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Exhibiting the symptoms you worry about

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by dabatross, Jun 20, 2012.

  1. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    Hey everybody,

    After reading about the conditioned response in the expert forum it got my wondering how the mind creates symptoms in various situations and how it can create symptoms you pay the most attention to. For example, lately I have noticed more double vision with my eyes, I have been paying more attention/worry to it, and I Made this cause and effect relationship between my eye pain and the double vision.

    Its another one of those inconsistencies that doesn't make sense. I have barely been on the computer over the past 4 days (I worked one 8 hour day on the computer on Monday) and I still have the symptoms full strength and was noticing the double vision more yesterday even though I was outside looking into the distance. It seems the more concern I have over a particular symptom the more I seem to have it. Does this make sense from a psychological point of view? This also happened in the past where the more I read about the condition, the more I learned to be worried about like going out in the wind, watching tv, reading a book, just looking out in the distance, and each one of these examples I was told not to do that so I think it planted a seed in my mind. I think these are all conditioned responses from learning about something, worrying about it, and then if I do that activity I have the fear in the back of my mind that it will make the eye strain worse so it does.

    One other interesting thing is the pulling sensation i feel in my eyes. I started worrying about the pulling sensation about 2 years ago and now that is the primary symptom I have. I kept concentrating on that one symptom and getting rid of it during vision therapy.
  2. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Yes, this happens to me a lot. The symptoms I wasn't too worried about went away early on and the ones that bother me most (headaches, anxiety) are still lingering.

    I find it helps to focus on something else rather than try to reason with the obsession about the pain/symptom. I'm pretty bored this week and I find myself getting more pain and anxiety than usual.

    Hope you feel better soon.
  3. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    Hope you feel better too Veronica. I feel the same way I'd I'm bored or don't have anything preoccupying my mind. Thats when the pain or anxiety gets worse. It's the cycle of worrying about it hurting that keeps it going. So definitely I think that the symptoms you fear or have anxiety about the most are the ones that stick around. If you don't care about it it will go away on its own. The hardest parties getting to that point of not caring anymore about the symptom, not letting it preoccupy you consantly. Self talk is helpful but id love to hear everybody's input/tips on doing this.
  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Getting to the point of not caring about the pain begins and ends with accepting 100% the TMS diagnosis. Some kind of self talk can be helpful in getting to that point. I am starting to really like the idea that Enrique mentioned in the I'm a TMSer Triathelete about writing out scorecard where you write down reasons you have TMS. Reading over something like this everyday will really help the message sink in.

    I have also been a really big fan of Dr. Sarno's Daily Reminders. You don't need to make affirmations very complicated. Sarno's daily reminders are very simple and reading through the them a couple times a day will be beneficial. If you haven't seen it yet, I would also recommend checking out the wiki page on Affirmations.
  5. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Veronica and Dabatross, both - what have you done to specifically address your anxiety? Last year, after I read the Divided Mind and started the Structured Ed Program, I read Hope and Help For Your Nerves by Claire Weekes, (recommended by a number of wiki users) and I think it really helped me in combination with accepting the TMS diagnosis. She wrote the book years before Dr. Sarno started writing, but she addresses all of our weird physical symptoms, as manifestations of anxiety.

    There's a lot of chicken-and-egg discussion about anxiety and TMS - but it doesn't really matter. They both cycle on each other - making each other worse in one direction, helping each other get better in the other. As far as I'm concerned, they go hand in hand, and I believe that someone with chronic anxiety will not recover or improve from TMS unless the anxiety is reduced or eliminated (oh yes, that's a goal, all right!).

    Just last weekend, I listened in full to the webinar with Alan Gordon (having missed a lot of it during the event) and I was suddenly able to identify my inner bully, or inner terrorist (Alan used both terms, they are both great): and it's clearly my anxiety! Not only that, I immediately had a visual picture of my anxiety, which is "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. As I mentioned to someone in another post, that's not much of a stretch, as it's a very famous work of art, and it creates a pretty visceral reaction in most people, I think. And it was recently in the news. I got to see one of the originals in Norway when I was 24, but I remember I wasn't able to look at it directly for very long, it made me so uncomfortable. But the image is clear in my mind, and I get a gut emotional reaction just visualizing it.

    So now I'm working on confronting my anxiety, as that image, when I have symptoms. It's hard, though - my short-term goal is for that confrontation to become an automatic response, instead of something that I remember occasionally!

