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Gutsy Talk About Anxiety

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Trigger Advisory Warning: While I don't think this post is very triggering, I do discuss managing anxiety & some of its general causes, so please proceed with caution.


Yesterday I finished a Buzzfeed roundup of 24 comics about anxiety, and then I started worrying that maybe I don't really HAVE anxiety, because almost none of them seem familiar to my own experience at all, but then I thought maybe being anxious over whether you're really anxious or not is one of those paradox deals that cancels itself out. Or... something.

Even so, it still seems most of the comics I've seen online (and it's weird to describe them as "comics," given the subject matter) describe a kind of social anxiety I don't generally feel. In fact, the only common experience I found in that roundup was all the physical symptoms:


(Although they left out the near-certainty of impending death - that's a big one.)


And the difficulty in getting non-sufferers to understand my limitations:


So now I'm curious: tell me, fellow anxiety peeps, are you mostly only afflicted in social situations, or while thinking about social situations? You know, parties, group interaction, self-doubt, over-analyzing past conversations, that kind of thing? Or basically everything described in that roundup?

Because me, I seem to be struck by panic more from excessive stimulation (like watching a movie in the theater), situations I can't easily and immediately escape from (Disney rides, public transportation), or  - though incredibly rare these days - random no-reason-whatsoevers while I'm relaxing at home (sudden heart palpitations.) I guess you could say my anxiety isn't very people-oriented, while it seems from these comics most other peoples' anxiety is.

I do tend to over-think things, I guess, and I dislike parties as much as the next introvert, but I never associated any of that with anxiety before - maybe because my "over-thinking sessions" have never led to a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. (And why do I feel like I should knock on wood right now? Ha!)

There is no "better" or "worse" form of anxiety, of course, so please don't think I'm trying to qualify it in any way. I'm just genuinely curious if social anxiety is really the most common, or if maybe it's just the most easily identified - and easiest to identify with, since I'd guess we've all experienced bouts of self-doubt and awkward social situations and whatnot, even if not to the extreme degree other anxiety-sufferers do.

And while we're on the subject, I've been wanting to share this ABC News article Felicia Day tweeted ever since I got back. Apparently some studies have found a (perhaps tenous) link between mental health disorders - like anxiety - and your gut health, which strongly correlates with my own experience. Often times anxiety and GI problems are a chicken-or-the-egg thing, with most people assuming the anxiety comes first. In my experience, though, the GI issues did, since I was first diagnosed with a "nervous stomach" in my pre-teens, followed by everything from mild ulcers to GERD to IBS since, but I only started having panic attacks - literally overnight - about six years ago.

I've been managing my anxiety pretty well these last two years by avoiding triggers, regular trips to the chiropractor, and a little mental jujutsu I picked up from the book Hope and Help for Your Nerves. Even so, I'm fascinated by the possibility of a gut connection.

Plus, the reason I'm so excited about sharing that article with you guys is because the potential "fix" is ridiculously easy, and good for you either way: just take a daily high-quality probiotic.

I'd been taking cheap probiotics from Wal-Mart for a while - the ones with only a single type of whatsits in them -  but since reading that article I switched to the nicer, more expensive blends (I change brands every month), which have made a noticeable difference for my gut, at least.

(Keep in mind I have almost every stomach problem imaginable, though, so unless you're uncomfortable most days the change might not be as dramatic for you. I've also taken up veggie juicing a few times a week, which I'm sure could also be helping. And even then I'm still often in pain, because my stomach really is the devil.)

As for my anxiety, well, since I was already doing pretty well I can't say for sure if this is helping. I've been paying closer attention, though, and have noticed several seemingly direct connections between that general anxious unease and extra-bad GI days. (Suffice to say that once the spirit moves, the spirit immediately feels MUCH better.)

So, yeah, I think I'll be staying on the nicer probiotics. It would be wonderful if this was the final piece in managing my anxiety puzzle, but of course only time will tell. (Not to mention having a GI track that isn't actively seeking my demise would be a nice side-benefit.)

SO, while you guys are telling me if you're anxious more about social situations or more stimulation-and-escape-centric like me, could you also tell me about your guts? :D Again, I'm just curious here, but it'd be nice to know if anyone else out there is a similar basketcase of happy funtimes.

Oh, and are any of you gluten intolerant? And if so, did cutting gluten help your anxiety? I've heard that could be key, but darned if I have the self-will to try the diet for long enough to tell if it helps. :/ (I do realize I have most of the symptoms for it, yes. BUT GOSH DARN IT I LIKE MY OREOS.) If I hear enough success stories, though, that MIGHT convince me to try again. Maybe. Possibly.

Ok, I've yammered on long enough. Your turn.

Posted by Jen at 3:10 PM Labels: ,

291 comments:

  1. Hi Jenn- I've been primarily a sufferer of depression, but have had bouts of anxiety as well. Now I'm one of those annoying people who talks about how regular exercise has helped diminish the symptoms of both. I'm down 35 pounds, but as part of exercising I've also started eating more "real" food and less processed stuff, so it could be that the change in diet has also contributed to the reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms.

    I will say that regardless of diet OR exercise, I still get a surge of anxiety for a day or two the week before my Lady Times. Aunt Flo always seems to bring extra baggage.

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  2. My anxiety attacks are when I start thinking about, reading about, or hearing about things that scare me that I have no control over. For instance, I am worried about climate change. So every summer when it gets over 90 degrees outside, I feel anxious and have more panic attacks. However, in the past few years I have quit drinking alcohol full stop, started drinking a probiotic shake in the mornings, tried to get enough sleep each night, and began exercising more than I used to. All of those things have reduced my panic attacks tremendously. I know something is off balance in my body if I start to feel anxious.

    On a separate note, my sister also suffers from anxiety of the non-socially triggered kind. She has GI issues and does not take a probiotic but exercises at least twice a week with a trainer and eats completely gluten free. As far as I can tell she gets enough sleep as well. But, she has far more panicky days than I do. So I don't know if going gluten free does anything for anxiety. She did say that she feels less bloated and sluggish and her head feels clearer without the glutens. So that's a plus in that column I guess.

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  3. Jen,

    PLEASE read up on Traditional Foods and the GAPS diet!!!

    For info on TF, look up the Weston A Price Foundation. Basically, TF just means eating the way we ate a few generations ago before modern food come onto the scene. It also involves some cool old-timey food prep methods. I know you don't cook much, but your health and possibly even your very life are worth the effort.

    GAPS is a hardcore elimination program that will rebuild your gut and involves some TF prep methods. It's not easy, I have yet to get into it myself, but it is what I will do when I am mentally ready to rebuild my health.

    And FTR, I don't have big anxiety issues. I had major depression in my teens and twenties (you and I are about the same age) but I am actually very happy now. I do have IBS and fibromyalgia, but I manage it all very well with a mostly-TF diet.

    Let us know what you think after looking up TF and GAPS. Best wishes to ya!

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  4. I have...all the anxieties? I get the shaking/uncontrollable crying/can't breathe panic attack thing, and I also have social anxiety, especially around the idea of contacting people, and I am really really uncomfortable at most parties (especially if the noise level is high, that's a really good way to give myself a panic attack). I also worry about everything all the time, including stuff that has essentially no chance of happening or that I plain make up. And I worry about worrying about stuff and then feel bad about beating myself up because I'm worrying.

    I've never had stomach problems though, but my anxiety and depression problems are very obviously genetic (my family history is...exciting), although they were exacerbated by a bunch of stuff that happened to me as a kid and teenager. There are things that help, like not overdoing caffeine, and doing yoga or riding a bike, and climbing up a tree and sitting there for a while, but for me, my mental illnesses basically boil down to my brain malfunctioning.

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  5. There are gluten-free oreo-style cookies out there...some by Glutino, Newman's Own, and Kinnikinnik are just a few we carry at my little health food store. Gluten-free pastas and bread have come a long way in the last decade as far as taste, texture and nutrition level. Also the great food blog My New Roots has a lot of fantastic recipes for gluten-free and just general healthy eating through veggies, alternate grains and raw. The raw brownies on her site are truly amazing. So rich!

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    1. I just have to jump in here to say that I'm gluten free, and the Glutino biscuits are ah-may-zing!! We just got them here in Australia at Coles, and I seriously can't stop eating them once I open the packet. And they are practically Oreos, but a bit more crunchy, which I find only adds more awesomeness to them.

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    2. Just an FYI - the Newman's Own aren't gluten free; but the Glutino and Kinnikinnik ones are and are really good.

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  6. Hi Jen!! I've been following your site as a lurker for quite some time now and I love your posts, from the geeky ones, to the inspirational ones, and even the health ones. I can relate to your struggles very much and have been suffering from much the exact same thing. All the physical symptoms but not many of the mental ones in that while I prefer to do stuff by myself, I don't mind hanging out with others but I would rather do it in an environment I'm comfortable in. Like my own home or even theirs if that's more suited to the events of the evening. It's when I go to a location I've never been before or if I'm in a situation where I have no control over that make me uncomfortable (mainly because of the fear that my gut will decide it needs to rear it's ugly head and I won't be close to anything resembling public facilities). I'm still not entirely sure what causes it however. In severe instances, the abdominal pain can be excruciating to the point where I feel the urge to throw up, however fortunately the bad ones are limited to one one every 6 or so weeks. I've come to the conclusion that what I eat does have an impact but I haven't figured out EXACTLY what that is yet. If it's a dairy thing or lactose or something else that's more generic. I'm definitely going to check out the probiotics idea you mentioned as I would love to be able to do everything I want without fear of having an 'attack'. I have a trip coming up to see family for a destination wedding in Disney World that I'm looking forward to but am terrified of my health at the same time. I want to enjoy the event in it's entirety though so I am trying to keep positive thoughts on the whole experience and am currently relying on sheer will, in defiance of my guts. I feel I can relate to a lot of what you describe both the symptoms and the frustrations so I hope that you find something that wither I can apply to myself or hopefully I find something that I can pass along. Curious to see what others say about similar experiences they might have.

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    1. My gut issues are similar! My worry isn't necessarily the people, it's the am-I-going-to-spend-it-in-the-bathroom-dying-worry. My pain is so severe that I feel like I need to go to the hospital. Mine is caused from the valve in my stomach malfunctioning and all my stomach acid being released into my intestines, causing them to freak out, and you know the gory result. What has helped me is eating an apple everyday. Pectin helps that valve stay shut. You can take pectin pills, but most of them are sourced from grapefruit, and more acid won't help. Try it! And good luck with your trip!

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  7. I suffer from social anxiety. I am terrified of failing or doing something wrong so I CONSTANTLY worry about it. It's worst before and after a social situation, especially if it's an unfamiliar one. I also tend to panic in crowds, and I completely lose my ability to make decisions (because I'm afraid I'll make the wrong one) It gets WAY worse if I have not had enough sleep, if I'm hungry or if I have not had a chance to take a breather for a while.

    I don't think there are right or wrong ways to have anxieties. It is what it is and it sucks.

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  8. I suffer from all sorts of fun anxiety. Social, person to person (even with my husband when I am not on meds) and fear of escape. BUT my IBS is almost directly linked to my fear of escape anxiety. Sitting in traffic, it is a given that terrible things will happen, so I know every bathroom between my house and commonly travelled routes. I have also accepted that at some point, I might have to stop on the side of the road. As awful as that is, the acceptance has really helped with the fear, so the emergencies happen less.

    I was on a really strict gluten/dairy/sugar/yeast free diet many years ago, and I *think* it helped, but I was also still on meds, so I am not totally sure.

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  9. Hi Jen! I've had depression and anxiety problems since high school and just recently realized exactly what was going on and starting seeing a Dr. for it.
    My anxieties are definitely socially based. I have issues being in crowds, or even inserting myself in groups to talk (ie, if I'm in a group with people I don't know really well, I'll notice that I've slowly stepped back until I'm literally closed out of the group). Parties make me freak out if I don't know everyone there, and introducing myself to people I don't know makes me want to throw up (on that note...I said hi to you at DC this year and had to go sit down afterwards...lol.)
    I will say I don't usually have stomache issues in conjuction with my panic attacks, but do get the sweats, shakes, and rapid heart beat.
    However, no matter what 'kind' of anxiety you have, I will say your anxiety posts and tips have helped me out in the past. I have also found that strenous exercise (despite the fact that I DESPISE it) helps raise my mood and lower my anxiety. So keep doing what works for you, and remember, no one thing will work perfecty for every person.

