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Health anxiety vs TMS

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by jula, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. jula

    jula Peer Supporter

    Ok, so some time ago I wrote I scared myself into being poisoned by an antibiotic, and I developed pain all over my body as a result of anxiety I guess. I also developed nerve pain and tingling in my left hand and leg because I scared myself into toxic neuropathy. I have been examined by many doctors, had many negative tests and some docs only mentioned a pinched nerve (which I know is TMS), some mentioned fibromyalgia (still TMS). Then I scared myself into MS (still getting checked because I had something in my MRI but one doc said there is nothing to worry about because many people have something like this since birth and I had the same changes 7 years ago in my first MRI). All this craziness because of googling (at least I think so). If I scared myself into another illness I wouldn’t probably have developed the symptoms I did but different ones. I had to start taking anti anxiety meds because I was so scared and I kept scanning my body and googling and I was anxious all the time, 24/7. I still am a bit scared. This was the time when I realised I suffer from health anxiety disorder and have suffered from it ever since I developed GERD 7 years ago. I never knew it! At one point my health anxiety was replaced by OCD but as soon as I managed to get it under control, health anxiety came back. All I did was googling and not living my life in search of a cure for my terrible illness (horrible stomach problems without any visible changes). I would wake up, get angry/depressed I felt bad and start my day by reading health forums and FB groups. Stewing in my misery. Reading posts of others all the time. Not working, not relaxing, not doing anything productive or fun. My stomach problems mimicked LPR, gastroparesis, bile reflux, ulcers and extreme GERD when in reality it’s not that bad. The only thing I have is mild GERD. Now the stomach problems are better because I focus on body pain and tingling. Not perfect but the best I have felt in a year.
    When it comes to my symptoms they are almost constant (nerve issues) or come in bouts (pain). They improved for 20 minutes after a massage so I think it’s a proof that oxygen deprivation is the problem - muscles were less tense for a moment and the symptoms eased but I was still stressed so they quickly came back.
    What is the connection between health anxiety and TMS? Is it what keeps the vicious circle on? It’s like my stomach problems were brought on by everyday stress, I started looking for solutions online instead of focusing on my emotions but other issues were brought on by getting scared of falling ill not by any specific emotions but extreme fear of being sick. Shall I still treat it as TMS? I think anxiety can treated in a similar way as TMS, am I right? Anyone with a similar story or with health anxiety?
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
    linnyc87, eskimoeskimo and TrustIt like this.
  2. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I’m in the same boat. 13 years of health anxiety has manifested in a million different ways. I’ve worked myself into a panic about every possible ailment, and have had dozens of unexplained symptoms. Of course, I’m always worried that my neck pain (my primary fixation) is something else, something “real.” My opinion is that hypochondriasis isn’t well categorized in the DSM, but that it’s basically a form of OCD. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I bet you engage in a lot of reassurance seeking about your health fears - doctor visits, internet research, redundant imaging studies, blood tests, ask friends and family, spend time on forums, tell yourself you’re okay, second and third opinions, etc. Reassurance seeking is, I think, the sine qua non of OCD. Also, the fact that some of your stuff fades as you get focused on another is a sign of OCD, health anxiety, and TMS. Actually you mentioned that the OCD faded as you got more worried about something else, but alternatively ... maybe a way to think about this is that it’s all OCD / health anxiety and that the “primary fixation” changes around.

    Now I’m still struggling to figure out if this is just the same as “TMS.” I know a lot of people on here will confidently say these are all equivalents. Me, I’m not sure. For example, I think a lot of the strategies which TMS folks recommend are - in my opinion - very much contraindicated for OCD; I’m thinking here of journaling, affirmations, rereading self help books, self reassurance, somatic tracking.

    I think it’s interesting that a lot of TMS experts seem to be more and more recommending the “live your life regardless of what the symptoms are doing” strategy instead of the above strategies ... which would make a lot of sense if TMS is essentially a health anxiety obsessive type disorder. This is essentially a pretty mainstream bio-psycho-social behavioral approach. I sometimes wonder if the TMS community is just taking the long, scenic route to mainstream behaviorism.