    Keep up the good work

  6. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    I love Claire Weekes! I have had anxiety since childhood and I remember my mom giving me her books to read (I still have them). Interestingly, she seems to view headaches (my primary TMS symptom) as a symptom of anxiety. I think of anxiety as another TMS symptom, the same as headaches, back pain, etc.

    What stands out to me the most about The Scream is not the person who is screaming, but the other people in the background who seem not to notice/care. There's a real sense of isolation and I think that's how anxiety (and some of my other TMS symptoms) made me feel.

    I liked the webinar too. My therapist is also a TMS therapist and works very similar to Alan. I took a lot of notes :)
  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Veronica, you brought up isolation in another post today - I remember that Forest quoted you back on it. I'm envisioning Alan asking you to examine what happens in your body - what is your physical reaction, what are you feeling - whenever you think about this isolation, or your fear of isolation, that comes up so frequently.

    I'm envisioning Alan doing this because I'm trying to ask myself these questions when things come up over and over, but I like imagining him asking them, and I keep hearing him encouraging Annie, or Ginger, to stop and feel the physical reaction.
  8. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Yep, it's a theme! I have been tuning in to physical sensations when I'm feeling like that emotionally. It seems like a lot of the physical sensations (tightening, anxiety) are related to wanting to run from these thoughts or feelings. I find when I just sit with them, the feelings themselves move through pretty quickly.

    Claire Weekes talks about secondary anxiety (I can't remember if that's her exact term)--the anxiety about the anxiety--and how that is the real problem. I don't think the feelings themselves or the physical sensations are the problem--it's the fear of the feelings and the obsession with the pain or the negative thoughts that is the problem.

    It's a lot like meditation really, just coming back to the moment, the breath, the feelings, physical sensations, again and again despite the mind's distractions. I see this as a lifelong practice now and not something I will do to get rid of TMS.
    Livvygurl likes this.
  9. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Heh - hard to keep up on several threads at once, since you sort of answered the questions over at that other one...

    re anxiety: I believe that TMS can create anxiety, but that they work hand in hand to reinforce each other, rather than anxiety simply being just another TMS symptom. I also believe, especially for myself, that chronic anxiety - the kind that someone (ie, me) might have from a young age, will naturally result in TMS - again, I feel that they are always working to reinforce each other in a constant negative spiral (ramping upward or degenerating downward, depending on how you think of it).

    Someone not prone to anxiety might develop TMS as the result of emotional or physical trauma or abuse. Someone with chronic anxiety will probably develop TMS without major trauma - that's me.

    As far as I can tell, I was born with anxiety, probably because I was the first-born child of a 30-year-old mother who'd had a miscarriage, who had no siblings, and who had never had any significant exposure to small children. In her European boarding-school upbringing, she'd never had an opportunity to go babysitting. She was really a very good mother and I had a very caring and secure childhood, but my parents had no idea what to do about my anxiety, and by the time three more kids came along, they had no time to deal with it.

    I recently (last month) re-read the chapter in H&HFYN where Dr. W talks about that secondary anxiety - that's good stuff, very helpful.

    Anyway, which comes first: TMS or Anxiety, is a frequent chicken-and-egg discussion amongst TMSers, but personally, I think it can be either. And once you have both, I think it's moot!

  10. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    This reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." Seriously though I have found the best way to lose the fear is to face it and challenge it. If my back hurts I might worry about carrying heavy bags of shopping in from the car. I recognise the fear is there to prevent me from doing the things I need to and want to do. I was never very good at being told what to do by others. Why should I let my fear boss me around?

    My back hurt when I woke up this morning. So did my leg and foot. I got up and walked to the charity shop with two bags of junk. I went to the supermarket and carried a heavy bag of groceries. I did some vacuuming, floor washing, oven cleaning, dog walking and laundry. I am about to put dinner on. I may even make a dessert! No sweat, no fear.
    Forest, honeybear424 and JanAtheCPA like this.
  11. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member


    Yes, exactly! I think it's the same personality traits that cause both anxiety problems and TMS so in a way it doesn't really matter which came first or whether they are the same or something separate.

    I'm sorry to hear you had anxiety so young and that no one knew how to help you with anxiety. I remember anxiety becoming a problem for me in 6th grade but then was manageable and it didn't get really bad again until my late 20s.