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  10. My anxiety is odd as well. I feel like it's social anxiety, but the anxiety only comes after a) I've been overstimulated by the amount of social interaction going on, or b) once I'm alone. I also get freaked out by crowds; I start talking to myself and my heart gets so fast it hurts. It's not generally negative thoughts as shown in the cartoons, though. Those are what I associate with my depression. My anxiety is mostly physical symptoms like fast heart, shaky knees, stomach knots, migraines etc. It also crops up after a while of being fine, as though just being happy and productive wears me out until I start panicking.

    Also I have depression AND anxiety, so I can get anxious about my depression and vice versa. It's really draining and with college starting I've started getting both at the same time, which has never happened before. It's been cropping up more randomly and resulting in me breaking into tears totally randomly.

    Side note: my friends mom had bad anxiety and then had to go gluten free. Her episodes have seemed to be less frequent, but I haven't been around now that she's back to teaching, so I'm not certain. I'll ask and comment again :)

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  11. Hi Jen, I am also an introvert and there is some social avoidance and uncomfortableness that goes along with that but I never thought of it as anxiety. I do have problems with over analyzing or what I call "hamster wheeling" which is running over a certain subject or conversation over and over. I don't really have physical symptoms of anxiety other than the occasional sweatiness or blushing in a social situation in which I am really uncomfortable (usually for no good reason).

    As for the stomach issue: Your GI tract is not trying to destroy you. It is trying to tell you that you are destroying it! Pain exists as a warning that something is wrong in your body. It is your body's way of telling you STOP! Chances are you are eating something or things that disagrees with you on a regular basis. It might be gluten. It might be something else. I personally believe in trying to become as in tune with your body as you can. A good way to do that is to do an elimination diet (start with the most common offenders first like gluten, dairy, etc) and may I suggest a journal? Keep track of what you are eating and how you are feeling on a daily basis and you may see some patterns arise. You CAN feel better :)

    And yes, when I changed my diet substantially 8 years ago I found it made a BIG difference in my mental (and intestinal) health. I won't say what I did specifically other than it was a change in the whole foods direction. That is because this isn't about me telling you what worked for me because I don't think as a society we need more nutritional advice. What we need is to learn how to listen to our bodies and then take loving care of them according to our own specific needs. Your body does know what is causing you this distress. You just have to figure out how to listen.

    I hope this wasn't too preachy. I will probably be "hamster wheeling" about this one later ;)

    - Jenn with two n's

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    1. Except sometimes your GI tract *is* trying to destroy you - but that usually points to an autoimmune disease, in which case it's not your poor intestine's fault.

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    2. Ok but only in self defense :)

      Jenn

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  12. I tend to be an anxious person but have more serious problems with depression. My anxiety mostly revolves around what I need to do, what I've failed to do that I should have done, and what I did that I shouldn't have. It's not the same as social anxiety, but it's probably more similar to that than to the kind you experience. Anyway, my depression and anxiety have been pretty effectively treated by Zoloft and counseling.

    The anxiety was at its worst 2011-2012 when I responded poorly to a different SSRI that I took for several months. I spent a lot of time in bed because it felt like the only safe place, using only my iPad to look at the internet because it felt safer than my laptop (I don't claim this makes sense), not calling people, and freaking out when the message light was blinking on my answering machine. So I guess there was a hefty component of social anxiety when things were bad. My worst day, I couldn't breathe right or stand up straight. You made a post about your own anxiety about a year after that day, and I found it really encouraging to read your description of anxiety symptoms and see how far I'd come since then.

    I do have digestive problems, namely IBS, but I've never noticed a correlation between my digestive state and my anxiety.

    As for the claims about diet causing anxiety/depression/whatever, those frustrate me. When I'm feeling horrible, sometimes eating chocolate is the only bright spot in life. It's upsetting when people want to take away one of the few things I can appreciate and make it my fault that I'm depressed/anxious because I refused to follow their dietary recommendations. There's been no indication that I'm sensitive to gluten or other foods (including a test for celiac). Eating a balanced diet while keeping IBS in check and working around my (long list of) food dislikes is hard enough when I'm feeling okay. I can't handle the idea of overhauling my diet when I'm not feeling okay emotionally. Anyway, this is a sensitive topic for me.

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    1. I totally get that. Food is a huge source of comfort for most people - myself included - so I'm right there with you. I also know what we eat is a major component of our health, but it's just so dang HARD to eat the things we're "supposed" to all the time. On the plus side (for me, at least), at least chocolate is gluten-free. ;)

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    2. I'm right in the middle of a huge diet change for health reasons (bladder, not anxiety though), and for what it's worth, you might as well try controlling the food aspect of it. It is the cheaper way to go and it isn't too terribly difficult to change your diet for a few weeks, especially if you take it one day at a time and you are conscious that every thing you put in your body will have an instant adverse affect on how you feel. If John can give up Mt. Dew, you can certainly go vegan for three or four weeks to see how you feel, and if it doesn't work, then go back to what you like.

      I've been following Dr. Gregor on http://www.nutritionfacts.org this year. There is much more research out there than just that ABC article mentions, and it is actually worth the hour to watch his year end review. And for the IBS girl, at least you haven't had to go to this route yet: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/06/why-i-donated-my-stool/?_r=0 but it's nice to know that it's working.

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    3. In Jen and Anonymous(1)'s defense, sometimes you CAN'T. Sometimes you simply don't have the ability, the energy, or the desire to make massive dietary changes like going vegan or gluten-free or sugar-free.

      I don't mean to be argumentative, I mostly lurk on this blog, but it kind of hurts my heart when blanket statements are made like "you might as well" "it isn't too terribly difficult" "you can certainly..." because all those statements may be true for you, but they don't make it true for anyone else and can be incredibly defeating to someone that already struggles with depression or anxiety.

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    4. I completely agree, moviesandmangos. My depression and anxiety triggers are very similar to the original poster's and adding one more layer of guilt on to that ("I really shouldn't eat (dairy, gluten, etc.), but I'm so craving it. I'm such a failure for wanting to eat it. Ugh, I might as well eat it, I'm already a failure for even thinking about it.") is not at all helpful. I absolutely feel better when I meet some basic self care needs, including eating more whole foods and less sugar. But in the middle of a depression/anxiety episode ALL of my energy is being used to make it to the next moment without a complete breakdown.

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  13. From a medical standpoint, there are multiple different diagnoses that are categorized as "anxiety". Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, and social phobia are all subtypes of anxiety. I beleive social phobia is the most common of the anxiety disorders (per the NIMH, it affects about 6% of people at any given time, while GAD, panic disorder, and PTSD affect only 3% and OCD 1%). There is significant overlap, though.
    From a personal standpoint, I have suffered from generalized anxiety and panic disorder as well as social phobia and depression for most of my life; I also had a brief struggle with PTSD after an episode where my dog was attacked. I would say the panic disorder feels much different than any of the other types of anxiety. The panic attacks are in response to crowds and are very physical, somatic fear reaction (heart racing, feeling suffocated, feeling dissociated from my surroundings). On the other hand, the social and general anxiety symptoms are very similar and they are much more cerebral, typically worrying excessively and visualizing disturbing scenarios or reliving uncomfortable situations. These can be triggered by disturbing news or TV shows (like, visualizing a robber killing my whole family after watching Law and Order) or social situations (like remembering that time 15 years ago that I said something stupid and imagining that everyone still actually cares about that). I would say I do connect with most of the cartoons on that article but they definitely describe the more social/general anxiety I have.
    As far as treatment, I do have definite stomach problems. They were far, far worse before I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, but I still get some trouble, particularly when I'm under stress. Unfortunately, I can't really say that giving up gluten made much difference with my anxiety. What has helped most for me is yoga and meditation, as well as exposure therapy (doing things I find anxiety provoking). It's weird, but actually learning to experience my feelings, rather than push them away, has made the biggest difference. I'm still not great at it, though.

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    1. That was a really helpful summary - thank you. And the bit about experiencing your feelings instead of pushing them away - the book I mentioned teaches that, and has helped me tremendously. Fighting back attacks through sheer force-of-will never works, but allowing your body to feel the physical sensations without struggling paradoxically helps them subside faster. I only wish I'd known that six years ago!

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    2. You know, I just realized this was what the major turning point was in my struggle with insomnia. Allowing myself to go through the physical sensation of not being sleepy without freaking out about not being sleepy. "Ok, I'm not tired right now. That is alright."

      Thanks for putting into words part of my own healing process. I had never thought about my insomnia as linked to anxiety, but it makes a lot of sense.

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  14. I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder in high school. I don't have a problem getting on stage in front of hundreds of people, but if you put me in a room of 2 or 3 and ask me to talk with them, I shut down completely. My throat physically swells and closes up, so I have to carry a rescue inhaler everywhere. I begin to shake and tremble and my heart rate becomes erratic. But I also have a similar 'escape' based trigger that you have. I have severe anxiety when it comes to being anywhere underground. I can only stand next to the door on public busses and metros are pretty much a no go. While attending college I had to sit as close to the exit as possible, and even then it could be a struggle. You really are an inspiration to the rest of us trying to cope with extreme levels of anxiety on a daily basis. Because of your site I've finally gotten the courage to attend my very first convention this month, and I'm even going in a full out Ursula costume with airbrushed skin and everything!! Thank you for being so open with your struggles. It really gives me hope that I'm not permanently 'damaged'. <3 <3 <3

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  15. My worst anxiety is triggered by too much caffeine. My heart races, I'm jittery, I feel like I'm going to die. It can be triggered by other things (difficult social situations, thinking about medical issues [must avoid web md]) but caffeine is the most intense.

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  16. I've never been formally diagnosed with anxiety, but I can identify with some of the self-negging (if this isn't a thing, I'm making it one) behaviors in the cartoons. Obsessively checking every interaction to evaluate my people skills? Check. Mentally rehearsing how I'm going to answer the phone before calling or answering? Check. Mentally rehearsing conversations in my head that... invariably never happen, because I'm imagining the other person's heaping abuse on me? Check.

    And I absolutely get an upset stomach with anxiety -- I don't know if it can be classified as "butterflies", since the end result is usually not so pretty -- but never panic attacks. The best ways I've found to manage my JerkBrain ((c) Captain Awkward) is to exercise and sleep well but not too well. Losing sleep can be both a symptom and a cause of the anxiety/depression spiral, in that I get too busy -> lose sleep -> get anxious -> don't want to sleep because then I'd have to face the morning, and if I never sleep the morning will never happen, right?

    Generally, though, with occasional melatonin for the sleeping, exercise for the endorphins, and better recognition of when I start slipping into the cycle and knowing that I have to do something to break it before I spend days on end watching Netflix, I'm able to self-manage. And so far I haven't had to make radical diet changes to manage it, since I basically survive off of pasta and bread. Cleaning also helps, as something small that I can manage to get myself out of the spiral and into functioning-persona again (doing laundry, folding laundry, doing dishes, putting one dirty glass in the sink... however much I can manage).

    At least, those are the things that I've found; I'm fortunate enough that I seem to manage without medications. Thanks for being open with your readers about your experience! I hope something here is helpful for you or others. (You can't take the Oreos from me!)

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  17. Hiya Jen,

    Can't say I have anxiety per-say, because its a symptom, not the cause. I have PTSD, which leads to anxiety (yay.) I can relate to the stressing out in public, because I have to be on high alter every minutes of every day, and this translates to: 1) tracking every person around me, 2) monitoring them (movement, conversation) and 3), out-predicting their movements. As you may guess, more people, more taxing on brain, more brain physically cannot do and then flips onto pure fight-flight instinct. To boot I'm an introvert by nature, so I get even more exhausted by social interactions- leading me to hate them and people too. I get a bit anxious when I know I have to talk to people/be polite in large groups, because for me this is incredibly exhausting (autistic like hearing DOES NOT HELP). But if its something like a con, and I'm 1) alone 2) never have to speak, I'm happy as a bug in a rug. So, less amount of people, more having to actually interact with them...

    And I do get the wall analogy, as NO ONE around me understands or cares that people like me really can't do things like a normal person. We are scarred and disabled, just mentally, not physically.

    Can't offer much help. I am affected mentally mostly, and most of my physical issues stem from growing up with malnutrition. However, I was gluten intolerant when I was little (when from hyperactive Tasmanian devil to hyper little kid). It can help, I think. Something in gluten is hard on your body, and going off is a great way to allow that to recover. I have since grown out of it, so it isn't a permanent thing (always.) I think, Jen, that the gut may be your problem and the mental is a side-affect. If you're constantly sick (or in pain) your mind will get warped- I've seen that in my sister. She has POTS, and while its physical, it does impact her mentally because of the pain. Might try going off gluten and see if that helps. I know anxiety can be linked to a physical problem, and have seen someone close to be get treated (Chinese medicine ftw. It is not all quackery).

