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How to resolve involuntary panic/fear arising from symptoms?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by introverted, Oct 13, 2015.

  1. introverted

    introverted Peer Supporter

    Hello all, I am 23 years old and I have been suffering from paresthesias and neuropathy-like symptoms 24/7 (tingling, buzzing, prickly, crawly, itchy, hot sparks, electricity, pins and needles, sharp/stabbing, vibrating) in both my feet for 16 months now, after some major traumatic experiences occurred in my life last summer. I initially came across TMS last year but I decided not to go through with the treatment protocol because I was already working with another therapy group to manage my anxiety. Long story short, I have received a full work-up from numerous physicians and specialists and I don't have any tissue or structural damage. All my symptoms are due to stress/anxiety, the doctors say.

    There was a time earlier this year, for a period of a few months, when I learned to contain my fears of my symptoms and I could go about my days without responding to my symptoms with fear. During these months I did fairly well, and I didn't have any panic attacks for a while.

    However, starting in Aug. 2015, I began to have severe panic attacks again and I quickly spiraled downward into severe anxiety and depression regarding my symptoms, as I was frustrated that they were not improving. Truthfully, I have had many stressors in my life during the past 16 months which I believe have hindered my recovery.

    My struggle right now is that even after 16 months, I am still afraid of my symptoms. I believe 100% that I have TMS and that I do not have any actual nerve damage or other disease, but still my symptoms feel so bad that they scare me. Often when my feet flare up, I will have an involuntary panic attack. I don't even have time to employ my strategies before I start to panic -- the panic immediately follows the symptoms.

    How does one overcome fear of the symptoms? What has worked for you? I am afraid of how bad the symptoms feel, and what they mean for my future... (I could continue to rant but will stop here). Any advice is greatly appreciated.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Intro, and welcome to the forum. Most of us here suffer or have suffered from anxiety and all levels of depression. Four years ago I was afraid that anxiety, growing depression, and worsening physical and neuro symptoms would make me housebound, but that completely turned around, thanks to reading The Divided Mind, (by Dr. Sarno) followed by Help & Hope For Your Nerves, by Claire Weekes, followed by doing our educational program and joining this forum! I had tried counseling and anxiety workbooks, but it was TMS knowledge and Dr. Weekes that helped me banish my anxiety for good.

    My anxiety, even having had it all my life (60 years at that point) was less severe than yours, but you too can recover from this debilitating condition.

    The first thing you need to know is that Dr. Sarno and most other mind-body practitioners now consider anxiety and depression to be what Dr. Sarno calls "TMS Equivalents" along with all of the neuro symptoms you have described, plus fibro, CFS, migraines, and IBS. It's all TMS!

    In other words, anxiety is just another symptom that your brain uses to distract you while it represses the deeper darker emotions that it thinks are too dangerous for you to acknowledge and accept. Ironic, isn't it? The problem is that this mechanism of repression is very primitive, and it's never been "updated" by our brains to account for modern society. It worked to help us stay alert in dangerous primitive times, when we didn't have to live very long in order to breed the next generation. At 23, you'd be close to having outlived your usefulness in primitive times, and you would be too busy trying to survive to actually have very severe TMS symptoms! Survival issues are really good distractions.

    I assume that you've learned about the role of the fight-or-flight mechanism in your anxiety? What you're doing is engaging FOF not just too much, but pretty much constantly. Your brain has become conditioned to engage it instantly, at the slightest flutter of fear. Your goal is to recognize the reaction, counter it, and calm it down.

    If you've heard the term "mindfulness" going around lately, what I just described is actually a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness just means tuning in to the self-talk in your brain, which is typically obsessive or negative - or both. Once you tune in to that chatter, you can work on turning it off. This gets easier with time, and what we've been learning recently is that you don't need to meditate for long periods of time or take intensive classes in order to start practicing and getting benefits from mindfulness. If you look at any of the recent threads with Mindfulness in the title, you'll get all kinds of suggestions for free resources, including the current Mindfulness Summit.

    The other thing you'll want to do is start working on your negative repressed emotions so you can bring them into awareness and let your brain see that you can survive experiencing them. In addition to reading one of Dr. Sarno's books to understand the mechanism of repression (which was well-studied by Freud) you can work one of the free programs that we have on the wiki - either the Structured Educational Program or Alan Gordon's TMS Recovery Program.

    I hope this helps to get you started! Read Success Stories to get inspired! And let us know how it's going, okay?
  3. introverted

    introverted Peer Supporter

    Jan, thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words. I have found it very difficult to counter my fear and my thoughts about my symptoms when they arise. It's like, I'll get the flare-up in my feet, and my automatic response is to fear and panic. I try to disengage the thoughts about my symptoms as best as I can, "passively accept" them, so to say, but I still have a real hard time doing this. It's discouraging because I've had these symptoms for 16 months, and by now you'd think that I should have very well mastered how to contain my fears about the symptoms.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, introverted. Jan gave you good advice and I echo it. Those two programs she suggested have helped me and many others.

