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363281 tn?1590104173

Why is facing my fears making me worse?

I have read and been told that when we do things we are afraid of, (called exposure) our anxiety over that issue will gradually get better, well, I have been doing that for about two weeks or more and my anxiety and panic are now off the charts, I am getting completely worse instead of better.

Here is the story: Back in January, I had a very scary episode of vertigo in bed, it was awful, I even called 911, well, thankfully it wasn't a stroke. Anyway, the rest of the night I slept on the recliner because I was afraid of it happening again. I saw my GP the next day, she said it was probably an inner ear disorder and gave me a prescription for it, which did not help really. Then, she tested me for a brain tumor by doing all kinds of neuro checks on the office, all fine, I could stand with my eyes closed, walk in place, but I did move,that was weird. So, I was given the all clear and told it is all anxiety. Fast forward to now, I have been to the ER for it, my GP several times, a chiropractor, none help, in fact, I seem to be getting worse in some ways. I now feel like I am swaying most all the time, I don't spin anymore,but I get these awful head zaps, I can not bend down without feeling strange, can't bend over to wash my hair, taking a shower is miserable, the list goes on and on. All I am told is it is anxiety, in fact, the doctor as the ER sent me home saying it was health anxiety over my heart,etc, and to not come back but to see my GP. I am sitting her typing this feeling weird in my head, like there is cotton in it and again, swaying. I am so dang miserable.

I have been offered SSRI's and other drugs, but no way will I take them, I have tried some and they all made me worse and I ended up in the ER from them.

So, now to my original question, I have been forcing myself to sleep in bed, I had been sleeping in the recliner until the last two weeks, but afraid to sleep in bed, well, at first, I wasn't too scared, but the more I do it, the scarder I am getting, it is giving me head zaps, feelings like I will get dizzy, and heart skips.  I thought all this would get better once I faced my fear, but it isn't. I feel hopeless, I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life.

I am 62 by the way.
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Avatar universal
The first question to ask yourself is, were you thinking anxious thoughts obsessively before this event in bed happened?  Anxious people think anxious thoughts on a chronic basis to the point those thoughts crowd out other thoughts and take over.  If you weren't doing that, you didn't have an anxiety disorder.  If all your fear is because of this actually scary thing that is happening to you, that's not an anxiety disorder either, that's fear of something that is actually happening, more like stress.  Now, you do say you have taken SSRIs in the past and that suggests you have had some sort of mental problem, but again, if you weren't having that problem when this happened it isn't anxiety.  You don't mention whether you were having anxiety problems before this happened, and it's the first question you need to ask.  Those of us who have anxiety problems get things like anxiety attacks and obsess over ordinary things that aren't actually scary to us -- it's irrational, which is why it's an illness.  And it's chronic, getting in the way of our lives.  As for facing fears making them go away, if this is a physiological problem that docs haven't found yet, which means you need better docs, you aren't going to make it go away that way.  But even with anxiety, CBT, which is what you're trying to do to yourself, isn't easy.  It takes time and in fact you are supposed to have problems at first and work your way through them anyway, which is how you retrain your brain not to be afraid. And it doesn't work all the time.  For some it does and for others it doesn't.  It never worked for me, though I would still suggest anyone with anxiety give it several tries before giving up on it.  Having a therapist probably makes it more likely to work.  But assuming this is an anxiety problem it will take longer to work.  And you have to recognize how you're thinking for it to work and do relaxation techniques to help you do it.  Given all you're saying, the only thing that comes to my mind is what some people suffer when they stop taking antidepressants or benzos and go through a withdrawal, but you're not doing that.  Also, the ER isn't the place to get treatment.  They will stabilize you, but for long-term treatment and diagnosis you have to follow up with docs in their offices.  I'm thinking if it's not your ears a neurologist might be the next place to go but I really can't know, I'm not a doctor.  Peace.
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1 Comments
Wait, I just realized, SassyLassie?  I remember you on this site.  I don't remember, but you've had a fair amount of health problems if I remember correctly.  Haven't heard from you in awhile.  
363281 tn?1590104173
Hi Paxil. Yes, I was having health issues in the past, but then got better. I have been having issues since I moved to New Zealand from the states about 7 years ago. I got married, moved, and have been homesick off and on since. Plus, a couple of years ago, my husband got bowel cancer,had to have part of his colon removed, and was in the hospital for 85 days, for awhile, we thought he would not make it, but he pulled through, no more sign of cancer, and is doing fair. He was in the hospital again last December for complications with the stoma.  So, life has not been the calmest.