    I advise trying to fix your gut first. If it pre-dates the mental aspect, it could very well be a dominio effect or chain-reaction, and in that case, the source needs to be fixed first.

    And Jen, one last bit of advise. From what I have seen from several people going to a Chinese doctor, its that many things can cause issues. My sister has excruciating gut pain, but her liver is what is really screwed up (we think. Western doctors gave up on her- literally). One element of your body being off can throw the rest out of balance, fast. It may be very simple to fix, it may be more complicated. But I think your on the right track.

    Hope some of this was helpful!

    -Wildstar

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  18. I have social anxiety thinking about a social situation beforehand, but very rarely while I'm there. Although my husband and I have learned together that just chilling at people's homes is not good for me, the anxiety ratchets up. I need a purpose with my socializing. So a game night or watching the Super Bowl is fine, but an aimless, let's-get-together-and-drink night is not going to end well.

    My worst anxiety though comes late at night when I'm alone with my thoughts and then it tends to be triggered by "mistakes" I've made. I need to learn how to plan for the future better and deal with life situations better, instead I start spinning in my head about what I could have done differently and refuse to leave my bed because my mental issues make me believe that avoiding the problem will make it go away. Which never works.

    On a side note, I did date a guy once who could never go in Ikea with me. It was way to over-stimulating for him and he felt like he was having a panic attack.

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  19. My social anxiety is mild but it is there. I get overwhelmed after a while and if there are too many conversations going on, I'm toast (never learned to tune things out). My blood sugar definitely affects my anxiety levels, plus claustrophobia and a bad GI track as well (GERD and IBS on top of some other stuff).

    Used to be, the pat answer for what causes IBS is stress, so the emotional digestive response is definitely a thing. It's only recently (in the last 5 years or so) that researchers have been able to pinpoint classes of trigger-foods that affect 75% of IBS patients. Lookup the Low-FODMAP diet for info if you haven't already encountered it, it's still catching on here in the US as the main research is being done is Australia. Incidentally, many probiotics carry a hefty load of High-FODMAP components as prebiotics--what feeds the good bacteria--so it can still be hit or miss. And as for the gluten-thing? Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity has been in the GI news a lot recently with not a lot of support for the theory. Fructans, however, (a FODMAP) are co-present with gluten in wheat/barley/rye so some are hypothesizing that when self-diagnosed gluten-sensitives cut out wheat, they're actually benefiting from the lack of fructans instead. (Fructans are also present in foods like onions and garlic and the effect of FODMAPs is cumulative, so one food can seem to upset you one day and not the other, depending on total FODMAPs consumed, etc.)

    While I still experience emotional triggers for gut issues (any extreme on the scale, too much stress/upset or too much happiness) it's far less these days--both due to being very selective in my activities as well as being careful with what I'm eating. I'm heading to Disney in less than a month, in fact, and I'm no longer AS worried about waiting in a long line or bus ride, which helps the anxiety of not being in total control of my surroundings. Because if I was anxious about being "stuck" somewhere, I'm tensing up. When our GI track is out of whack, tension is one of the factors, and this creates more emotional stress. It creates this vicious cycle that feeds off itself.

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  20. I have problems with both depression (diagnosed) and anxiety (undiagnosed). I don't have the full-blown panic attacks, my anxiety is much more mild. I get some of the physical symptoms, mostly when I'm in crowds of people, or thinking about being in crowds of people, or right now while thinking about thinking about being in crowds of people... As for my depression, I went for years thinking it couldn't be depression, because it didn't feel like the commercials for anti-depressants. Similar to what you were describing in worrying that you don't have anxiety, because it isn't exactly what other people describe.

    I do also have stomach problems, nervous stomach & IBS, and I am wondering if the probiotics would help with the other. And I'm with you, I love too many gluten-filled things, I can't get motivated to go gluten-free. Not even hundreds of success stories would help me, though.

    Finally, thanks for sharing your struggles, it reminds a lot of us that we aren't alone dealing with these things. And that whole wall thing can really make you feel alone.

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  21. While I don't have anxiety issues, I was diagnosed with IBS in my early 20s. I'm an "atypical reactor" according to one doctor. Drugs don't work the way they're supposed to. A bad reaction to a common prescription anti-inflammatory one step up from Aleve caused 7 years of near-suicidal depression. When they put me on antidepressants, my gut stopped working intermittently. As in, peristalsis stopped, but only in one section, so the part that worked would keep pushing, and when it hit the part that didn't work I had contraction-like pains. In two years, while I was having countless tests, Xrays, oscopies, etc., it happened about 50 times,13 bad enough to go to the emergency room, one that resulted in them scheduling emergency surgery -- the gut restarted while the surgeon was prepping -- and finally exploratory surgery, which turned up nothing. (But I had Xrays and CT scans taken during episodes that showed it was stopped.) I kept asking the various doctors about the fact that serotonin was made in the gut and I was on serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and they kept patting my hand and telling me to let the experts take care of it, "here, have another pill." Since the antidepressants weren't helping that much anyway, I finally refused to take them anymore. Since then I've had 2 episodes, in 5 years. The depression also got better, although it's still something I fight every day. Looking back, I did my best when I was on Align -- one of the pricier probiotics. Somewhere along the line I got distracted, ran out, and stopped taking it. After reading that article, and today's Epbot, I think I'm going to start it up again. In fact, I can't believe I didn't put the pieces together myself. Thanks so much, Jen, for bringing this to my/our attention.

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  22. I was about half way through the comments when I had an epiphany: Gut problems + anxiety= ME! I do not have a diagnosed anxiety issue, but I did suffer with depression for several years. (I will still sometimes have to fight it, but haven't needed meds in about 4 years.) Anyway, we've gone through some medical trauma in our family in the last few months and I have been having awful gut problems. About five out of ten days, I feel anxious about nothing I can put my finger on (Which is increased from my normal: About 1 out of 10 days). It isn't social anxiety...I have no problems there. It seems to be situation based, but I haven't been able to figure out what the situation is!! I have been able to manage it, but it is frustrating not knowing WHAT is causing it.
    It's very interesting to connect gut problems with mental health problems!!!

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  23. I'm generally fine in social situations (ok I can't talk to people easily and conversations are stilted but I can stay in the room without any adverse affects) but afterwards I think back over what I did and want to disappear into a hole in the ground over all the things I did "wrong".

    I'm not great before social situations and I tend to run situations over and over in my head thinking about the worst that could happen. To me the worst that could happen is often being in a situation where I don't have prepared responses or support (any in-law visit is a military operation to try to keep my anxiety down).

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  24. I've been fighting with anxiety and depression for a long time now. My anxiety has some very distinct triggers - lack of sleep, over-stimulation, stress - but will occasionally pop up out of nowhere. I've noticed that it gets worse during cold-and-flu season, because when I'm feeling poorly, my fight-or-flight triggers get really sensitive.

    I haven't really noticed any connection with my stomach - I've always had the sick to my stomach feeling when I'm particularly panicky, but I've not paid that much attention to it, to be honest.

    For me, what helps to to reduce the stimulation. (I also fight with chronic headaches, so reducing things like loud noises and bright lights helps on multiple levels.) At work, headphones and some soft background noise helps cut down on the noise from the office, and I can keep my little area pretty dark. It's not perfect, but it helps.

    I hope the new stuff you're trying will help your digestive system stop trying to destroy you. :)

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  25. Gluten seems to be the latest supervillain in food. I have problems with anxiety, and fibromyalgia. I did live gluten free for a few months and it did nothing to alleviate any of the symptoms. I understand there truly are people who have celiac disease, and some who are sensitive to gluten, but I don't think the answers are so easy. Every time someone tries to blame one thing for health issues, both physical and mental, I'm surprised that they think it's so easy to blame one thing in a vacuum be it a food item or vaccines, when we're exposed to so many nasty substances in our environment and diets (plastics, pestacides, etc.) Plus we need to factor in our genes too.

    When it comes to anxiety and phobias, I've noticed it tends to fluctuate with my hormone levels. I only began having problems like that when my monthly cycle went totally nuts. It's not an issue I've had a doctor bring up when discussing my hormone problems, so I don't have anything factual to back up my suspicions. It's just something I've been dealing with for almost 30 years.

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    1. Hormones definitely play a HUGE part, so you're bang-on there. My panic has always flared up the week before my period, and my doctor found significant imbalances through testing, so I tried Bio-identical HRT for a few years. It helped my hot flashes go away, but there was never any noticeable improvement in my anxiety, so I quit about 2 yrs ago, with no adverse affects. I'm still more careful around my cycle, though, limiting social outings and travel when I can during that week.

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  26. I am gluten intolerant, and though I have read plenty of research that connects lowered anxiety with a GF diet, my personal experience has been the complete opposite: I didn't get socially anxious UNTIL I went GF. And it's mostly due to the feeling of control, or perceived lack of.

    I've always been a bit of a control freak, in the sense that I need a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup for the backup. I don't do spontaneous well. Maybe it's part of my introverted nature, maybe something else, but my diagnosis two years ago left a pretty huge mark on me, both behaviorally and psychologically.

    Before, I could go out with friends in a crowded bar or restaurant, do long family road trips, and attend huge cons and conferences with no problem, so long as I could find a quiet corner once in a while. After, the incessant hassle to find food (safe food) wore me down. If my friends invited me to a restaurant and the place didn't have a GF menu, I didn't offer alternatives - I just didn't go. I hid behind my diagnosis, because since I couldn't control my disease, I COULD control my surroundings.

    If "control" could be defined as "used every excuse to not go anywhere".

    During the first year, the GF thing was an adventure, because I suddenly had to learn how to cook and bake and all that. Then, I started resenting it, and the little fortress I called home became a prison. Normal people could go out and grab a burger; I was one of the lucky 1% who couldn't. I saw poison in every grocery aisle, and loathed my own kitchen. It's taken several months and a verbal slap-in-the-face from a couple friends for me to not hate food in general, and a (very) slow realization that I have a smartphone, smartphones have internet, and I can research ingredients/restaurants/alternatives on the fly. Also, there's plenty of GF convenience food for when I'm especially lazy.

    Let me clarify one thing, though: I used to be a HUGE bread person. Sourdough, donuts, cake, oreos, potato buns; if it used flour, it was mine. And it was killing me, literally. It took something as drastic as my diagnosis to actually learn how to cook and eat right, and physically, I've only benefitted from it. I've found I like salads and fish, and I have an amazing Knoephla Soup recipe (gluten free and dairy free). And except for random moments, I don't miss those gluteny foods anymore. If people ask me out for dinner, I research the restaurant ahead of time or bring my own food. If I get nasty looks, whatever. My health, not theirs. If anything, I'm a stronger, better person IN SPITE OF my disease.

    Jen, I second Anon @3:59. Your GI system is trying to warn you in the only way it can. If you suspect gluten issues, then get tested for celiac. It's a simple blood test to find the antibodies (the follow-up endoscopy is optional - I didn't do it). If it's inconclusive, then try the GF diet for a while (several months, at least, based on how long you've had your GI symptoms. Lots of damage = LOTS of heal time). The good news, though, is there are tons more GF options out there now, and Florida is much more conscientious and accepting of it than North Dakota. If anyone can get a handle on it, you can. You're awesome like that.

    For more info, check out the forums at Celiac.com/gluten-free. There's good people there.

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  27. Starting a comment for this article got me thinking. My (generalized and social) anxiety has always just been worry and butterflies, right? Well, no, I do sweat sometimes too, but that's it. I don't really have any panic symptoms like heart...oh, wait. WOW, I do probably get heart palpitations. but to me I always just think of it as my heart beating faster. Palpitations sounds so serious...but that's what that is, right? Huh.

    I don't get overwhelmed in situations suddenly, like it sounds like you do. For me it's more like an extreme version of the classic introvert description - I recharge with alone time, not social time. I'm fine with a dinner or day with friends (or a weekend with the boyfriend, I guess anxiety makes some exceptions), but when I've had too much interaction (sleepovers in HS, all night parties in college, work conferences sharing a room with my boss) I just shut down - eventually it just makes me tired to talk to someone so I do as little as possible. I need to read or watch TV for a while to feel better. However, I've never had a panic attack - even when my heart starts racing, there's no shaking, hyperventilating, etc. Nothing I would every call panic. Except for the occasional cry (usually when I'm trying to explain to someone WHY I'm acting funny), and the sweating, almost everything in internal - worry, worry, worry. Wondering and planning and deciding and thinking and hoping and anticipating and trying. So it sounds like my anxiety manifests almost the opposite from you - very little physical, almost all mental.

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  28. I have had IBS symptoms for many years and was told it was stress. I read something about sorbitol and sucralose causing IBS symptoms because the body can't digest them. So I gave up sugarless gum and anything with Splenda and it has made a huge difference.