    ~ Veronica
  12. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Veronica, I just (literally, last night) started reading Steven Ozanich's new book "The Great Pain Deception" and he makes a really good case for anxiety being a TMS equivalent. I may be re-thinking my assumptions. Oh look it's time for chat! I think we're going to try to chat about this book that's why I was trying to get started on it (it only arrived a couple of days ago).
  13. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    noticed something really interested this week. had the wedding last weekend and was really stressed out about that mostly because of social anxiety and phobias. last monday went to work and it wasn't a good day at all. the weekend probably explained that. then i had 3 days of vacation from tuesday till thursday and i couldn't for the life of me get my eye symptoms off my mind. tried my best to push through that and enjoy the vacation but it did ruin part of it. had a significant amount of pulling sensation during that vacation and then i had some fear about work on friday. went to work on friday and actually had less pain than the 3 days of vacation or the weekend before. as you said forest i liked the idea of creating the scorecard and this is one for that. if my symptoms were caused by near point stress then this makes absolutely no sense. in a weeks time i worked only 2 days on the computer and had symptoms just as bad as if i had worked the full week. during vacation my symptoms are higher than when i come back to work. this correlates with the last time i took a vacation and i thought i was getting away from the stress and stuff but ended up having the same symptoms.

    so the pulling sensation happens regardless if im working on the computer, reading a book, or out on the lake or at a hotel in the pool. there isn't a cause and effect relationship here where i spend this many hours on the computer and get this pain level. it seems completely random from a physical point of view but does increase with stress level for sure especially during social situations where i dont feel comfortable. this would explain why the eye doctor couldn't tell me why i had the pulling sensation when i wasn't doing any near work and was on vacation. he tried to say that it was because my eyes were locked into nearpoint space but that obviously isn't the case here.

    the fact remains that only working 2 days in the last 7 my pain levels should have been way down and i shouldn't have been suffering like that but during the wedding and on the vacation i found myself almost completely obsessed with thinking about my eye symptoms.
  14. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dabatross, I've read about this more than once, the most recently was just today in Chapter 1 of The Great Pain Deception. Steve Ozanich says that one common occurrence of TMS symptoms is AFTER a period of stress rather than during it. I also remember being told years ago that it was very common for people to wake up with a headache on Saturday morning, after being headache-free during the work week.

    A few days ago you posted this:
    Steve O says that you've got to believe 100% that your symptoms are TMS, that they are harmless, and that their only purpose is to distract you from dangerous emotions. (This assumes, as always, that you have been medically cleared of having a pathological condition.) This belief is essential, but your brain is really good at creating doubt, because it does not want you to feel what's going on emotionally, it's much safer to be physically distracted. Steve uses the term repression, which resonates with me. You've got to access the repressed emotions so that the brain loses its purpose in continuing to distract you from them.

    Self-talk IS helpful, particularly to reduce anxiety and perhaps allow you to have a different relationship with your symptoms, but it can only take you so far. The ultimate goal is to uncover the repressed emotions so that they lose their power, and the brain has no more reason to hide them from you.

    Steve does a good job hammering this concept home, and it's only Chapter 1!

  15. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    Hi Jan,

    do you know why this happens? i dont understand why the pain would get worse after the period of stress instead of during it. i tend to get both actually. for instance you would think that on vacation you would have less stress but ive found that symptoms can actually get worse on vacations. thats really strange that somebody would have nothing during the week and then on the weekend the pain comes in.

    As far as pathological condition, what do you mean by that? I think most of us on here got a bunch of different diagnosis for the cause of our pain before we arrived at TMS so I've gotten told that farsightedness/astigatism caused the pain, then it was my eyes didn't work together correctly, and lastly it was convergence insufficiency where my eyes dont perceive space properly. So i wasn't medically cleared of having a condition but I'm pretty positive this is caused by TMS and not by convergence insufficiency since I did everything the doctor said to do and it didn't help at all. Not to mention that my symptoms don't always correlate with what CI is. People with CI have problems with eyes working together up close so it can cause the pulling sensation and stuff but I get the same eyestrain/pulling sensation even if I'm looking in the distance and not doing anything up close.

    I think it was when I reading a lot about the "pulling sensation" that I started experiencing way more. This was midway during vision therapy that I was looking stuff up on google a ton and was searching around for "convergence insufficiency pulling sensation" a lot. This I believe was also the time where I started experiencing this sensation all day long instead of just when I was doing near work. I know there are psychological factors here and I accept the diagnosis Im just confused on how to approach it I guess to alleviate the problem.
  16. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    in other words i think i conditioned myself to have the pulling sensation in a particular part of my eyes, the inner parts near the nose, because of what I was told by the eye doctor, the stuff I read, etc.
  17. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dabatross, you're on the right track - that's what our brains do to fool us, we get conditioned to expect certain symptoms. I struggle regularly with dizziness, but it comes and goes.

