Escalating Anxiety

Last updated: January 2017

Whether we admit it publicly, we probably all have anxieties of some form or another. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) clearly states that a normal part of life includes the occasional experience of anxiety. Fortunately most of us don’t have the relentless form of anxiety that becomes a serious mental health issue. Our anxiety usually comes and goes, depending on the situation we are facing. For some of us, that anxiety is predictable because it comes from the same situations as they are repeated – it could be giving a presentation to the boss at work, attending a party where everyone is a stranger or doctor appointments.

My anxiety doesn’t come from any of those things, but from something a bit more simple – as I put in the title, I have escalating anxiety. Having to take that first step onto an escalator that is traveling in the downward direction is always a heart-stopping, gut wrenching moment for me, no matter how short the travel might be.

For a long time I always had the sensation that I would fall down a flight of stairs especially on a moving escalator. When we visited the Grand Canyon on vacation I couldn’t get close to the edge to look down without the sensation I would tumble over. But then I was treated by a vestibular specialist for Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and that sensation was pretty much gone. BPPV can create an extreme sense of being off balance or even vertigo, but is often associated with less violent attacks of dizziness. As the word in the name says, change of position will often set off BPPV. Fortunately my BPPV was corrected by a series of maneuvers that realign the crystals inside the ear canal call the Epley maneuver. If you have dizziness you might consider asking for a referral to a therapist who can judge if you might benefit from this simple treatment.

Since balance problems are also a multiple sclerosis issue, it is easy to think it is just the MS causing the problem so seeing a therapist for dizziness was a good thing for me. No longer do I have problems with the sensation of falling down the stairs, I haven’t been back to the Grand Canyon to see if it cured that problem, but the down escalators remain a huge issue for me.

My anxiety is not rooted in any specific problem I have had with escalators – I have not tumbled down a set of moving stairs or even been around anyone who has. I just have that sense of dread when faced with the prospect of escalators and no longer suffer embarrassment searching out the closest elevator to use as an alternative.

I have thought about this and believe this escalator anxiety is caused by my MS. My legs don’t efficiently get the signal to move and my feet are slow to react when it comes to stepping out onto that moving conveyor platform. The visual clue of where to place my foot as I step is literally a moving target – the steps keep moving and the signal from my brain to my foot to move at the correct moment is muddled. It is a giant leap of faith for me to make that move onto the escalator and it creates much anxiety to even stand at the top and consider making that first step. There are other things such as giant spiders or the last piece of chocolate in the box that might cause me to feel the ups and downs of anxiety for a moment, but nothing else affects me like escalators except perhaps when I stop and consider the unknowns that comes from living with MS.

Wishing you well,


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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