Severe health anxiety
Ok had the worst night of sleep since this nightmare began at my 6 mo diagnostic mammo a few weeks ago. My background is that I suffer from intense health anxiety and have a long history of panic attacks. I do not medicate because I have an intense fear of medications. (was once given pain meds after a c section and had the worst panic attack of my life)I felt calmer during the day after getting the confirming call from my pathology report. But the minute would drift off I would wake up in a panic feeling like I couldn’t breath. With health anxiety my fears manifest in bodily symptoms so every ache and pain is making my head spin off to cancer everywhere in my body. The path report really seems to show a very small and slow growing cancer but anxiety trumps logic in the moment. Lack of sleep, lack of enough fuel because I’m having trouble eating… and I feel like shit today. Making my anxiety worse and it’s a vicious cycle. I’m mostly venting but if any of you are suffering from anxiety what is helping(besides medication)? Sorry for this long whiney post!!
We're so sorry to hear you're suffering with this anxiety. It must be terribly debilitating.
We're sure others will be by shortly to weigh in with their thoughts, experience and advice. We're all here for you!
To help, there are some good tips on this page on Anxiety, under Managing Anxiety:
As well, a helpful podcast on Taking Care of Your Mental Health After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis:
We hope this helps and that you can find relief soon. Big hugs!
Anxiety is a beast. Do you have a therapist? That can be very helpful.
It sounds like your anxiety extends to fear of medications itself - that seems very important to address. With or without a cancer diagnosis, the older we get, the higher the chances we will need medication either on a short term or long term basis.
I have had helpful results from medication, but some non-medication things that have helped:
- creating a sleeping cocoon. For me, this isn't about my bedroom (which is basically my living room, I have a small studio). It's about a comfortable eye mask and comfortable ear plugs/white noise ear phones. These not only help me sleep better, they kind of send me to a different mode.
- treating my sleep disorder. I have UARS, which leads to multiple wake-ups so tiny that I was no aware of them, but which raised my anxiety, stress, and dreaming level, in sleep. The right dental appliance is making a huge difference. (Ie., if you haven't been tested for a sleep disorder, do get tested! There is a chance that what you experience as waking up not being able to breathe from anxiety is actually waking up not being able to breathe from other causes).
- dream/anxiety notebook. I should probably start this again. I kept it right next to my bed, and as soon as anxious thoughts woke up me and/or as soon as I woke up in the morning, I jotted down my dreams or whatever was on my mind. This helped a lot to get things out of my head and help my head quiet down.
- good hydration - electrolytes - not just water. For me this means a lot of salt, often magnesium, and varying levels of potassium. I often take a magnesium supplement (but if your medication anxiety extends to supplements, this can be done with food as well) before bed and add lite salt to water.
Take care! Mental health IS health.1
Thank you very much Mods and Salamandra for your helpful tips and advice! I really appreciate it and will check into them all!0
Salamandra, I noticed you received treatment at mskcc… I’m in New York(north of Albany). Thoughts on getting a second opinion at MSKCC? I haven't had my first consult locally yet. Any doctors there in particular that you recommend?0
Do you have a therapist? I highly recommend finding someone to provide ongoing support and techniques to address your health anxiety. You do not need to apologize for your anxiety as it is a health condition like any other, but it sounds debilitating. Please seek additional supports as you don’t have to suffer so severely and alone. And please continue seeking support here. There are some terrific people here too who get it.1
tb90 thank you. I do have a therapist and also an acupuncturist who I’ve been working with for years. It ebbs and flows depending on circumstances. My mom’s unexpected death 5 years ago triggered the health anxiety. Started easing up and the pandemic hit so it acted up again. Started getting that under control and now this! There was a small window of time recently where I was concerned about what to do with my life/time as nest emptied and life was slowing down so much. I wish I could have that worry back and yell at myself for not appreciating all that was right in life! I have a feeling the next year + are going to be very busy.0
@bsmiz We just published this Research News article you might also be interested in:
ASCO Updates Guidelines on Managing Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Survivors1
Re MSKCC - I have had a very positive experience. I did not really have a choice over my doctors - when I first set up the appointment, they just asked if I had a preference between a man or a woman. But I really liked my practitioners. I don't know it works for second opinions but I know they have a great reputation. I felt lucky that they are in network for my (often not so great) insurance. Are you local to NYC?0
Salamandra, no not local but just north of Albany so it could be doable. Thank you0
@bsmiz . I am sorry, I thought I removed my comment. I wanted to say that even when my doctor told me more or less the same -it is not agressive and small I only see the worst. I feel also everything now and I am also sure it is because it is spreading. I never went much to a doctor out of fear they would find something, only a mammo actually because of my mother who had breastcancer. So that they found now cancer the second mammo I had is for me so scary, I am afraid it is the beginning of more worse to come.
I wish I could help you with the fear … I did make an appointment with a therapist in the breast clinic. I am not sure this is possible for you? I am from Belgium.0
@bismiz just finished my post here above.0
@bismiz After the bad mammo on 28/04 I finally know what my steps will be. And it is true what is said when you know the steps it feels better. I feel like breathing again. The anxiety is really terrible and I hope when you yourself will know more it will also help. I am really thinking of you .0
@rusti glad you are breathing again! My anxiety comes and goes in waves… often a physical sensation will set it off and my mind automatically goes to “it’s spread all over”. My surgery is on June 2nd. I’m not nervous for the surgery, just the results of the pathology!0
good luck with the surgery. I am happy you can get it done So soon and hope all goes well 🙏.0
@bsmiz Good luck tomorrow . I hope all goes well !🤞0