    There are so many different ways to approach this. First, have you done the Structured Ed Program on the wiki? That particular resource not only gets you started on the emotional work, it also exposes you to all kinds of resources. Monty Hueftle, for example, who tells us to "Think Clean", which is his take on Dr. Sarno's mantra: "Think Psychological, not Physical".

    You might start listening to Dr. Peter Zafirides who often posts here when he has a new podcast. I just listened to one today which was really powerful, and maybe it will help you to understand what is going on in your psyche:
    He has many podcasts and many articles on lots of different subjects that relate to mind-body disorders, so be sure to check out the whole library. It's like having a little personal mini-session with a psychiatrist, although you have to do your own work and ask yourself your own questions :^)

    The reason for symptoms AFTER the stress? If it's TMS, the answer is simple - you're distracted during the week by your responsibilities and activities, so the brain doesn't need to create more distraction, because you don't have time to think about dangerous emotional feelings. As soon as you're in danger of relaxing and perhaps letting those emotions come to the surface, the brain steps in and distracts you with your symptom.

    Steve Ozanich, in The Great Pain Deception lists four different ways in which people experience their TMS symptoms. This type, where they occur during times of relaxation, is just one of those ways.

    Which is why there is no one answer for everyone, because we are all different - although the general theory applies to every human being who ever existed.

  18. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

  19. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    hi jan thanks for the feedback. i just bought the great pain deception and reading it now. so far its a good book. i also relistened to that podcast from dr. zafirides on anxiety too. something interesting i noticed today is that the glasses that were prescribed to me have a conditioning effect too i believe. they are very low power glasses (+.37 sphere) so they shouldn't make my eye strain any worse. however when i was going through vision therapy i started thinking maybe the glasses were causing more harm than good even though the doctor repeatedly said they would help me. so i started worrying about them and now when i put them on in the back of my mind im questioning "are these helping or hurting me?" which of course i know is conditioned. another example of conditioning i need to break. the reason i bring this up is because i was still on the RSS feed for the vision therapy center and i saw this article about the doctor i went to see prescribing the same type of glasses for himself as he did for me for computer eye strain. of course when he used his glasses though it got rid of his fatigue completely which further proves the psychological issue going on with me. the link is here:


    During the vision therapy i was getting scared because i wasn't getting results, was putting a lot of money into it, so i think i conditioned myself to start worrying about the treatments i was being prescribed too which essentially prevents something from helping at all if you constantly have the thought in your head that "this isn't going to work". if you think that initially theres a good chance it wont
  20. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well, D, you've got the blocks in place intellectually - what's it going to take to make the emotional commitment?

    It's sad, frustrating, and enraging how much money and time and effort we've all spent on therapies and treatments that did nothing for our conditions. But relief from TMS means that you get to walk away, let all of that go, and look forward to a very different future. But you do have to let go.

    The multitude of diagnoses you've received should really help convince you of the truth about this particular reality.

    I honestly think that Computer Vision Syndrome is yet another example of Tension Myositis Syndrome, and that like RSI (another condition blamed on computers) it only exists as long as the fear of it exists. Getting new glasses might indeed bring relief to someone with the right level of belief in the diagnosis, just like carpal tunnel surgery will bring relief from RSI for a while, but if that person actually has TMS, the CVS, like RSI, will either come back, or their TMS will exhibit as something else. Or, in your case, do nothing at all for the original symptoms.

    (ack, too many acronyms!)

    In reality, like Dr. Marc Sopher says, it just doesn't make sense - we are not that fragile, and our eyes are very resilient.

    I don't see how such low-power glasses can do any harm - or any good, for that matter. I have a story about that which might resonate with you: I was prescribed very low-power reading glasses (maybe .25) my senior year in high school, to help ease eye-strain, and they did help. But halfway through college another eye doc said to stop wearing them because they would make my eyes lazy - so I did stop wearing them and didn't experience any more eye strain - not until I really did need reading glasses in my late forties.

    So what does this tell us? It tells me that my original eye strain was really TMS (aka senior year stress). And that even though it was relieved by low-power glasses (a fun alternative distraction), the mere suggestion that using them was bad for my eyes was enough to allow my brain to give them up two years later without a problem.

    Dr. Sarno says we have to give up our "crutches", our special pillows and devices, our potions and meds, and all of our therapies, and replace them with a belief in the diagnosis, to which I would add: and a desire for a normal and active life. The question you have to ask yourself is - what's it going to take? You might start by repeating the mantra: "Think Psychological, Not Physical" and see what comes up.

    Pulling for you,

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