Our physical selves... with anxiety
We all know anxiety is in our heads, it's in our thoughts right? While it's true worrying is a psychological phenomenon, anxiety can be very physical indeed. I have recently been given a mini extra diagnosis of Globus which (in my case) feels like my throat is closing up - fun!
Globus is caused by anxiety, but is a physical sensation for the most part, and not a nice feeling at all. This finding has led me to investigate the physical side effects of anxiety and what we can do about them.
So? Anxiety can be physical?
According to the NHS, ' Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect you both physically and mentally. ' In fact, the page has more physical symptoms listed than psychological ones!
a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
muscle aches and tension
trembling or shaking
shortness of breath
difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
Wow! And still some people think anxiety is just in the heads of those diagnosed.
The flip side
While those with anxiety struggle to get their mental health diagnosis taken as seriously as a physical one, there is an even more dangerous problem we face. Medical professionals might say 'it's just anxiety' that's causing a symptom. This can lead to lack of diagnosis and healthcare. On Twitter, I've been having a chat with someone whose ME was brushed off for ten years as 'just anxiety and depression' and, at times, treated like it was a choice she was making to stay in bed, when she couldn't get up. You can read her blog on being ignored by medical professionals here.
While this isn't easy at all, the best thing you can do is keep trying to find a doctor that listens to you. I find keeping a diary of symptoms helpful and doing these two things were vital in my fibromyalgia diagnosis. It's often luck of the draw with doctors and can take years to find the right one for you, I once had a doctor suggest I 'try and get less stressed'. I have nothing bad to say about my wonderful current doctor and I'm sure there are many like her around the world. That said, it is heartbreaking to hear of anyone who feels unsupported by those in medicine.
What we can do?
While anxiety (by nature) feels like it is out of our hands, there are some things we can try and use to lessen physical symptoms of anxiety. Here are things that have helped me. Please send in yours (tweet me / email me) and I'll add them!
Works for some, not for all. I take beta-blockers from time to time and they help when I'm feeling very panicked. They reduce my heart rate, tricking my body that I am less scared than I am.
Support and understanding
By far the best method I have found is to carefully construct a life featuring people you trust and people that want to be there for you. This has taken me a long time and there are often obstacles in the way of this for people. Try to spend as much time around people you love as you can.
I am awful at relaxing. It is something I struggle with immensely and don't think I'm the best person to ask for advice on this. The app 'Calm' is good and has taught me some basic meditation.
Taking care of yourself
Getting enough sleep, eating enough of what you need, exercising if you are able... often quite a tall order for someone struggling. Even small improvements to this might show some good results.
Anxiety can be physical, remember to take care of all of you.
Until next time,