MS & Anxiety
Does MS cause anxiety? I see that question a lot from people. I also see things like: "Has your anxiety gotten worse with MS?" "What causes anxiety?" and so many more questions about anxiety. I have anxiety and have researched it and have asked my doctor several questions about it. On Google, there are a billion articles and posts. There are groups on Facebook and other sites and you can find all kinds of information. Some information I found argues with other information leaving you more confused than before you started reading. Several articles agree on a few basic things and start connections with other things I found interesting and made common sense.
I was getting anxious just reading everything. I started thinking about panic attacks and why you get them for no apparent reason. I got so far deep into researching anxiety that I had been steered completely away from MS connections and now had focused on anxiety alone and was obsessed with this disorder. Can it be controlled? I found answers to basic facts and published theories on how it happens and chain reactions.
MS causes anxiety
I'm not a doctor so I'm going to explain my take away. My opinion, and it's only an opinion on everything anxiety-related, is what I'm going to share with you. Hell yeah MS causes anxiety! My electric bill causes me anxiety and now I don't know what the hell is happening with my own body? You bet it causes anxiety and that's not all. Now I have anxiety about having MS and that's causing stress.
Diagnosed with PTSD
Stress is bad we all know for MS so I either have an exacerbation or feel terrible. Now I'm laid up feeling sorry for myself and get depressed. Man, what the hell is going on and why is this all happening? My anxiety has gotten worse over the years and after a big flare up and traumatic event during the flair up I was diagnosed with PTSD. My panic attacks are now more aggressive. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Did MS cause all this?
Studies did link anxiety to stress, fatigue, depression, panic attacks, and PTSD. I checked all of those boxes and it made sense. A traumatic event leading to PTSD is triggered causing a panic attack for no apparent reason. My anxiety and panic attacks didn't start getting worse until after my PTSD. What triggers my PTSD causing a panic attack? A change in my chemistry or a repressed memory from a smell or uneasy feeling about something? Did MS cause it? I think it's all possible and happens in combinations of everything all at once. Why everything all at once?
The function of the amygdala
Then I found this guy that I had never heard of. The amygdala (Latin, corpus amygdaloideum) is an almond-shape set of neurons located deep in the brain's medial temporal lobe. Shown to play a key role in the processing of emotions, the amygdala forms part of the limbic system.
Conditions such as anxiety, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias are suspected of being linked to abnormal functioning of the amygdala, owing to damage, developmental problems, or neurotransmitter imbalance.
Lesions could interfere with the amygdala
Now I think that I'm on to something. Yep, deeper down the rabbit hole. I'm on a quest to make this guy the culprit of all of this stuff. Everything leads me in circles until I reach a conclusion. Finally, I bet your thinking. Bad news, there's so much more that plays into everything. Pills are given to treat anxiety and depression to a lot of us for this. So we are treating all of these related disorders with different medications causing possible side effects to the rest of the family. It just keeps adding up to a big polluted mess plus our brain is already firing wrong. Specifically located lesions on the brain could cause interference everywhere. Are we treating the amygdala already or is it damaged by a lesion or toxin in the system?
Good health habits
You probably won't like this answer but most articles all agree the best things to do for anxiety are meditation, yoga, exercise, and sleep. Wait a minute, those are good for MS, too. I believe you have to take care of yourself and eat a healthy diet. I don't use a particular diet anymore. I just eat healthy portions at meals and I don't eat by a clock. I only eat when I'm hungry. Not when I think I'm hungry. I meditate once a day just to clear my head. I exercise what little I can each day. I take vitamin D, B, and a multivitamin. I make sure that I get on average seven hours of sleep every night. I try not to take naps unless I am exhausted from the previous day or days.
The importance of taking care of yourself
I can now pretty much guess why I was so anxious after the incident. I wasn't taking care of myself by not getting exercise because of MS fatigue or just not wanting to. I didn't get enough sleep and kept pushing. I wasn't staying centered. The problem is I have a lot of things happening to my body because of MS already that's causing too much sleep or not enough sleep because of spasms or being uncomfortable with the heat. I think you feel better and lesson your chances of bad days with MS if you practice yoga and get exercise. I think if you try to meditate it helps your mind take a break from everything for a bit and lessons your chances of serious anxious feelings.
How we treat ourselves
My opinion is MS definitely has an effect on anxiety and can make it worse also. I believe how we react to MS and treat ourselves plays a monster part on anxiety. This may not help you to hear all of this with controlling your anxiety but it won't hurt to try. It takes strict discipline to do these things daily and not get lost in your day. I know life gets crazy but I can say that I have come a long way using these tools. Good news is that you're not alone and even though this is a crazy, unpredictable thing anxiety, so is MS and doing these things just might help both anxiety and MS. The next time you're stressing out about something take a break and breathe. That was easy, wasn't it? If it was easy I wouldn't be anxious about this blog making any sense.
Do you ever swear you smell smoke or cigarettes but there's nothing there?