allows more imaginative fears.) It scared the beejeepers outta me. Now I just laugh if that happens.

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