    I also recently some panic attack feelings , but I wasn't panicked. It was just that nervous, lump in your throat feeling, over and over again, several times a day. Saw the Dr. and we're chalking that up to perimenopause. Joy.

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  29. Jen - you've stated your dislike of doctors, but if none of them have talked to you about colitis or Crohn's disease, talk to your doctor and ask to see a gastroenterologist. They probably won't be able to address any gut-anxiety connections, but might be able to help with The Stomach From Hell. Keep a detailed (and I mean DETAILED.) food diary - an easy way is a big chart, think input/output. Food/drink on one side, symptoms/GI things on the other, with the top of the page being the start of the day.

    Another thing - a lot of probiotics are crap. (Although placebos have been proven to work in some situations, so there is that.) Talk to a doctor about using them. One that my gastroenterologist recommended was VSL#3, Google it; it's pricey but from the doctors I've talked to it seems to be a good product.

    Last comment, and this one will probably be very hard with your lifestyle - try a disciplined, regular sleep schedule that aligns (at least somewhat) with the sun. Sleep at night, be awake during the day, and strive for a consistent bedtime. It might not immediately alleviate any of your symptoms, but a stable rhthym helps with just about everything. If you have to use the computer when it's dark out, install f.lux on your device (google it).

    Please see a doctor about the GI issues. Other commenters have suggested elimination diets - do this, but carefully and in a controlled way so that you can conclusively identify the offending diet item(s). A detailed food diary will help track this. Add a column on there for your anxiety symptoms. We're all hoping you'll feel better.

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  30. I wish cutting out gluten stopped my panic attacks. I became gluten intolerant (very very severely) about 4 years ago after some major surgeries. I've always been a worrier and had high anxiety and since I've been on a strict gluten-free diet that hasn't ended. For me they are two completely separate things - but it may be possible for some people that they are related since it is hard for our bodies process as much gluten as we intake - just based on American diets. (PS they make rather expensive gluten free Oreos!)

    Recently my panic attacks have increased to the point where I feel like I'm having a heart attack and that fun can last for up to a week at a time! So lucky! On the plus side the panic and anxiety is no longer causing me to have daily headaches. I personally attribute that to a B vitamin blend I started taking which is a miracle: Solaray Two-Stage Mega-B Stress. I've been highly recommending it to anyone with anxiety...but again it doesn't stop my panic attacks so who knows...

    You may have to experiment with the diet a little and find what/if anything works best for you. I did notice that cutting dairy way down seems to be highly beneficial too.

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  31. My anxiety doesn't seem to revolve around social situations at all. Unless I'm surrounded by strangers and get blocked in. I get freaked out when it comes to doctors, money, or watching a movie that is socially tense, super flashy, or depicts kids are in danger. I'm totally going to try the probiotic thing!

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  32. Every time you post about your anxiety and panic attacks, I always think, "This doesn't sound like me, so I don't have an anxiety problem." But, I did relate to a lot of the cartoons.

    I have not been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I brought it up to a doctor once, and when I did, I burst into tears. She told me I just needed to exercise more. That was the last time I went to her, but I haven't really talked to my current doctor about it. I've kind of taken the attitude that that's just how I am, and how can a doctor help me?

    The most common reaction I have to a stressful situation is uncontrollable crying. I can't stifle it. And if someone asks about it, that only makes it worse. It usually lasts about an hour, but I've had it last longer.

    When I go to cons, I prefer to be a vendor. I'm more likely to last through the whole day if I have some space to call my own. When I'm a vendor, there's still bound to be at least one crying attack, but it's usually away from the crowd. I get the same way at big parties. I need to take some time out for myself away from all the people, or else I'll end up in tears.

    Another thing that can set off an attack is being corrected or reprimanded, even if it's done nicely. I'd get in trouble with my stepdad growing up because he'd yell at me and I'd cry. Then he'd yell at me to stop crying, at which point there was no way I could stop. (That may be some verbal abuse in there too, perhaps why I'm anxious? But that's for another day.) But even if the teachers in school corrected a mistake I made on a test, or lectured a class about a misbehavior that didn't apply to me, I'd start crying and couldn't stop. Even now, I've had a teacher correct my position in tai chi class, in a very appropriate and sensitive way (something innocent like, "when you do this position, your feet should be closer together"), and I had a crying fit. Last night, at belly dance class, the teacher showed me something that I hadn't learned before, and I could feel it coming on (somehow I stopped it, I think by distracting myself, doing the thing right, and then the whole class cheered for me).

    I also avoid talking on the phone. I'd much rather email, say it in person, or write a letter. I don't know what it is, but I just get so anxious about talking on the phone.

    In general, I hate to say it, but I self-medicate with alcohol. Part of me knows that it probably makes the matter worse. Last night, I had that missed moment in class, and then I talked to my dad on the phone, which was about my grandpa's failing health and my grandma's situation with it. I met up with some friends at the bar and had a couple drinks, but I never had the crying attack that I thought was imminent. Then, I woke up in the middle of the night, and started thinking about all those little things I've done wrong in the past, and had a hard time getting back to sleep. When I did fall asleep again, I dreamed that I couldn't sleep, which then escalated into more anxious dreams.

    There may be more to my anxiety attacks than just crying, but I get so obsessed with trying to stop that I don't notice them. I do have trouble breathing and a lump in my throat, but I've always associated that with the crying.

    I have had stomach problems in the past. They've mostly gone away since I found out that I have food allergies (corn and eggs). When I do get them, they seem to be more linked to a possible mistake in diet than to any anxiety issues.

    Sorry for the long post, but it does feel good to tell other people about this stuff.

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    1. Hi Michelle! Wow, you sound so much like me: near uncontrollable crying triggered by the most innocent of suggestions/corrections with a history of a verbally abusive father that would punish me even more for crying or being hurt.

      I've had a LOT of luck with a technique called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). For a thoroughly left-brained scientist, it sounded a little "new-agey" to me, but I was desperate and was at the point that I would try anything. In hind-sight it really feels like guided meditation more than anything, and helped tremendously. I think it's typically considered a treatment for PTSD but the therapist that introduced it to me has also used it in a variety of other settings with great success.

      The other best thing in the world that worked for me? Getting a job with an office with a door that locked. Crying by myself made for a much shorter session than if someone could see me and ask if I was ok.

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    2. OMG, I am so relieved to hear that I'm not the only person with the crying problem! I've never seen anyone react the way I do, so I figured it was just me.

      Hm, I'm going to have to look into more info about the EMDR. Thanks for the suggestion!

      I'm lucky to have an office to myself now too. But when I close it, the social anxiety kicks in and I'm worried that they'll know something's wrong (especially since they've seen me break down before). Still, I have closed it before. I think just knowing it's there helps too.

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  33. I have both Celiac and Ulcerative Colitis (yay, Big and Small Intestines both having issues!) and have been on a GF diet for the past five years for the Celiac, Rx-grade probiotics for the past three years, and a high-protein diet (created and monitored by an MS, RD, CDN) for the past year-and-a-half. I've gone from being a big depressed (medically) stress-ball to a much smaller stress-ball in that time. For me, cutting out gluten had the most profound effect of all the options, but Celiac is different from a gluten intolerance, so I can't say, "Do it! It'll definitely help" and actually be sure. (Also, my stress isn't the same thing as your anxiety.)

    My advice (as others have suggested) is to try elimination diets to see which foods (if any) seem to be hurting. Also, be sure to read up about gluten if you do decide to give it up as a trial: for about four months, I continued to ingest gluten, thinking I was GF, because I didn't understand that gluten "hides" in lots of products--from topical dental anesthetic to Tropicana 100% juices (the ones that don't specifically say "Pure Premium").

    I'm also a big fan of Eastern medicine. I have a memory from your previous posts that you're not a fan of needles, so I understand if my advice to check out an acupuncturist will not be met with pleasure. Hypnosis was incredibly helpful for me when I had to give up sugar and caffeine cold-turkey (see: colitis above; ugh). My newest kick is doing Andrew Weil's breathing exercises: http://www.amazon.com/Breathing-Master-Key-Self-Healing/dp/B000056WQM/ref=la_B000AP8OEE_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381268148&sr=1-7. I haven't been doing them for long, but already feel a little more calm.

    Best of luck, Jen! I hope you can some additional relief easily and quickly. And if you do go GF, know that there are decent GF substitutes for just about everything out there. I even had a Dunkin Donuts GF muffin and doughnut over the weekend!

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  34. I'd believe the GI/mental disorder connection. I don't have anxiety, but I do have a mood disorder (long, long story) and I actually started getting very bad acid attacks around the same time it manifested--bad enough to land me in the ER multiple times. I finally got diagnosed with GERD last year, and it's been manageable since then, but it honestly wouldn't surprise me if there was a connection.

    Regarding anxiety--obviously I don't have firsthand experience, but I've known several people with pretty bad anxiety issues and none of them were exactly the same, symptoms-wise. Everybody is wired a little bit differently, after all, and worrying if you have *real* anxiety sounds like just another version of anxiety. What a mess, eh?

    Hang in there. And thanks so much for posting--I love reading your POV on things like this. :)

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    1. Random tidbit from a fellow GERD sufferer: I recently discovered that crystallized ginger kills the acid attacks where every other OTC med has failed me. I've been in the ER from my attacks, too, and up 'til I found the ginger (at a local organic grocer) I was still up several nights a month with it. Now I nibble a chunk of ginger, and the pain is actually manageable - or it heads off the attack all together. (I don't like the taste, but it's true what they say about a spoonful of sugar. ;)) Anyway, you might give it a try, if you haven't already!

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  35. There are multiple varieties of anxiety, and each type is as individual as the person afflicted. Mental health disorders are very difficult to understand and manage because of that actually. As a fellow sufferer of anxiety and occasional depression, I can honestly tell you triggers are different for everyone. In fact, different things can set me off depending on the day! There's no reason to worry about anxiety ;) Thanks for the tips on different possible solutions by the way! I'm hoping to try some out and possibly beat this. Also, when it comes to gluten, I would get yourself tested if you really think it's a factor in your anxiety. A simple blood test will tell you if you should eliminate it or not :)

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  36. It's interesting that sometimes the GI stuff comes first...what seems purely physical stuff has an effect on our psyche more often than we think. I have a good friend who thought that she suffered from random bouts of depression all her life, only recently discovering that she is allergic to corn syrup and that instead of making her physically ill it drastically affects her mood. Now that she stays away from it she is generally much happier, although it hasn't changed her moods completely. Maybe the physical problems only aggravate or affect what was already there instead of introducing something entirely new? Just some interesting thoughts.

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  37. I have social anxiety and general or internalized (I may have invented that term) anxiety. My social anxiety isn't really about social situations, but new ones. Basically not being able to have a "safe" zone. I wait tables but I'm used to where I work and my coworkers and I know that if I misstep with a table, like bungling a greeting or just getting tongue-tied, that I can retreat back to the wait station and vent about it. However a going away party for a coworker held at another's house was really hard for me to go to. Its the same people, but a different place and was frightening.

    The social anxiety comes and goes but the general/internalized anxiety is like the ocean. Sometimes its high tide, sometimes its low tide, but the ocean is always there. In my own mind I'm not living up to my true potential, I'm not getting enough done, I'm not eating enough, I'm eating too much, I didn't clean enough, I didn't relax enough. I seriously stress over not relaxing.

    I was talking to my boyfriend last night on how he relaxes his muscles enough to go to sleep and he said "I don't know, I just do." Which blew my mind. My default is mind racing, criticizing, and my muscles tensed. I can "hold" my muscles relaxed but if I stop focusing on it they go right back to tense.

    How I usually cope is by having constant stimulation, a movie playing while on the internet for example. Its like a white noise machine to drown out tinnitus, but instead its dissecting every little thought and moment and potential moment ever. I'm trying to learn to meditate to basically re-wire my mind on how to think. I've never not been this way and I don't want to be anymore. Panic attacks are some of my earliest memories. Being constantly anxious has made me retreat further and further into my safest safe zone, my mind. Its caused a notable mind-body disconnect, to the point where I don't feel like me and my body are the same entity.

    Food-wise: I'm trying now to balance between eating healthy, eating quick, emotional eating and/or denial. When incredibly stressed I can either binge or deny myself based on if I think I "deserve" it. I know my body needs good fuel in order to work the best, but I need to also forgive myself for grabbing fast food after a long tiring shift, for eating some ice cream, just that eating something is very important. Although I don't seem to have digestive issues other than my hunger shutting down completely.

