Medical Reasons for panic and anxiety
The first thing I do when someone comes to see me with symptoms of anxiety or panic is to rule out medical causes first. There are medical conditions that mimic the symptoms of anxiety.
This simply means that you may be having panic attacks, but the underlying cause may not be anxiety. It is important therefore to know which medical conditions can give similar symptoms to anxiety.
You can read a complete list of anxiety symptoms here
If your symptoms are not of a medical nature, what you are experiencing then, is most likely the effects of your nervous system. You can read about the nervous system’s role in anxiety here.
Medical conditions with symptoms similar to anxiety and panic.
Mitral valve prolapse is where the valve that helps blood flow to your heart, does not close properly. It should be noted straight away, that this causes few problems for most people.
You can have this condition and not cause any harm at all. For most people, treatment is not needed. Indeed many people do not have symptoms at all.
Saying that, (and again I want to stress that this is harmless for most people) one of the symptoms of mitral valve prolapse it that it can cause the person to have panic attacks.
As an asthmatic myself, I know this one only too well! Asthma is not just for kids, you could be like myself and have adult onset asthma.
I was diagnosed with asthma at the ripe old age of 38. If you have panic attacks, you will fully understand that your breathing can be affected.
Asthma, as you probably know affects breathing. The airways in the lungs become inflamed and it can feel like you breathe in, and have your lungs puffed up like a penguin.
The symptoms include, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and for myself, I get palpitations with the chest pain and coughing. The difficulty breathing properly with asthma, can lead to hyperventilation, which is responsible for many of the symptoms that are experienced during a panic attack.
If you are asthmatic and are having panic attacks or anxiety, you might need to check that your inhalers are doing their job.
Please also see our guide to panic attacks
Hyperthyroidism. An over active thyroid can cause symptoms that may be familiar to you if you have panic attacks. These include sweating, feeling nervous, rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), an irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and palpitations.
These medical conditions can also affect your sleep, if you are certain that your symptoms are not as a result of any underlying cause you may be having nocturnal panic attacks and you can read more about this here.
Most people have already been to see their doctor and have medical conditions ruled out. If you have not, a quick check up can rule out medical causes, as for some people they may just need a puffer for asthma or treatment for thyroid problems to make the symptoms go away!
If you have been given the all clear by your doctor and have been told that your symptoms are as a result of anxiety, that is still good news. You are medically fine and there are effective treatments available to stop your panic attacks.