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Is this really just anxiety?


I'm not real sure where to post this question. Since I've been told by my doctor that all I have is anxiety I guess this is the best place.

For almost 2 years now I have been dealing with what I have been told is anxiety. I'm 30 years old, married and have 2 boys. During the birth of my second son almost 2 years ago I had a panic attack at the hospital before his delivery which sent me to the ER. Really was embarrassing. My reasoning for why this happened is because I didn't eat anything that morning, and ultimately started to become weak and light headed. This has happened many times before so my solution was to grab a muffin and a cup of coffee from the cafeteria. Bad idea. I ended up crashing from this which made me feel even more weak, light headed and nauseous. Then add in the current situation and the fact that I was already nervous. BAM, panic attack. From here I went in a downwards spiral. I never had a panic attack before this. I've had anxiety issues before, like speaking in front of large groups or seeing my own blood (which sometimes sends me into shock). But these have never been a real problem as they seldom ever happen. Also during the birth of my first son I had no issues and was able to be there for my wife. However, after this panic attack it was recommended that I see my doctor. Now is when things start to get worse.

After my first doctors visit I was immediately told that I have an anxiety issue and should try out a medication. Which I did because I was still feeling very anxious. The first medication I started with was citalopram. After only about a week or so I noticed I was feeling about the same but I was always hungry, yet I had no appetite. So my doctor recommended I try out another medication called sertraline. After only a couple days of this I started feeling nauseous, dizzy, fatigued, and occasionally had headaches. I also had bouts of diarrhea. Talked to my doctor again and he said these were just side affects from the medicine and they would eventually wear off. So I stuck with it for several months only to have the symptoms get more severe. Once again my doctor recommended that I try another medicine. This time, escitalopram. After another couple weeks nothing got better. I still felt awful to the point where I didn't want to get out of bed. This was really starting to effect not only myself, but my wife and kids. As I became pretty much useless when I felt bad. So I talked with my doctor again and it was ultimately decided that I should revert back to the first medication I was put on, citalopram, as the side effects from this weren't all that bad. However I decided I didn't want to be on the medicine anymore as it wasn't helping. So after weaning off and months of no medicine I continued to feel these so called side effects. Talked to my doctor and it was mentioned I could be dealing with withdrawal symptoms, although unlikely as I wasn't on the medicine for that long. So it was decided that I start back up citalopram, which I did. After about 8 months of being on this I still felt the same. Daily I would feel several if not all of these symptoms. Nauseous, fatigued, dizzy, brain fog, gas (belching a lot), indigestion, stomach cramps, occasional loose bowels, headache, numbness or tingling in my hands and feet, brain zaps, and very irritable. And of course with all of this I now can confirm I have anxiety, as I worry non stop about how I'm going to feel day to day. Also the stomach bug went through my household and now I have an intense fear of vomiting. So whenever I feel all of these symptoms I immediately think I'm getting the stomach bug again. I then panic making the symptoms much worse and becoming a vicious cycle. Now it was decided between this 8 month period that I have several tests done to rule out other possibilities. Like, hypoglycemia, thyroid issues, and others I cant remember. All of which came back negative. I just keep getting told its anxiety and everything else is okay.

Several months ago I decided to see a different doctor. He recommend that I stop taking the citalopram and see if I start feeling better without it. He also had me tested for celiacs disease through blood work and had me do a flouroscopy and a C/T scan just to rule out any other possible things going on internally. Everything came back negative and I was told all of my organs are healthy and functioning correctly. I have also decided to try a gluten free diet and haven't eaten any gluten for over almost 2 weeks. Although after the second day of going gluten free I felt worse than ever for a couple days. But I still am having the same symptoms. So here I am, almost 2 years later still feeling awful. My wife has lost her patience with me and I'm losing touch with my kids. I tried seeing a psychologist where they said I have depression and recommended that I start up medication again. I decided against this as it seems all of this medicine has done was make me feel worse.

With all of this said. I only ask if anyone out there has dealt with something similar. Or maybe someone may have some other recommendations or answers. I'm starting to lose hope that I will ever feel normal again.

Thanks in advance.
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Avatar universal
First of all, it takes 4-6 weeks for most people to feel the beneficial effects of antidepressants.  Side effects, unfortunately, start right away.  It also sounds like you've been doing this with regular docs instead of psychiatrists -- regular docs don't study much pharmacology, so they know very little about the drugs they administer, while psychiatrists get to be psychiatrists mostly by studying drugs used to treat mental illness.  So if drugs are the answer, you're seeing the wrong kind of professional.  I'm also disappointed your doctors didn't rule out all physiological causes before starting you on medication.  Medication changes the brain, and some people have a hard time going back to functioning normally again without it.  You might be one of those people, whereas the first attack you mention seems to be connected to the stress of your impending parenthood and a blood sugar problem, probably compounded by a lack of sleep.  What happens to some of us is, because our brains are more prone to feeling anxious, when we don't get a good explanation of what happened the first time, we expect to get the same reaction again.  This type of thinking leads to chronic anxiety, which it seems you now have.  The two ways to deal with that medically is the one you've mostly tried, medication, which is trial and error and requires you to stick it out and see if a drug will work or not and requires a dosage that is the right one for you.  Sometimes it requires a combination of meds.  Meds don't cure the problem, however, they only tamp down the symptoms, and if you don't have an anxiety problem in the first place but something physiological going on, they won't do much for you, though now you do have the tests done but by the time you did you had developed chronic anxiety.  The second way is seeing a psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety, usually with a technique called CBT.   This is hard to do, but when it works, you don't have the problem anymore.  All meds have some kinds of side effects, but they differ by the med and the individual.  When they work really well the side effects are obviously easier to deal with than when they don't.  You've only really tried two meds, and I think you were put into withdrawal probably from the Zoloft (sertraline).  Most regular docs don't know how to do a proper taper, and the fact you have brain zaps is a telltale sign of withdrawal.  I wish I could tell you what to do, but I hope at least I've helped you see what's happened as I see it and as I've gone through it.  But I'd definitely give psychology a try, and give it some time.  As for meds, there a lot of them -- you've hardly scratched the surface -- but if you go that route again, see a psychiatrist.
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