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  38. In a word (ok, technically an acronym) try FODMAPS. Someone earlier suggested it and I can recommend it highly. I tested negative for lactose and gluten intolerance (meaning: I am neither) but have determined a sensitivity to polyols, galactans and fructose and my IBS and anxiety symptoms have almost been resolved by 95%. I went from having bad IBS-D symptoms 2-3 times a week to 3 episodes in 5 months. (And those were when I "tested" some foods I was unsure of. Yup, cherries and avocado are definately not on the list for me.)

    A friend of mine suggested FODMAPS, and there are a lot of links out there but I find those of the Monash University to be the best--they were the researchers who happened upon the connection between FODMAPS containing foods and IBS. That being said, not eating wheat (fructans) has also releived my anxiety symptoms. (And while my anxiety was somewhat related to IBS (who isn't anxious when you think you might poop your pants at the worst possible time???) it also releived my overall mental state and outlook. Not to mention, I've lost 30+ pounds.
    Please google FODMAPS and do some research. Not all foods affect us the same way--I can tolerate lactose but forget anything with polyol in it... (And there are some very convenient apps for phones that include green-yellow-red lights for food lists which makes it easier to determine how much of a danger food you can have.) It's still trial and error, but it sure makes it a lot easier.
    Good luck!

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  39. Hi Jen! First off, I'd like to thank you so much for your recommending Hope and Help For Your Nerves; I bought it on a whim and it has helped me GREATLY in how I think about and manage my anxiety.

    After nearly two years of suffering excruciating physical symptoms, panic attacks, and a general, constant feeling of doom and fear, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder a few months ago. In what I suspect was NOT at all a coincidence, my stomach issues started at the exact same time, and they are often worse than the anxiety itself (at least stomach troubles are a bit easier to explain to people; in my experience people are better are handling, "I can't come, I have diarrhea," than "I can't come, the thought of leaving my house today makes my brain turn on me and tell me that something terrible will happen.")

    I eat a very healthy diet (when I'm able to eat. One aspect of both my disorder and my ailing stomach is that I have many days when I either cannot stand the thought of food or somehow don't believe I should be allowed to eat), so there wasn't much to fix there, and as far as I know, I don't have any allergies. I too take a probiotic, but it doesn't seem to help much; after reading your post, I'm going to take a look at some different brands. I also take daily B and D vitamins and a multivitamin, so at least I can know I'm doing all I can to manage the nutrition end of my disorder.

    I also only could relate to a few cartoons on the list, causing me to wonder if maybe I "have anxiety wrong."I think social anxiety tends to get a lot of focus because it might be more common. It's also slightly easier to explain than other anxieties. Again, people understand when I tell them that going out to a club sounds like my own personal hell; not so much when I try to explain how road trips make me nervous because I might become car sick, even though I've never once been car sick in my life, or how I can't sleep because I lie away at night worried my cell phone is giving me brain cancer. Social phobias are a fear people recognize, but less rational fears (while equally valid) are trickier for people to wrap their heads around (even I don't understand the car sick thing, anxiety is a lying jerk).

    As a side note, one thing that has really helped me lately is doing regular yoga. Interacting with strangers is one of my many fears, but taking a class with the same people each week (not even really speaking to them, just recognizing the same faces), in a dark, relaxing environment, with a supportive instructor gives me at least a few hours away from my problems and helps me begin the day on a much less anxious note.

    Thanks for this post, I don't have a supportive environment for talking about my disorder (It took two years for me to seek help because my mother doesn't believe mental illness is "a real thing"), so seeking out these online communities means the world to me. :)

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  40. http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/

    Just thought I'd add the link. It's been a life-saver for me. It's all about how our bodies digest the different types of carbohydrates. Some of us can digest them just fine, others, like me, have a gut that acts like a giant fermentation tank and if I feed the tank too many of the wrong types of carbs...the tank blows. Avoiding those carbs and the tank is happy happy happy. It's not a food allergy or even a sensitivity, I picture it more as a malfunctioning street sweeper--it brushes up some of the dust and dirt but leaves a lot behind.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy - I am definitely checking this out.

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    2. I didn't want to go into a lot of details, but I've had a weight issue for the past 30 years or so. I've tried every diet and while sometimes successful, sometimes not. One diet that was relatively successful for me was Adkins...but it's hard to sustain that low-carb diet over a long time. I also experienced even WORSE IBS on Adkins, so I eventually went back to my usual way of eating--which was everything. I'm a food professional (I hate the term foodie--but I am) so I don't use a lot of processed foods, I do mostly scratch cooking. This past winter was hard (I live in MN) and I ate more than I needed to. Come May, I wanted to shake off some weight and decided to give Atkins another go--but with some "rules" of my own. I eliminated all white foods, from wheat (pasta, rice, potatoes, sugar) and processed foods like HFCS and grain-based oils.

      Well, the first week was brutal...I was in carb withdrawl. Shaky, jittery, bitchy--the works. But---I noticed almost immediately that my gut problems (gas, pain, cramps, fullness, unpredictable "going", excessive "going") disappeared. My weight started to go down and two weeks later, I reintroduced potatoes and colored rices (brown, wild, red, black) and again, no issues. That's when I remembered the FODMAPS diet an Aussie friend recommended some time ago. I googled it and discovered polyols and fructose and fructans and galactans and oligos. It was like the key finally fit the lock and I could hear the tumbler falling into place.

      I've been following a strict FODMAP diet since May and I can honestly say that in 35+ years of my IBS diagnosis, this is the best I've ever felt. About a month in, I googled anxiety and wheat and there is some evidence suggesting a connection. Again, gluten is only one peice of the puzzle--it is more likely the fructose in the wheat. When you figure how much of our food has been genetically modified or hybridized to be much more nutritionally dense than even a generation or two ago, our bodies haven't kept pace with the changes.

      I've been raving to anyone who will listen (including my poor husband) about how much of a difference FODMAPS makes. I've also discovered some FODMAPs friendly blogs that feature recipes and helpful hints. It takes some effort to manage the first two or three weeks of withdrawl, but honestly, the withdrawl was easier to manage than a lifetime of IBS and anxiety. And remember, not every food on the FODMAP list affects everyone the same way. And also, more research is coming...Monash is releasing more and more foods everyday that have been tested for FODMAPs...which is quite helpful.

      The best was finding out that the ever present "Mashed Faux-Tatoes" that are so popular on Adkins (aka mashed cauliflower) was my demise. Cauliflower is loaded with polyols. Oops!!!

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    3. (One last link...I forgot it before) Kate Scarlota has a great website for IBS and FODMAPS with recipes and helpful hints. This is a pdf guide...VERY helpful.

      http://www.katescarlata.com/media-fodmap-road-map-for-ibs-living-without.pdf

      Anyhow--good luck and happy researching.

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    4. ^ Thanks so much for sharing this! And thank you to Jen for sharing what you've written, it's really helpful to read it and then to read what others chime in with. I just...really appreciate it! I feel less alone.
      ~ Jan

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  41. I've had a nervous stomach since...I've had a stomach. Diagnosed with an ulcer when I was 25. Been on Prilosec for way too long. My personal needs include requiring two toilets in my living space Just In Case there's someone using one and my previous meal decides it's a freight train. I do avoid wheat (ok with gluten) and that helps my IBS but sometimes, if I have an interview or some other stressful situation coming up, I sometimes avoid food altogether. I tried some of the pro-biotic stuff but that seems to make it worse. I've had some luck with wild yam capsules. Also per the previous post, I'm going to look up FODMAPS just to see what comes up. I also have a shrink and have been working for a long time on connecting the feelings with the origin of feeling unsafe, etc. It helps too, but it's taken a long time.

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  42. My anxiety and gut issues go together like peanut butter and jelly. I've always had both, my anxiety has rollercoastered throughout the years but my gut issues have gotten far worse in the past 7 years. I have dumping syndrome (such a great name!) and if I have a panic attack, it triggers the dumping syndrome, and if the DS (let's just shorten that) gets triggered by who knows what, I will have an instant panic attack. FUN.

    Things that have helped the anxiety:

    I quit drinking 8 years ago, and that has helped TREMENDOUSLY. Caffeine triggers panic attacks, so I can't have coffee, even decaf will set me off. Most of my anxiety these days centers around horrible things that have happened in my past, and I have nightmares every night, (I think it's a side effect of one of my medications?) so I wake up in full panic mode and feel like I'm dying and so forth. If I start to get anxious during the day, I can usually calm myself down with meditation. (I'm totally buying that book BTW) Since I stopped drinking, social situations no longer set me off. I'm fine to go to a party, stay for an hour, and then leave. But I'm totally an introvert, I don't leave the house all that often, sometimes only once a week.

    Things that have helped with my gut:

    I have tried to go gluten free, and it doesn't help me at all. In fact, I feel better (gut wise) when I do eat gluten. I have cut out processed foods- and that has helped a lot! I have friends that are Paleo, and they love it, but I just cannot eat that much meat. I try to make most things from scratch, recently I have replaced my ranch, spaghetti sauce and cream of mushroom soup with homemade mixes. I just learned how to make bread from my husband's grandma (yea! it's soooo good!) I feel better when I have a few fruits a day- an apple and a peach or a pear, etc. I have recently started the good probiotics, but so far I haven't noticed a difference.

    What has helped both is exercise. People used to tell me that all the time and it would drive me crazy because I hated working out, I would get really sick. 2 years ago we moved to San francisco, and just this year I started working out (my gut issues have made me gain so much weight! Ugh!) and I can exercise just fine now. Turns out I was getting altitude sickness! (I grew up in Utah) It's so stupid, but it runs in the family. I have been going to the gym 3 days a week (it took a year of trying to convince myself that I could go to a gym, my social anxiety was really holding me back but I did it!) I just do 30-60 minutes of cardio on the elliptical or the bike, I have my headphones or I bring the ipad and watch my fav shows. I have more energy, my gut isn't as bad and I feel happier and more stable. I hate to say it, but they were right- exercise does help with anxiety!

    I love that you talk about this. It helps me so much to read your posts!

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  43. Mine is completely different. Yeah, I still have a bit of the general people-interaction-overthinking but my anxiety is almost entirely related to my artwork. I'm an artist (and an author! I'm working on getting published!) and some days, nothing seems to go right, everything i draw is just a little bit off. I start to get hyperactive and easily frustrated with the tiny mistakes. I'll give up on drawing and try to play a game, but I'll be too indecisive to pick one, so I start pacing. I'll suddenly have to overwhelming urge to clean. I finish that having burned of some energy. I spend the rest of the day overly stressed, generally with a migraine. At some point I'll burst into tears for the simple reason of not finding a game to play.

    Yes, this is a legit form of anxiety; I've been diagnosed by my doctor and take a prescription that helps. It got really bad in high school: senior year, I ended up only taking half-days, I couldn't cope with any more classes. (though I already had all the credits I needed, the classes I cut were all electives)

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    1. I find myself cleaning the house when I'm overwhelmed, too. There's something about fixing your surroundings when you can't get your internal house in order that's very therapeutic. It's also instinctual; I'll start picking things up or straightening the bookshelves without really being aware of what I'm doing at times.

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  44. I've never commented on this site, but something you said in your post really hit home with me, so I wanted to share.

    About six months ago, I had a panic attack- a full fledged, almost passed out, spent the night in the ER because I had no idea what was happening panic attack. I've always had undiagnosed anxiety (which I recently got diagnosed and am now treating), but never a panic attack like that. I was terrified I was dying. For months, I underwent testing to see if something was wrong with my heart because it had been beating so fast that night (like 150 bpm), but every doctor kept coming back to panic attacks. I didn't believe them though, because I thought panic attacks were only caused by triggers, and I couldn't remember anything triggering fear that night--my heart just started racing for no reason. The same thing happened for about three weeks after that first one, and I still thought I was dying. Until today, I still suspected there was something physically wrong with my heart that caused it to just start beating like crazy for no reason and that it was going to kill me suddenly one day. In your post though, you mentioned also experiencing random panic attacks for no reason whatsoever. So now I feel better, because I know I'm not alone, and that someone else also experiences the same type of panic attacks. Now I believe the doctors, which is such a weight off my shoulders.

    About a month ago I saw a new psychiatrist and was finally, formally diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. It sucks, but it helps knowing I'm not alone and knowing there is a reason for my worries, which is why I love visiting this site.

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    1. Wow, Krisden, it sounds like you and I have almost the same story of our first panic attacks! I was in the hospital 4 days going through every test imaginable - and for some reason no one ever - not even ONCE - mentioned the words "panic attack." In fact, the doctors just kept telling me how puzzled they were, which was SO reassuring. Ha! I went back home with a big ol' "undiagnosed" on my chart and the certainty that something was wrong with my heart and I was going to die. I think if someone had pulled me aside and explained this MIGHT be anxiety - and what that meant, and what symptoms were included - I could have avoided those first 6 months of sheer terror. Instead, the docs kept sending me to heart & kidney doctors, who never found anything wrong.

