Happy Spring. Wishing you all well.
This is my first time posting. I'll start by asking my question, and then afterwards I'll write a little bit about my anxiety in general. That way, if you are interested in knowing more about my situation you can read on, or if not you can just skip it. :)
My question is about chest pains and sensations.
There is no doubt that I have some combination of panic, anxiety and obsessive/compulsive disorders, mixed in with a healthy dose of hypochondria (though I notice the preferred term is health anxiety?). Variations on the theme run through my whole family, pushing back at least as far as my grandmother. When it comes to symptoms, I've had many of the physical pains and mental distortions that I've read about so far.
When it comes to the world of anxiety I've largely faced it alone, with no one to talk to but my mother and two brothers, none of whom I've had very communicative relationship with in the past but I'm beginning to speak with more frequently now because I'm currently going through an anxiety flare up. Neither of my brothers get the chest pains that I do, and though I certainly read about chest pain as a very common symptom of panic disorder (I've read that 40% get them) it's never clear to me whether chest pains are seen as just symptoms of panic *attacks,* or if constant, chronic chest pains and weirdness is common to anxiety disorder as well. I wanted to talk to others with anxiety to see how common or uncommon my chest pains might be.
What I'm wondering is whether others ever have anything similar to my chest pains. So far I have accepted so most of symptoms to be anxiety, but the chest pains I still have health anxiety about and constantly worry that I am on the verge of a heart attack or that my lungs are slowly rotting.
The pains vary. I have a very common pain that feels as if I have been cut somewhere in the left side of my chest. Sometimes it feels like I have fiberglass scrapping inside my chest. Sometimes I get something throughout my upper torso that feels like halfway between a very strong tickle and being shocked by electricity. Sometimes it hurts while or just after eating.
My worry is that I now have these pains all throughout the day for most days of life, and I think it will be easier for me to accept them as anxiety if I know that they are not uncommon symptoms.
I realize the following will sound very familiar to everybody :) I'm 35 and male. My first panic attack struck at 19 and I had them with increasing frequency for about 8 or 9 years. For the last half of my 20s I was having 4 or 5 hour-or-so long attacks a day. Though I continually went to see doctors throughout this time it was never suggested by any of them that I was anything but ridiculously healthy. No one ever mentioned that I might have anxiety and panic disorder. Eventually I guessed for myself that anxiety must be the culprit, thanks to trolling the internet for answers, but never really understood much about it. At 28 or 29, for reasons I do not understand, most of my symptoms went away. The last seven years I have been basically anxiety and panic free. I moved to the U.S., wrote my PhD, became quite fit and athletic (soccer and/or the gym five or six times a week) and even took multiple plane trips (a huge phobia of mine) without ever really slipping back into panic mode. Then last summer the anxiety/panic returned with a vengeance, with strange and intense symptoms the likes of which I have not known before, spurring on two trips to the ER in fear for my life. Symptoms that were familiar to me from my 20s include: debilitating panic attacks, constant fear of being poisoned by my food, fear of a heart attack, general excessive vigilance in regards to my surroundings. Symptoms that are new to me: hours-long bouts of dizziness/lightheadedness, very physical and sometimes excruciating chest pains, pains in the left arm, heart palpitations that seem to be on one week and off the next, fear of leaving the house, fear of specific places, strange electric feelings throughout my torso and arms, back pain, depersonalization and unreality feelings, etc. Sadly, I have not been able to exercise for more than half year now. I am now officially *unfit,* and the more unfit I become the more my body hurts.
Having spend thousands of dollars (which of course I don't have. Who does!?) on doctors and tests over the last seven or eight months the consistent verdict from the doctors has been that other than anxiety disorder (which they diagnosed this time) I am perfectly healthy. They've worked over my heart with an Echo, they've x-rayed my chest, they've Echoed all my internal organs and they've stuck a scope down my gullet. Everything they've looked at, they tell me, is in perfect working order. No signs of GERD (even though my father has a terrible case of it.) I have been working with a cognitive behavioural therapist for months now, listening to anxiety gurus like Claire Weeks, and trying to be patient with my symptoms. I do not take any drugs for it. (They were perscribed, but I said no.) Generally my progress over the past year has been very good. This time 4 months ago I was 4 times the wreck I am today.
Again, I suspect this all sounds very familiar to everybody. One thing I do have to note is that luckily - and thank God for it - I do not have depression. The symptoms and the way they've led me to shrink into a hole and rot on the vine certainly frustrates me deeply, but thankfully I don't have to battle the added weight of general depression. To everyone on this forum who does have to deal with depression you have my deepest sympathies and respect for how brave and strong you must be for managing it on a daily basis.
Anyway, my apologies for the long post. I look forward to hearing your thoughts regarding my question on chest pains.