Our health care system is such that if you go government funded, your referrals and doctor visits to the specialist and all procedures are free, but, if the main GP doesn't think it is necessary, he won't refer you and you have to go private which means high fees. So,most of us here go public whenever we can. We didn't pay a penny for all of Steve's health care for cancer, even our stay at this lovely lodge owned by the cancer society, was paid for, we were there for almost two month out of town while he underwent Radiation therapy. With my issues, however, such a worrying about my heart health, the doctor doesn't think I need to wear a monitor or see specialists, so, I would have to go "private" well,we can not afford it, so, yes, I do worry, the last time I wore the heart monitor was 10 years ago back home in the states. I feel like they are playing Russian roulette with my health, try as I might and beg,no GP will agree that I need a specialist, so, there you are, same with the dizziness.

In answer to your question, was I thinking anxious thoughts before this happened, well, probably, so, I am always worried about Steve's health, if he were to die, I would be on the streets, no way could I afford to live here, prices are so high, but, I could also not afford to return home. I have a lot on my plate as they say, so I am very seldom calm,but I work at it through prayers, etc.

I think a lot of my fear is due to the feelings that I think will happen if I do certain things, being dizzy really sucks.

Yes, I was on SSRI's for a very short time many years ago when my dear mother was having heart issues, but, they only made me worse, so now, all doctors just tell  me to go out, take a walk, or do things I enjoy.

I have trouble with anxiety off and one since my 20's, but it usually gets lots of better on its own.
Helpful - 0
4 Comments
Then I have to assume your problems aren't a chronic anxiety problem.  It could be stress, given what you've just said, but that's a lot different from folks like me who are irrationally terrified much of the time, which is what a real anxiety disorder is.  Everyone has times when they're scared, and you've had reasons for it.  It isn't irrational.  And it doesn't appear to be chronic.  That being said, again, a temporary problem can still make life miserable.  Therapy might help.  For this kind of help you don't even need a good therapist, just someone to talk to and work with and be reassured by.  Vertigo is common among those who suffer anxiety attacks so it's possible you had one, but if you were comfortable in bed and not thinking pretty badly anxiety provoking thoughts, again, those with anxiety who get physiological symptoms get them as a consequence of their anxious thinking and constant stress from that.  Your stress is from some real stuff.  Now, I can diagnose you, just describe what anxiety felt like for me when I got it compared to how I reacted when I didn't have it.  Even without an anxiety disorder there were times and things that made me nervous.  We all have that.  if your current GP doesn't meet your needs, are you allowed to choose another?  Are you allowed to get a second opinion?  And you say one doc told you it was inner ear and gave you medication, but what medication and for what?  Was it based on a specific diagnosis or just handing out the random antibiotic without you having a proven infection?  Can't say what you have, but some way I'd say you need to keep looking at it as a physiological problem until you've exhausted that avenue.  So again, fear because your husband is sick or you're sick isn't an anxiety disorder.  But if you can't calm down about it and it spirals out of control, it is.  Peace.
Sorry, said I can diagnose you. Meant can't.
Oh, and my point about facing your fears was that it takes some time before that works, if it will work.  Works for some, not for others.  It doesn't happen right away.  It takes some time for your thinking to change so you stop expecting to be anxious doing that thing.
I think what has happened is I have been under so much stress for the last few years that my nerves just can't handle it anymore, so, when I had that horrible vertigo spell January 22, it pushed me over the edge. I had had similar spells years ago, they scared me, but after a few hours, I was fine and able to get on with my life, but now, every little thing scares me, and this dizziness fear in particular has evolved into a full anxiety issue and is out of control.
Avatar universal
There are various causes of vertigo. Here are relevant articles which may be of benefit:
https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0201/p154.html
https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0815/p361.html
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Avatar universal
One of the most common causes of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which is caused by dislodged canaliths in the semicircular canals. This can be diagnosed by Dix-Hallpike maneuver and treated with Epley maneuver, as illustrated in the articles referenced above.
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2 Comments
Thank you. My doctor and chiropractor both said that was probably the cause, however, the Epley Manuver really didn't help and I had it done a few times. I am not spinning anymore when I lay down, but I do feel like I am moving or swaying off and on all day which is quite upsetting. The doctors are saying it is anxiety related and that I am expecting it to happen so I am more in tune to my body than most.
Still doesn't sound like anxiety to me, though it might be making it worse or more frequent.  Sounds like Miniere's Ear, which my Dad had, but I'm guessing they looked into that.
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