      By the by, when you were in the hospital, did they find any electrolyte imbalances? Because my potassium & magnesium levels were critically low (cue the puzzled kidney doctors), and low potassium can weaken the heart and make it harder for it to slow down once the panic hits. (For my first attack my heart rate stayed over 150 for 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. Ug.) Anyway, I take potassium & mag. supplements now, so you might consider that, too. I don't think the low levels are life-threatening or anything, so I don't mean to spook you with that - just wanted to mention it!

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  45. As I was reading this I thought "I bet she's gluten intolerant", so I'm glad you recognized that might be a thing.

    I've been gluten-free for 5 years (before it became trendy). I don't have any anxiety issues, but I have struggled with depression and aggression since I was about 16 (I'm 32 now). Going GF has changed all that, I am not even the same person any more. People who knew me before can't believe how much I've changed, and people who've met me in the last 5 years can't believe that such a positive person ever took antidepressants. Seriously, no Oreo is worth holding back that kind of change in your life (and I do love me some Oreos!).

    I too started out taking probiotics. Actually I ate yogurt everyday, religiously. If I didn't eat the yogurt, I would get severe heartburn and GERD and IBS and all kinds of horrible symptoms. It got progressively worse until the yogurt wasn't cutting it anymore. Then one day I thought I had broken my wrist, it was so painful. That kicked off 9 months of insane arthritis pain that jumped from joint to joint. Most days I couldn't hold a pencil, brush my own teeth or hair, or cook any food. I needed some kind of assisted living at age 27. I cried everyday. Then one day, 9 months later, I noticed I felt really good. I thought about it and realized I hadn't eaten any wheat or carbs in a few days. So I ate a piece of bread, and within 30 minutes I was sick again. I haven't eaten gluten since and my life has done a complete 180.

    Gluten damages your intestines, so that they can't properly process the vitamins you should be getting from your food. You're basically nutrient deficient all the time, no matter what you eat. This seriously affects your brain chemical balance (along with many other things). After I stopped eating gluten, the depression and aggression just evaporated. I'm now a really upbeat, positive person. I don't get stressed out anymore. I don't get angry anymore. I don't get depressed anymore. I'm zen and level, and my friends look to me when they need to calm down.

    It's not that hard to give up when you consider the alternatives. When I realized what the problem was, all temptation for gluten immediately disappeared. It was bizarre! I rarely even get tempted (sometimes, but not often). The completely positive change that my life has taken, both physically and mentally, is absolutely worth forgoing Oreos, Wheat Thins, Cheezits, donuts, and pizza. It's like what you wrote about John and the Mountain Dew, but times a million. Think about it - if it really is a problem for you, you can make an enormous positive change in your life by just not eating certain things. There are no drugs to take. There's no therapy to go to. There's no pain. There's no invasive procedures. Just. Don't. Eat it.

    I can't say for sure that gluten is your problem, but it sure sounds like it's worth a try. Try it for a week and see how you feel. It can't hurt. Real healing takes much longer than a week, but you'll know in a short amount of time if you feel any different at all and it's worth pursuing. Make a meal plan for the week and go for it! It's not as hard as you think.

    Good luck to you Jen! I love CW and Epbot and am glad to see you back. Best wishes to you and John.

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  46. My husband cut out gluten 5 years ago and it changed his life in many ways. He always had a "nervous" stomach that I attributed to some sort of IBS - his family has a nickname for the gastro distress, as they all have the issue and chalk it up to genetics. The family members who cut out gluten have seen lovely results, the ones who haven't cut it out still have issues, but hell, eating real pizza and pasta is worth it to them. His allergies have all but disappeared, also. We have seen other positive effects - enough that he has no desire to eat gluten anymore. Not everyone reacts this way - I think some people just can't digest it as well as others, and his weird auto-immune somethingorother is triggered by it. Funny, of our three kids - the kid who favors his side of the family most, her stomach can't deal with gluten, either. I have no issues with gluten, but reading your post has convinced me that I should just cut out the small bits that I still eat altogether - it certainly wouldn't hurt, and if it helps my anxiety, yahoo!!!!!

    Don't let gluten free scare you - once I got a good flour substitute, it hasn't changed the way I cook (although I have to cook EVERYTHING) and restaurants are really "getting it" now, making eating out easy.

    you are inspirational - yay Jen!!!
    cheers~!

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  47. I have depression, anxiety disorder and OCD, all of which feed upon each other. So... yay for my brain.

    I was diagnosed at 17, and first put on meds when I was 19, before the SSRIs came out, then spent the next decade or so going on and off meds, and have pretty much been on anti-depressants for the past decade. I also have anxiety meds to take as needed. I feel like taken most anti-depressants over the past, so, lots of experience there.

    Here's the thing: seretonin, which affects your mood, had a direct relationship to your gut. So it's possible that a disorder in your gut can affect your mood. (Not sure how happy your site is with links, so I recommend looking up seretonin on WebMD and then google "seretonin gut" and look for articles from sites you recognize.

    As far as MY gut goes, I have pretty much a cast iron stomach. I can eat almost anything without ill effect and I rarely get food poisoning. I guess I'm lucky enough to have super-powered gut microbes. (I'm not complaining about this.)

    But that doesn't make the relationships YOU have noticed between your stomach and your mood irrelevant.

    The human body is an incredibly complex machine where there are so very many things that can go wrong, it's truly amazing our bodies work at all.

    Because we are so complex, it means a "problem" could have one of many causes, and when that problem relates to the brain--an organ that is stilll so very much a black box to doctors--it gets even more complex.

    So what happens is you have to apply the scientific method to yourself. Trial and error and see what works and doesn't work.

    For me, personally, exercise is mandatory for keeping my mood disorders under control. I need to burn off the excess energy that can trigger my anxiety, and it also helps keep depression at bay. If I miss exercise for a week (or more) I fall into a bout of depression, which of course then makes it harder for me to exercise. I also find that keeping my blood sugar from plummeting and keeping hydrated also helps to stabilize my mood. And regular massage--a combination of both relaxing and forced down time--also helps me.

    Again, these are things I've come to discover over the almost 30 years of living with my mood disorders. Your discoveries will almost certainly be different, but what I do know for certain is that you must remember to be kind to yourself.

    Our brains are "broken" but not in a way that is our fault. So we have to remember to be patient with ourselves while we search for remedies.

    But first and foremost, remember that you aren't alone in this.

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  48. I don't have social anxiety- at all. Mine is definitely "stimulation-and-escape-centric" triggered, as you put it. High ceilings, driving through big cities and bridges, heights, theaters, auditoriums, rides, and the such. I'm much better compared to how I was a few years ago ( I couldn't even leave the house without crying and feeling like I was dying), but I still have some problems. I honestly don't know if I'll ever be able to drive again (which I avoid now at all costs). It's so hard and embarrassing explaining why I can't go to the movies, or have to sit near a door, and can't do things that seem so normal to everyone else... The hardest part is I've actually lost friends because of it. I just wish more people understood.

    But overall, I'm really making improvements! I think researching self-help methods have helped a little, but honestly? I think what has helped me a lot is reading stories and talking with other panic disorder sufferers online. It may sound strange, but for me it's the truth.

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    1. Not strange at all; this community right here has been almost literally a life-saver for me. And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I always let John drive, because the last time I went out alone I had an attack. Since we go everywhere together, I haven't had to test myself - but this weekend I'm going out with a friend for a girl's day out, and I'm already a little nervous about the driving sitch. :/

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  49. My anxiety is primarily social, though I do also have quite a bit around potentially bad "what if" situations I won't be able to control, like, "what if there's a fire and I'm not home to get the cats out?" The attacks are rarely completely paralyzing, but have become a lot worse in the past few months so I've gone back on meds. I absolutely have "nervous tummy" that causes, um, a need to be near a bathroom at certain predictable points in my day and/or occasional cramping. It hadn't been a problem for a few years, but this summer came roaring back with a vengeance. Gluten does not appear to be a factor in my case. I'm concerned about the increase in my anxiety because my mom became almost completely agoraphobic at my age (45) which her medical doctor speculated was chemical, though she never sought other treatment (she would have had to leave the house, after all!).

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  50. Hi! Long-time lurker here. Since you're asking specifically for anecdotes on topics that I do have some experience with I thought I would hop on Anonymously just to add my 2-cents.

    I don't have anxiety, at least not in the ongoing ways I've seen friends suffer, but I do have a experiences that are related to gut-health and mental state, which your post made me think of. For a long time (up until my last couple years of college) had no tummy troubles of any kind. Then I lived with a person who never washed their hands after using the toilet. Of course, I didn't realize this until I ended up with an 8-week infection (not E. Coli) that can only be caused by eating human fecal matter. From then on, I had ongoing problems with bloating, weight gain, and-- now looking back-- depression and anger issues. One morning, I was feeling so awful again with a massive tension headache and bloating, cramping, sick feeling that any Snake Oil salesman could have walked away a made man by my purchase. Thankfully, I was perusing a blog of a woman I trust to not be such a salesman, and she recommended trying a 4-6 week gluten/grain free diet for a number of reasons. Right then and there, I promised myself to try this because I figured I had little to lose. This was the Monday before Thanksgiving, so I had what would be a pretty big hurdle for me in 3 days. I managed to pull through, and found that I really missed bread and cookies less and less over those weeks. Now, I did discover later that I have a gluten sensitivity when I had a tasty ciabatta bun with dinner only to wake up a few hours later with the feeling that it probably best depicted as being the agony that the man with the stomach-burster in the diner in "Spaceballs" had. Since giving up gluten for good, I have seen a significant improvement in my life both in terms of physical health and mental outlook. In fact, I wonder if I would be as successful at altering my life as I have been these past couple of years if I hadn't done this: I quit the job that I hated, lost over 40 lbs., have gone back to school to pursue a dream and can very easily say I enjoy life even more now than I did back then.

    I firmly believe in the sort of mind/body connection of health and psychological well-being. I also agree that the health of our symbiotes (our gut flora) has significant whole-body health implications. As such, I would very much encourage you to continue your probiotic regimen. Additionally, as there are a large number of intolerances/allergies to foods, it may be worth noting that a gluten-free test or other temporary elimination diet tests might be a good idea. Keep track of what you eat and how you feel for a couple of weeks and see if there is a pattern. If it's happening every time you eat falafel or baked beans, it might be time to reconsider eating legumes (which includes peanuts). As initially difficult as it may seem, eliminating gluten (or other possible trigger foods) may make you feel so much better that it's impossible to think of going back to them.

    Best wishes with whatever routes you choose, and I hope to hear of more of your successes in addressing anxiety. You bring hope to many by doing so.

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  51. I don't have anxiety but I do have thyroid troubles and some of the gut issues that go along with it. I got tested for celiac and it was negative but still tried a gluten free diet for a while. It did completely eliminate my acid reflux and I did feel better, but I don't know if it was really from cutting out bread and flour (I didn't really worry about "trace" gluten sources) or from eating healthier in general - or if it was all in my head. It is TOUGH to stick to it without a definitive "you can't eat that" from the doctor and I gave it up. It was too hard to manage with my thyroid yo-yoing every which way a thyroid can yo-yo.

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  52. It makes me so sad to think that I might be getting gluten intolerant again... :( I was lactose and gluten intolerant when I was a baby, but grew out of it by the time I was about 5. The lactose intolerance came back near the end of college though (noooo...I live on Lactaid now :P ). My dad apparently was also lactose and gluten intolerant as a baby (but this was the late 50's, so nobody really understood), grew out of it, but it came back about 15 years ago for him.

    I've realized I've been slowly getting more and more anxious over the recent past. It makes me sad. I get anxious/overthink-y and go over everything in my head a thousand times when I'm worried about something or think I've made a mistake. Recently though I've started noticing I get -angry- or irritated when I'm stuck behind slow people, or stuck in big crowds. The crowd itself doesn't bother me and I don't need to escape it because of claustrophobia, but being slowed down by a plodding group annoys me so much for some reason! I think this must be related to anxiety or something somehow. =\

    I've always had tummy aches though -- mostly as a little kid, and then in recent years. It used to be when I had too much sugar, I'd get a stomach ache... so I wasn't allowed to have much sugar, then when I went to college it was like "FREEEEDOM all the soda and candy and ice cream I want all the time!" which was bad. :P

    Over the past two or three years, in various periods, I would get HORRIBLE gut aches. They were probably made worse with stress and worrying about applying to jobs and stuff... but I couldn't figure out if it was lactose intolerance, the artificial sugar syrups in my iced coffee, the acidity in the coffee, the caffeine, who knows. It was so frustrating -- I would try to avoid fried/heavy things. No luck. I would try avoiding milk. No luck. I would try avoiding carbs. No luck.

