Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.
Before anything else, I have to ask about the tests that were performed: did you have an MRI or CT brain scan? What were the results?
Were you referred to an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist to check for middle ear problems or a sinus infection?
If so, have you had anxiety and panic problems before? If so, for what and when was the treatment? What type of treatment was it? Was it helpful?
Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.
Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue. I'm sorry I was away. I am a psychologist in private practice and I saw patients in my office this afternoon and early evening.
First let me say that I can imagine how worrisome and frustrating this situation must be for you. You've had all the tests I was hoping you've had. Good. And they all came out clean. Better. So it is frustrating that you have all these fears, phobias, and anxiety. The frustration is easy to understand. Why, though, do I write worrisome?
Because as you wrote in the beginning of your question: you are feeling tremendous anxiety because of this somatic symptom (balance) and your doctor considers a prime suspect as to WHY you are having this symptom is......anxiety! So it turns out that the leading possibility for the cause of your anxiety is anxiety. That is worrisome, right?
In a situation like this, I am very glad that you are a person who does not take medications so quickly. That is a blessing. Because Xanax (generic or brand) can be addictive and care is needed. Medications are not what will help in your situation. Why?
Because it is the anxiety that is causing the anxiety. So I would like you to consider a behavioral approach for yourself to manage and conquer these problems. You very well may have a somatoform disorder, most likely hypochondriasis. This is a phobia and anxiety of being sick or ill. And treating it behaviorally is the best way.
I'll at the end of the answer give you a behavioral technique to get started with this. You can use this technique throughout the day when you are having anxiety. It is not a cure; it is something you can use to help yourself.
Let's work on three ways you can begin to build a behavioral program for yourself: diet, exercise, and psychotherapy. The first two are to help you feel more involved and in control of yourself and what's going on inside. The psychotherapy can actually teach you skills and give you tools for managing your symptoms.
Diet: cut out coffee, sugar, white flour. That may be tough. But you will see results as some of the newer research shows. And lean meats only. No fast food restaurants, no fatty foods. See what I mean about getting involved in controlling what's happening? With diet changes you are treating your problem with respect: you are acknowledging you need to make changes to get your body feeling better. Because the problem is not organic: there is no physiological problem you need to address. There is the need to control the anxiety about such problems.
Vitamins can be useful for moods. A good quality daily vitamin, for example. One of the most important supplements is Omega 3 fatty acids, either in fish oil or capsules or in flax seed oil. Buy good quality. The clinical dosage is 2-3,000 mg daily. All these things you should get at the biggest and most frequented health food store and ask them for the best brands they trust in terms of quality.
Exercise: 5 days a week moderate exercise, to include 3 days of strength training as you get more used to it. Pretty amazing isn't it? I told you it would require work, but what you put in to it you will get out of it. Your doctor will verify the research results showing the benefit.
Which brings us to psychotherapy. You need to find a psychologist or psychotherapist to help manage the anxiety. Fortunately, anxiety, phobias, and worry are among the most researched disorders in terms of effective treatments. And the therapies today are very effective. The preferred form of treatment today is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to learn skills. Here is the Amazon web page address for the classic workbook for anxiety and phobias by Edmund Bourne: http://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Phobia-Workbook-Fourth/dp/1572244135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1286170992&sr=1-1
Ask your doctor to refer you to a psychologist that he/she feels would help you with CBT work on the anxiety. If your doctor isn't able to refer to anyone, here is the web address for Psychology Today's therapist directory. You can sort by zip codes and when you see someone who seems like they might be helpful (they show you a photo of the therapist!) look at the listing and see if they list CBT therapy in their orientations and anxiety disorders as one of the areas they work with. http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/
Okay, that should help you get working on these symptoms and get her some relief.
I wish you the very best!
Now, I want to give you a tool to use for when the anxiety is present for you. It is quite easy to do almost anywhere. My patients suffering from anxiety, when I teach them PMR at first are amazed how simple it is and that it is a psychological protocol. It was first used in the 1920s! Since then, of course, it has been refined and many studies have been done showing its effectiveness. You will practice PMR at first so that you will be familiar with it. I want you to practice the PMR at least 5-6 times before feeling acute anxiety. Why? Because when you're in the throes of anxiety, you will only remember to do something you are very familiar with it. So practicing 5-6 times is really a minimum.
I want to stress the importance of breathing as well. Part of the physiology of what is happening to you in anxiety states is that your breathing is getting shallower. This reduces the oxygen in your blood to your brain. That increases the anxiety reaction, which strengthens the attack and you are in a vicious cycle! Not good. So breathing is the primary tool. I have found in my practice that learning breathing techniques can be helpful. But some of my patients are not interested in learning more than one thing at the beginning, so I have found that just reminding you to BREATHE deeply at the same time you are doing PMR is almost as good. If you are willing to take a yoga class and learn breathing techniques, that's the best. But, breathing deeply with your PMR will help. So, we're ready for learning PMR. I want you to print my instructions below my signature and have a copy in each of the rooms of your home where you may be when you have an attack. And again, you need to practice this easy technique at least 5-6 times as soon as you can. It needs to become as natural to you as breathing. Ah, remember breathing?
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Quickly focusing on each group one after the other, with practice you can relax your body like ‘liquid relaxation’ poured on your head and it flowed down and completely covered you. You can use progressive muscle relaxation to quickly de-stress any time.
What You Need:
Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. . Feel free to continue the discussion as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. You can continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, Dr. Mark