    Mindfulness, living in the present, is a wonderful technique for healing and generally feeling better.
    One practitioner said: "Your calm self always remains in the present moment."
  5. Laughalot

    Laughalot Peer Supporter

    Hey introverted,

    When I first worked to recover from my TMS-induced back pain and depression, I used anger as a vehicle for overcoming the pain. A lot of my pain was rooted in fear, which is really disempowering. Anger on the other hand is a very empowering emotion (there's a negative side to anger of course, but it can feel empowering). It sounds like you're symptoms are very rooted in fear and that a healthy dose of anger might help? I would actually jump up and down screaming at the top of my lungs, swearing, waving my fists. "You're not real, Pain!" "Mr. Pain, you suck!" That kind of thing. It was a lot of fun, actually :p And I always felt really good afterward!

    I don't know if it will help you, but it's worth a shot!
  6. FredAmir

    FredAmir Well known member

    Hi Introverted,

    All the advice here is good. Laughalot is right on the money with the anger approach. You need fight fire with fire here. You need fight emotion with emotion here. That's one of the strategies I used for my rapid recovery from the same symptoms you have and a few more. You can read about in Rapid Recovery from Back and Neck Pain. You can also join us tomorrow at 9am PST for a free workshop for additional strategies.

    What you are experiencing is not uncommon. I had a client whose fear of pain had forced him into a wheelchair. It took some work to help him overcome his fear. Now he hikes, goes to the gym, and is back to work full time. Fear can be incapacitating but how can fear stop you when you feel unstoppable?
  7. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Fred, I've read alot to the contrary, with regards to the anger approach. Whilst it may work for some it certainly doesn't work for all. I read that we must be gentle with our inner child, feed it with warmth, love, compassion, forgiveness, show it we are "safe".

    If our fight or flight thinks we are constantly under attack by external stimuli and we are adding anger to the mix, I think we are weakening our fight or flight and immune system further.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  8. FredAmir

    FredAmir Well known member

    Hi Mike,
    Can you always let a child do whatever he/she wants to do?

    If a two year old insists on running across the street, what do you do?

    If a child is throwing a temper tantrum, what do you do?

    If a child is playing nicely with other kids, what do you do?

    Each situation requires a different approach. And that's what I emphasize in my book and approach.

    If despite being nice, loving, and caring a child insists on running across the street, and is in serious danger, you have get serious. If despite all the loving and caring your inner child is not willing to give up the pain, then you have to try something else.

    You are the adult. A child needs and expects adults to set boundaries in order to feel secure and loved.
  9. Laughalot

    Laughalot Peer Supporter

    Regarding anger and whether it's appropriate:

    I think it all depends on where the anger is directed, and for how long the anger lasts.

    When I used to get mad at my autonomic nervous system, I wasn't getting mad at myself. With TMS, I haven't doing something wrong, it's the action of my neurology that I'm frustrated with.

    If the person is suffering from severe TMS, then we can agree there are unexpressed emotions. And if the person in question feels wound up with fear and unexpressed in anger, then it's possible they need a release/acceptance of that anger.

    I agree Mike that anger won't be the right method for everyone to resolve TMS. Maybe it will depend on how and in connection to the specific emotion they're TMS is manifesting?
  10. introverted

    introverted Peer Supporter

    Thank you all for your input. For a while now I have allowed my symptoms to scare me, and instead of standing up for myself I have laid down and allowed myself to be overtaken by the fear. I have been employing a form of "anger" by standing up to my brain when it tries to scare me with my symptoms. This has allowed me to regain some sense of control over my reactivity to my symptoms. However, I need to be wary of using the "anger" in a healthy way, as has been acknowledged in this thread. The thing I absolutely don't want to do is allow my anger to be an additional source of stress for an already stressed-out mind and body, as this would only exacerbate the symptoms. I am learning how to use "anger" -- or, a better way to put it, I think, is the mental fortitude to confidently confront my brain when it tries to trick me into fear and panic -- whenever my symptoms really flare-up. I am also doing regular relaxation strategies and trying to reduce stress as much as possible. The most important thing for me right now is to try to contain my reactivity to my symptoms. Instead of raging against them and having fearful thoughts about them, I am trying my best to learn to passively accept them, so that they eventually lose their grip on me.
    Laughalot likes this.
  11. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Love this. Very constructive, as opposed to anger, which can be too easily unregulated.
  12. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm with Mike on this. I have never seen anger helped anyone in my life. Your "inner child" need help, need guidance, need compassion, need love... not anger or any other negative responds from you. We can be firm but not anger. Using anger toward your inner child may make him stay quiet at the moment, but he is holding and repressing his anger toward you. You will be in trouble when he release his anger. :)
    The Buddha said: "Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
    Zumbafan, mike2014 and JanAtheCPA like this.
  13. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Personally, I don't think it adds any value to get angry.

    I'd like to echo Balto. Even if one gets angry with their inner child and finds temporary relief, one may believe ah ha, i'm onto something and keep using this method. While all the while the inner conflict/rage is being pushed down further in the unconconcious mind. Over time this may manifest into something more serious as one has ignored their inner child and it has become furious.

    I also read somewhere that some psychologist believe depression is anger turned inwards.

    I believe it's more important to tune in to your inner child, find out what's bothering him or her and provide the warmth, love and security needed from a good parent.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2015
    Simplicity and Zumbafan like this.
  14. FredAmir

    FredAmir Well known member

    If you try an approach over and over and it is not giving the results you want, then it makes sense to try something else.

    Just stay flexible and see what gives you the results you want for this and for other issues in your life.

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