    For a while things were better when I realized it was best if I ate something in the morning instead of waiting a few hours to eat. I just don't want to give up carbs! I'm totally willing to try probiotics, but if that doesn't work.... I'll be sad. I just love carbs! ;_;

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  53. Anxiety and tummy issues are totally related! I've been going to the gastroenterologist since I was in elementary school. I've had every test done at least once and tried every medication for gastric issues. I was even accepted as a patient at the Mayo Clinic because of my age and issues. I've finally found a combo of meds/probiotics that works for me! Now anxiety on the other hand is a bit harder to manage. And if I feel sick to my stomach or know a virus is going around that just makes the anxiety causing stomach, stomach causing anxiety loop to go on high speed!

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  54. Jen;

    The way you describe your gut issues sounds just like the way a friend described her issues once she was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease. Along, with most of the other comments I think this is an area you may want to explore with a gastroenterologist.

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  55. I have never thought I was an anxious person in any form. And then I went to veterinary school about 6 years ago. I started acting out with a fear of failure/success which showed up as some intense test anxiety (and when you are $80,000 into a degree program that does NOT allow you to fail even one test...ugh) and then some depression would peek its head out now and again. I found regular, intense exercise combined with good eating plus lots of fish oil (7200 mg daily) to be very helpful. Of course, my anxiety was not societal in nature, so take the fish oil with a grain of salt?

    But then my mom went to the doctor for psoriasis and she went on a pretty restrictive diet. In sympathy to her, I tried it for a while as well - gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. This particular naturopath has a system where you 'detox' and then you can try re-introducing certain items in a certain way (extraordinarily complicated, but she's really good). Well, it seems eggs and cheese are NOT my friends, despite being a good scandinavian who exists on butter, sugar, eggs and dairy products.

    I would consider going to a really good medical professional who actually listens to you, keeps up with and is comfortable prescribing alternative medicine modalities. I was very frustrated with the mental health and MD-types that I went to who just didn't listen to me (my favorite being 'How can you possibly have a fear of success when you were successful at getting into one of the most difficult professional programs in the country?' Uhh, don't compare me to the average person, compare me to where I ought to be performing - and trust me when I tell you that is miles from where I currently am). So many of these problems are very specific to the individual and while reaching out to hear others' stories can be very helpful, especially from an emotional aspect, sometimes there is also a medical component that Dr Google just can't help you treat!

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  56. For me, my social anxiety revolves around crowds. Malls. I hate malls and won't go there any more. No big loss :) However, I discovered that the sound aspect is also huge. I had to take my son to a deaf and hard of hearing convention and I was able to deal with the crowds much better! (The noise level was very low.) I'm thinking earplugs or listening to an MP3 player may be a way to deal with "can't avoid crowds" situations.

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    1. Oh yes, I try to have earplugs in my purse at all times - you never know whey they're going to be a life saver! The last in-theater movie I made it through was thanks to having earplugs in. :)

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    2. Auditory hypersensitivity can be caused by magnesium deficiency.

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  57. My anxiety is.. well it's not very physical. It's incredibly mental. It is best described as I want to be where people are and be with them, I want to go out and laugh and have fun but I worry about what I'll do there when I'm out in the world, or how to engage people.

    Such as "I want to go out and make a new friend. I could take my game of thrones book to Barnes and Noble and read.. but no one will talk to me then. They'll all just assume I don't want to be bothered.. and I don't want to bother them. Why should I even go out?"
    Or
    "Kara and Jen are talking about their steampunk costumes they're making.. heh. I really would want to do the same.. but they go out shopping for parts and pieces. They've never invited me and it would be rude of me to suggest I want to go... And I didn't bring nice clothes for after work (We paint everyday, all day and wear scrubs). I also need to go home for Mom if she needs my help.. and I'd miss talking to my internet friends and I wouldn't get to go to the gym..... I guess I best go home."

    "Oh. I'm at the store.. shopping.. this looks good. People always say I'd meet friends out and about.. but it's rude to just go up to people. What if they don't like what I like? What if they think I'm a creep? No one ever approches me because they don't want to bother me.. I don't want to bother them. I wish I had a really geeky t-shirt that we could talk about but I can't order stuff like that because Mom'll laugh, even though I know she doesn't care.. and they're always that babydoll size anyway that I can't wear.. "

    I don't have any real physical symptoms except for my stutter but that's nearly every word I say so it's not related to my anxiety directly. I will gladly talk your ear off on a topic I know and like. I flew to Germany this summer to meet an internet friend for the first time and we hit it off like we were the best of friends. I work just fine in my weekend job with people as a cashier but I will not go out of my way to.. 'bother anyone'. I don't know how to make friends because I've never not had school or work too make friends through. How do people make friends when they don't have school or work? How can people go out to the local coffee shop and make friends? I know some folks just say go every day or every weekend and sit there but that involves a 20 minute drive to get to the nearest shopping area or area with young people my age and it's just not worth it to me.

    I want to join the local astronomy group but they're mostly 50+ year olds (I'm 27..) or learn how to ball room dance but I have no partner.. I'd like to try painting war hammer figures but I don't play.. I'd like to try and make things but I don't know how.. or who to see.. and I don't want to be the lonely girl at the crafting table surrounded by all the couples and friends.

    I know this is Jen's post but I'd also love a suggestion or two or even a chair diagonsis - Do I really have an anxiety? I have been diagnosed as having major depressive disorder but I'm not on medication or seeing anyone (expense + side effects..). In regards to my gut - Sorry, no real problems other than the occasional 'OMG did that just come out of me?' moments..

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    1. Are you me?! Hi!

      I totally feel you about not wanting to intrude on what other people are doing. I always feel that way. Sometimes I get brave, and invite myself along (and 95% of the time it works out no problem), but then I get overwhelmed with interacting with people too much, and go hide again. It takes a lot of effort!

      As far as ordering geeky shirts -- ff, go for it! My mom has given up trying to get me to stop buying shirts, and she doesn't understand them most of the time, so I just order sparingly (because $ and drawer space and stuff). I too am not "sorority sized" as I like to call it -- so I just order men's sizes. It really doesn't look bad at all -- and the unisex/men's sizes never sell out as fast, so bah on the silly tiny women's shirts. ;)

      Have you looked at meetup.com groups at all? I know it can be slimmer pickings if you're outside of a large city, but it's worth a shot. :) Where I live, there's groups that teach newbies sailboating, and go on group hikes, and that sort of thing. It looks fun!

      Try going to conventions! Small local ones are fun too, and not scary. :D If you deck yourself out in geeky things, you'll never lack for friends. I usually end up wandering the vendors hall alone, and I usually have my Hobbit bag with me -- people stop me and ask about it all the time. If you see someone with a cool shirt, ask them where they got it! People at cons are usually friendly and willing to chat, and sometimes you make lifelong friends. :D

      My best group of friends? I met them all through a Harry Potter online community, who met other people through going to conventions, who met their other real life friends... it's crazy how big our friend network is now. It's totally worth it!

      Don't be afraid to go "alone" -- you did Germany, right? You survived! I went to Germany in May to see my internet friend too! It was one of the best vacations I've taken. :D

      If you want to chat, I'd be happy to. Sometimes all you need is someone to bounce thoughts off, rather than letting it circle around in your head. :)

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    2. please, if you do get a shirt, get this one : http://store.xkcd.com/collections/apparel/products/just-shy

      we can do partner look ;) this was made for people like us

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    3. Could you maybe try the astronomy group? If the age difference is the main thing that's concerning you. I'm in a book group that I basically joined when I saw people at the book store having a little meeting with a book I had read in the middle of the table. (I don't have anxiety but I'm reading the comments because two of my good friends do-- though they are managing their anxiety with medication & therapy.) I'm 20 years older than all of them. But we have a good time. Lots of laughs, lots of great discussion about books & movies.

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  58. Wow. So much truth in these comments that I'm shaking a little while writing this. I have both gut issues and mostly social anxiety, although mine is centered around work performance. When I was in middle and high school, I felt like good grades were all that I had to be proud of. I was an overweight introvert with shyness that everyone interpreted as being snooty. I made it to grad school, and eventually I hit a wall where the research I was doing was not going well. I got to the point where just opening an email from my advisor made me burst into tears. I went into full-on depression, although I was never diagnosed with it. I saw a therapist, and talking about it helped, but she never once talked to me about clinical depression or mentioned that I might need medication. I went completely nocturnal so that I didn't have to see anyone while I was trying to work, and I ate cheese popcorn and skittles in bulk for comfort.
    Around this time, my long term but manageable gut issues got so very much worse. I would go for a week without eliminating, so when I finally did, I would be incapacitated afterwards. That happened once on a field trip in the middle of a desert with no bathrooms and no cover. To try to lose weight, I went on the Atkins diet, and I blame that and birth control pills for completely destroying my gall bladder. My gut issues turned into hair-trigger diarrhea and cramping. That ended me up in the ER turning yellow from backed up bile. My gall bladder was removed, but I still have problems when eating anything fatty or with a whole lot of fiber. I love mexican food, but I have to plan to have many hours afterwards to be alone in the bathroom.
    Fast forward a few years after a divorce (hello constant shaking and racing heart), medication for depression that finally worked, and a complete life change, I now struggle with anxiety. I sometimes sit in a chair next to my front door, fully dressed and ready for work but unable to make myself leave. I fear messing up at work, but not showing up certainly doesn't help! Thank goodness I have a very understanding boss, and I'm trying different medications to lessen the daily anxiety. My gut is almost normal on a weekly basis, excepting some nausea caused by medication. I never knew how much I would be grateful for a "normal" bowel movement.
    So yes, I would say there is some connection between gut issues and anxiety, but mine wax and wane differently. I'll have to try probiotics again and see if they help the mental issues as well as the gut ones. Now if I could just convince my boyfriend that it isn't just "all in my head."

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    1. Your last sentence made me feel compelled to reply to your comment. While he is supportive, my husband is occasionally perplexed by my anxiety in (& occasional avoidance of) social situations. Once, when he was frustrated and confused that I didn't want to join him at an event, I asked him why he was getting so upset adding, "You knew I was like this before we got married." He replied, "Yes. But, I thought you'd grow out of it."

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    2. Ouch. It's so hard for our SOs to understand and be supportive; even John took a little time (and one memorable chair-throwing incident [by me]) to reach a point where he fully believed it WASN'T just "in my head." Now he's my champion, but again, it took time and research on his part to get there. Give your guys time, and send them appropriate links or information on anxiety. Once they understand how widespread and medically irrefutable this disorder is, I think they'll come around.

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  59. First off, Thank you Jen for such a thoughtful post (as usual) and also for kickstarting such a great conversation.

    I have depression and generalized anxiety with a STRONG social component that was diagnosed about 18 years ago after I melted down during an amazing opportunity for following my dream. The depression took center stage for a while, but I've had lots of success managing it and reducing it through changing my thinking and CBT type exercises that I've basically accumulated myself over the years. While the meds are very helpful in their place, they weren't something I could do every day for maintenance purposes, so I found another way that worked for me and now my depression is only an occasional trouble that I have lots of tools to address now. Awesome!

    However, that opened the way for the anxiety to be the main problem, and I've been working on it for a long, long time now. I've made a lot of progress, and I'm a lot better than I used to be, but it still negatively impacts my life in big ways. I really relate to a lot of symptoms that people have listed here, and while I blessedly haven't had a full on panic attack in a long time, the anxiety prevents me from doing many things that I would love to do or that I need to do. It's troublesome enough to just take my daughter in to preschool every morning because I have to talk to folks. Just kind of hi, bye and anything they might really need to know that day, but it's still really tough.

    I've been focusing strongly on it for the past couple of months, because I'm really tired of it and I'm ready to actually live my life now and I had a stunning realization. I realized that I BELIEVE that if I am rejected by someone I WILL DIE! I am completely aware how ridiculous that is, but apparently I believe it. Literally. If I'm not perfect, I will be rejected, and if I'm rejected . . . see above. If I don't say the right thing, or do the right thing, or be the right person, I will be rejected. It doesn't matter how long I've known the person, or how much they seem to like me, anybody at any time could turn on me in the blink of an eye. This is the lie I'm currently trying to weed out. Now that I see it clearly, I hope it will go quickly. So that's the basis for my social anxiety.

