Unknown illness


Unknown illness


your avatar   Suzy (19 year-old woman)

I have been healthy for all of my life (except for chronic cough due to living with smoking parents), but within the past 6 months started getting palpitations. It occurs on average maybe twice weekly. Recently I've been getting light-headed even when I am at rest, and short of breath. I also have gotten migraines all my life and for the past couple of months ago, I have a headache everyday. Usually they're very mild, and sometimes I am nauseous too.

Then last night I smoked pot, which I used to do all the time, and I felt really weird. My ears were ringing and I felt like my head had pressure on it, and I would keep getting really faint, and I thought I was going to pass out, but I never did. I did have a head injury before, but I got a cat scan afterwards. Also I was freezing cold, but my body was actually hot.

I thought at first that I could have anemia, but I hear that usually some kind of other illness causes that, and I'm afraid I have some kind of serious illness like a brain tumor or anything. I think I should also mention that I've been thinking about death a lot lately for some reason, and I'm very afraid of dying.

As far as anemia goes, does it sound like that's what I have? And for the tumor or whatever, do you think that I am probably being overly dramatic and paranoid or does it look like I have something to look into?


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

Dear Suzy,

Whenever anyone has had a head injury and they are experiencing headaches there is a possibility of problems. From reading your list of symptoms however I would lean towards other causes. Nevertheless, it would probably put your fears to rest and be a good conservative measure to rule out any medical complication by checking it out with your physician. They can then refer you to a specialist if need be. To me it does not sound like either a brain tumor or anemia. Although I am not a medical doctor your symptoms do not seem to fit.

I would lean towards a diagnosis of panic attacks or generalized anxiety disorder. Both of these disorders can have a somatic component with physical symptoms that you are describing. Panic disorders occur when there are repressed issues or fears that we are not dealing with effectively. This affects our central nervous system, which responds by going into " fight, flight, or freeze" mode. This is a primitive response to danger and stress. Adrenalin pumps into our bodies, our pupils dilate to be better able to see danger, our muscles tense, our heart rate increases, and all non-essential processes slow or cease until the threat is dealt with. This can sometimes occur without any real life threatening issue present. That is why it is so scary. It doesn't seem to make sense. Besides the above symptoms, the body can also react with profuse sweating, a feeling of panic, fears of going crazy, headaches, dizziness, fears of having a heart attack, feeling out of our bodies which is called depersonalization, nausea, and a fear of dying. The symptoms usually are quite intense and last for up to an hour, but typically for a shorter amount of time. There is almost always no real medical cause or danger.

It is also quite common for about 15% of marijuana users to experience the same symptoms after using the drug. This problem can develop suddenly in people who have been smoking with no ill effects for years. Again there is no real medical danger, but it is wise to stop the usage if this occurs.

Another reason for panic attacks is that our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that allow us to think and feel in measured ways are out of balance. Often, the cause of the disorder has both a chemical component and an emotional component and both need to be addressed for a person to feel better.

I would suggest seeing a counselor and having them assess the need for medication and then to deal with the underlying problems. There is a tendency for physicians to use short-term sedation such as Xanax for these issues. Usually, these are not very effective. If used they should limited to a short duration. Different forms of relaxation training are often effective and TFT or neuro-emotional techniques work very well. Good luck.

Jef Gazley

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/


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