    So that’s where I’m at. Still struggling in a similar boat. I hope this is helpful, rather than head-spinning. Hopefully others will chime in.
    linnyc87 likes this.
  3. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I recommend taking a look at some of Ali Greymond’s videos on YouTube to see if they resonate. She treats OCD, but I’ve spoken to her personally and I know she views what we would call “TMS” as just “sensorimotor OCD.” Just to be clear, I think this all gels with TMS, just from a slightly different angle.

    https://www.youtube.com/user/YOUHAVEOCD (ALI GREYMOND / YOUHAVEOCD)
  4. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I’ve been relying on him a lot, but I think @Dorado would have something to say here
  5. jula

    jula Peer Supporter

    Yes, I have typical heath anxiety with compulsions and obsessions. I think about my pain all the time. I am really angry with myself that I gave myself such horrible symptoms because of expecting them. I developed one stupid symptom which went away after a day but I already started googling, found myself on a website full of people who experienced side effects of a drug, I became extremely sensitive and attentive to the slightest sign of the alleged toxicity (it’s all about painful tendons) and started touching my tendons expecting pain and the pain came and spread all over my body - tendons, joints, muscles. Then the pain went away (when they told me I didn’t have any damage in my body), then it came back because I got scared again, then went away, then came back and it’s like that now. I had ultrasounds and of course there is no damage anywhere, my tendons look perfect. The only thing doctors mentioned is fibro.

    What I believe happened is that my brain became condtioned when I had the first anxiety attack 2 months ago - back then I thought that any movement will hurt me, so my brain started sending me pain signals in order for me not to move. But how to turn this around now... How to convince my brain that moving is safe? By moving I even mean holding my phone or putting my leg in a certain way when I am in bed. Some days I need tramadol as even my hands hurt - burning or dull pain that comes and goes of course, classic TMS. Sometimes it’s strongest in my left hand, sometimes right hand, sometimes legs. I do stuff because I know I won’t hurt myself (I won’t tear a tendon) but it just hurts. Pain from nothing.
    I am really really angry with what I did to myself because of stupid googling, which probably makes my pain worse.

    Thanks for reminding me of the YouTube channel, I know it and used to recover from my previous obsessions.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
    linnyc87 likes this.
  6. Havehope

    Havehope New Member

    I’m the same - have OCD and one health problem just replaces the next. I used to go to the doctors a lot! I like Robert Bray, he has lots of videos on You Tube and has really helped me a lot:

    TrustIt likes this.
  7. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    I don't have enough info. for context, but only certain classes of drugs are addictive (opiates and Benzos for example). Even in the case of drugs where a person's body becomes habituated, that does not mean they can't get off of them and it doesn't mean one is permanently damaged. I'm sensing a lot of anxiety and catastrophising in your question and I would caution you not to react to comments on a public message board. Just because someone writes something does not make it true or applicable to you. Millions of people take meds for mental illnesses but that does not necessarily lead to addiction because many classes of drugs are not addictive and are appropriate for their condition. If someone suffers from bipolar or schizophrenia, for example they may need to take a psychotropic drug to regulate themselves. My son has autism and is on a couple of psychotropic meds which help him to function much better. He's not "addicted" in any way.
    Sita likes this.
  8. birdsetfree

    birdsetfree Well known member

    I had health anxiety for two years. It ruled my life and hijacked my brain and I thought I was going to lose my mind and my life. It ended when I decided to let go of my control over my life. I decided to be prepared to die if that's what it took to live life normally again. To live life to the fullest instead of focusing on every strange sensation in my body. I decided to tolerate the fear that came up with the next bodily sensation, to not go to the Doctors for reassurance and tests and to face whatever happened. What happened was an almighty brain induced physical disarmament in the form of severe back pain for fifteen years. This could have been avoided had I known about the deep seated emotions I had been repressing for most of my life and how I had never had a safe place/person to confide in.

    Jula you are in that safe place now. You are here. Work through the process and you will recover.

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