Physical versus Psychological Anxiety

One symptom that I had, long before my official diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy (but coinciding with the beginning of the “parethesias” I felt), was the constant feeling of being “on edge”. It would feel like adrenaline was flowing from within my body, for no apparent reason.   This symptom came out of the blue, after my first panic attack (along with the symptoms of SFN) back in 2014, and would manifest regularly – without explanation.

This had been lumped in as part of having an anxiety disorder, with psychological underpinnings at its root.  Yet, it always mystified me why this was happening, as it was not something I had felt before. I can now see clearly that this particular symptom I was feeling was a physical process happening within me, and had little, if anything to do with psychology…but it had (has) everything to do with basic physiology.

My worst periods of SFN sensations come at night. I’ve noticed more recently, that sometimes when I am awaken by the pains at night, I can feel this adrenaline flow through my body at the same time.   It is as though my body has its own innate intelligence, and knows to release adrenaline when it’s being attacked, even if I am not consciously aware of what is occurring.   And so, whatever it is that is attacking my nerves (likely, the immune system gone amuk), my body has its way of conveying anxiousness – an alarm siren, well before I knew about SFN, and well before the symptoms progressed to its current point.   Today, I can often feel the physical sensations coincide with this adrenaline flow.

I feel it is very important to write about this, because too frequently misdiagnosis occur because the idea of a physical underpinning to what is happening in the body is discounted. Often, during the couple years prior to my diagnosis, I’d have Doctors discount a physical problem within a few minutes of speaking with me. Yet, it is critical for the well being of people who have such an issue to be aware of it.   Though the problem can’t easily be remedied in many situations, understanding the mechanics of what is occurring helps to better psychologically cope, and can help to prevent a negative feedback-loop of ever-escalating psychological anxiousness due to both an unknown and unacknowledged physiological problem.

Update – May 22, 2017

Last week I got back the Autonomic Nervous System test.   Everything came in classified as “normal”, except for the “Head up Tilt” test under Vasomotor Function, which said underneath the results “This almost but not quite meets criteria for postural tachycardia”, and is classified as “No definite abnormality”.

I am unsure what the phrase “almost but not quite” means.   And I am wondering if this result could provide an alternative explanation for the bouts of dizziness I sometimes experience, in lieu of “anxiety”.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to speak with the doctor, and appointments are typically booked out far in advanced.

I’ll be at the Mayo Clinic in one week’s time, and so will ask them about this when I am there.

The next few weeks ought to be enlightening with regards to this whole situation.   On Wednesday I have an Opthalmologist appointment to rule out Sjogrens, and on Friday I plan to fly out to the Mayo Clinic.

Quite honestly, I have very low expectations that these will yield any new information, as I have already had so many tests done.  However, one never knows…

Symptom wise I feel that the flares have gotten worse in their intensity. However – at the same time, tolerance builds, I also do have moments where I feel nearly completely fine, which I am very grateful for.   Keeping myself distracted is very important, as is resting when necessary.

My mind shifts from optimism and hope, to occasional despair if I’m in the middle of a pain flare, and then back to optimism again once the pain disappears.   It is kind of strange, as sometimes a pain cycle can last for a few hours, or for a brief – highly intense moment, and then suddenly change.   It is difficult to predict…like the ebb and flow of a lightening storm.  Regardless of this, I feel I am heading in the right direction.