    I tend to have an iffy stomach as well, but generally in a very mild way that's more annoying and draining than worrisome or painful. I tend to have a lot of gas more than anything. I have tried going gluten free, but haven't sustained it long enough to really tell if it helped. Plus, I finally, finally! learned to make biscuits and pound cake and I'm just not prepared to give that up yet! :-) Exercise definitely helps me a lot, I just wish that was sufficiently motivating to get me to do it.

    Incidentally, I've recently recommitted to following my dream and just today I got an interview for the same sort of position I freaked out over when I was first diagnosed. I'm am determined I won't shoot myself in the foot this time so I'm going to use every trick I know or can make up to stay in a good place and give it a good try. I can use all the help I can get, though, so think happy thoughts for me, please?

    Much love to everyone! We are all awesome!

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    1. "If I don't say the right thing, or do the right thing, or be the right person, I will be rejected. It doesn't matter how long I've known the person, or how much they seem to like me, anybody at any time could turn on me in the blink of an eye. This is the lie I'm currently trying to weed out. Now that I see it clearly, I hope it will go quickly. So that's the basis for my social anxiety."

      Oh the fear of rejection... You hit the nail on the head for me.
      I was heavily teased as a child both for my weight, my stutter, and the fact that I just didn't have any sense of fashion like the others girls. I also was smart, didn't need to study, and spent class just drawing yet got As and Bs. Kids didn't like that at all and when I started to get in Anime, they really thought it was stupid. Even my Mother, whom I love dearly, did some damage - For example, whenever I was drawing nudes, she'd tease me.. with all the love in the world, of course, but tease me. When I watched Anime that was dubbed poorly, she'd make fun of the way the characters looked, widening her eyes, and not moving her mouth. Even recently - I went traveling with a male friend and I got told that I need to be careful not to come home with a baby even though I assured her our relationship was not like that (to be honest, I really like this guy though) and that she knows I have never had a pregnancy scare and that I am a strongly committed to my partners and I do not have casual sex. All of this is a form of rejection in my eyes.

      Being dumped by a man I loved for someone he get engaged to within 3 weeks and is married to within a year? Rejection.
      Being strictly yelled at for just trying to help at work? Rejection.
      Being kind and smiling and trying my hardest to flirt with the cute guy but he doesn't return it? Rejection (And completely within his right. I should not feel entitled but it still hurts a bit).

      I think I have become so afraid of rejection and its related sibling, failure, that I am afraid to try these new things and social situations I want to.

      Thank you for sharing your story, and good luck with your interview! I'm sorry for highjacking your comment, I was just so excited to see someone with similar feelings of rejection fear! 4 years after going to art school and coming out of it completely unprepared and not knowing how or what I was good at or what I wanted to do, I got a job with a company that makes Carousels where I get to paint all day and talk and laugh with my coworkers and listen to audiobooks and podcasts all day. The first 1 1/2 years have been rough (See co-worker anecdotes) but so worth it. Good luck!

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    2. Thanks for your reply to my comment Leigh Ann! I can relate to your fear of rejection as well. I attempt to juggle life as a working mom, and I set very high expectations for myself. Perfect house, healthy dinner on the table every night, successful career...but I can't do it all and I fear that I'll be judged, rejected for failing. I don't invite people over to the house for fear they will see the imperfections. I am always stressed over my job, and performance evaluations make me want to throw up, run away, curl into a tiny ball and hide.

      When I stop to think though, I do a pretty darn good job at everything I try to do. It's just the fear that can be crippling. I have to pause and look at my life from a different perspective. I have to tell myself that people are just as likely to see the good I do as they are the failures I have...and I have to remember that success is 99% failure. Failing is ok. Most importantly I have to know that I am surrounded by people who love me, regardless of whether I am perfect or not...and that I'm fortunate to have my parents, husband, and son who will always love me unconditionally. These are the kind of thoughts that get me through.

      Best of luck to you in your interview. I'm cheering you on!

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  60. Hello :) I definitely believe my type of "anxiety" is far from textbook. I have extreme difficulty making telephone calls, but face-to-face interaction doesn't bother me as much for casual situations. I dread parties because I always feel awkward and out of place...like my brain doesn't work in the same way as other peoples brains. It's hard for me to take part in conversations...though I feel that I'm much better in writing. It seems like I alienate other people pretty easily. After social situations I get really sad about how they went. When I feel stressed or depressed, the symptoms are very similar to fatigue for me. There have been times I haven't gotten out of bed for days. That was in college, when I was diagnosed with depression. I find that in recent years I'm better able to cope with stressful situations and don't take medication anymore, but I still have bad days occasionally.

    I appreciate how honestly you write about your anxiety. I hope the things you are doing to improve your physical and mental health work well for you. I had a friend who improved her overall health and reproductive health dramatically by seeing a chiropractor and changing her diet. I wish you the best of luck!

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    1. Hi Sarah, you could have just described me! I forgot to mention phones in my post earlier, but they are right out. I'll do just about anything to avoid making a phone call. And I definitely feel like I don't think the same way other people do. I'm glad you're doing better these days too!

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  61. No one seems to understand that sometimes you just have to run away. To survive. For years people tell me I must face my anxiety and I've been trying to but I'm so tired of trying.

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    1. The old cliché of living to fight another day is so true; sometimes you have to give up for a while just to gather your strength. Give yourself permission to fall apart for a little while - hole up with some great movies or books and just REST. It may take a few days or even a few weeks, but I promise you'll feel stronger when the time comes to pick yourself up again. (The help of a trusted friend can move mountains, too, so hang on to one of those when you can.)

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    2. Thank you Jen for taking the time to reply and for understanding. I am burying myself in books and movies and such. I was particularly upset today because I feel like no one close to me understands - not even my mum. So I feel alone. But your reply helps - even if you're on the other side of the world.

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    3. Hey Hannah,

      Another random person on the internet is rooting for you! Take all the time you need to get stronger, and I hope you read some awesome books in the meantime. Reading anything good right now? I'm currently re-reading the Dresden Files for the bajillionty-ith time, but this time with some friends that have never read them before.

      -Allison

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  62. I don't have anxiety, per say. However, I do have Celiacs and I am often anxious about that. As a very sensitive Celiac sufferer, I get anxious in social situations where I don't have control. It is hard to trust people to care as much about the food as I do. And, if the case of a reaction, I hate not having control of coming or going, or bathroom access. I'm not sure if the anxiety causes the gluten reaction worse, or if a gluten reaction causes anxiety, but there is a definite connection.

    Eating gluten-free isn't that hard once you get used to it. When you realize how much better you feel off gluten, it makes it worth it!

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  63. Elizabeth AtchisonOctober 8, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    Every few months my body decides to deal with stress in a new way. In high school, it was debilitating migraines with aura--vision changes that made it hard to read and focus. Freshman year of college, it was GERD so bad I was refluxing while standing, and could feel it splashing in my throat. Over the summer, my parent's move to the south combined with my senior year of nursing school triggered anxiety and panic attacks that have yet to cease. Even now as I type this, I'm starting to hear the orcs in the back of my head, and feel the pressure on my chest. My attacks are also triggered by over thinking sessions and an intense fear of failure.

    This is the first I've heard that GI issues could be related. I've already had experience with GERD, and (this may be oversharing, but) I think I averaged one normal bowel movement a week over the summer. The rest were total liquid, and even now I'm not really regular. I too have considered going gluten-free, and I did take probiotics for 15 days over the summer in the hopes that it would re-set the pipes.

    My grandmother is convinced that my anxiety isn't real, and my mom was severely disappointed that I would even think about going on meds for it. I'm glad to know of a person who will acknowledge the nuances of the struggle.

    I'm inspired now, I want to take the plunge and go gluten-free; see if taking care of my tummy will help my mind as well. Thanks Jen for all you say on this blog, this has become a bit of a haven for me, both as a geek and as a new anxiety sufferer.

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  64. I don't usually suffer from anxiety, but stomach stuff I know all about! I SO remember the days of "Am I upset becuase I'm constipated, or am I constipated because I'm upset?" (Cue the Rodgers and Hammerstein!) As it turned out, I was constipated because I had developed Lactose Intolerance! (I have mild Ulcerative Colitis which is in remission, but I assumed that was the problem, so it took waaay too long to make the dairy connection). I'm pretty sure the random bouts of depression at that time were cause by taking Reglan (for constipation). I wrote about it all on my blog once upon a time if you (for some strange reason) want more details: http://haphazardoushousewife.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-dairy-allergy-can-ruin-your-life-or.html
    or you could just read my Beauty and the Beast parody Pooping Again: http://pyroclastic.blogspot.com/2009/03/resolution-pt-two.html

    As for chronic stomach pain, that sounds like Crohn's Disease (Which my youngest brother has). Have you had a colonoscopy? (Or as we call them in my family, "The Imperial Probe Droid Up the ***") That would probably bring up major anxiety, huh? The worst part for me was the terrible horrible they make you drink ahead of time.

    Anyway, don't overlook the possibility of a food intolerance. Good luck! :)

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    1. My grandmother had Crohn's, but no, I've never had a colonoscopy. You're right in thinking I'm not a big fan of medical tests. ;) And I'm also lactose intolerant - have been since I was born, but wouldn't you know it I LOVE dairy products. And milk. (Mmmm milk.) I gave up sodas and coffee and I'm too lazy for tea, so all I drink is water and milk. I have the lactaid pills, tho, so I try to remember to take those. With, er, occasional success. :)

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    2. Have you tried to substitute milk with soy milk? Or if you don't like the taste of soy milk, try rice milk or almond milk.
      If laziness is the only thing that keeps you from drinking tea, try getting a samowar. Easiest way to keep drinking tea, ever. Once you set it up in the morning it's just "put cup, press lever" for the rest of the day. Plus they look really cool to have in your dining room.

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    3. Try raw milk instead of pasteurized. Joash Dairy is a safe, reliable source and is easy to find here in Central Florida.

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  65. I prefer to refer (poetry!) to my anxiety as 'generalized', which is a stupid and general term, yes, but it makes more sense to me because I only have social anxiety in some situations. I tend to freak out more in crowds when the exit is far away, but not so much if I'm with someone else, so it's more a question of whether my subconscious thinks I'm going to be turned upon by the crowd and eaten. I also get random bursts of anxiety, with no apparent cause, so it's like I'm anxious about the world in general. ::shrugs:: Brains, dude. They're weird.

    My mom and I both (although her more than me) experience what we call the Going Somewhere Poop. We know there's something we need to go do, but we can't leave the house because poop happens. Lots of poop. It is not unusual to start out on a drive somewhere and have to turn around and go back home because poop. It doesn't have to be a scary place, either - it can be grocery shopping or going to a friend's house.

    My innards, anxiety and most especially depression seem to lift a bit when I follow a low-fat, high-fiber vegan-type diet (I say vegan-type because I don't care if there are egg whites holding my Gardenburger together, or if there's butter in the cookies that I shouldn't be eating anyway). But I have trouble holding on to said diet because it means no cake, and, well.....cake. But the main difference of that diet compared to my 'normal' eating habits is that I'm cutting out sweets and junk food; I'm what you might call a natural vegetarian (I'm lactose sensitive and turkey is pretty much the only meat I enjoy). So I don't know how much of the effect on my mood is from diet and how much is just from not having a tummyache for several hours a day.

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  66. I have definitely seen a correlation between anxiety and GI issues. As a person who loves to socialize, I had never had social anxiety, but I found myself turning down invitations if I knew that a bathroom wouldn't be available. If I wasn't sure, I would stress out about it until I got sick. If I felt trapped, like sitting in the middle of the row in a theater, I would get sick. I started taking enzymes before every meal and it made a world of difference for me.

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  67. My main thing is depression, though in the last 8 years or so panic attacks have come into play as well. I wouldn't consider my anxiety social unless the ridiculous amount of time I spend worrying & playing out potential situations (usually having to defend myself or because I've read an anger inducing article & so then my thought of what I would do turns into an all out argument or fight in my head that I then spend hours to even days thinking about) counts. I do a lot of that but usually once I'm out & about I'm fine. Unless I start to get people crowding me & then I want to start hitting people with my purse. I amaze myself how I worry when I'm having a good day & think about it. My mind goes wild with made up situations. Like not being able to pay an inconsequential bill & suddenly I'm living in a card board box. I wonder how it could even connect but then it happens again & all the steps make sense.

    I don't even know if that answered your question anymore or if I just made you an impromptu therapist. *sigh* Um, either way... *hugs*

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  68. Also, thanks & kudos for sharing. ♡♡

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  69. I, too, have anxiety and tummy problems. I have General Anxiety Disorder, depression, GERD, and IBS. The tummy things were diagnosed first. I get anxious at parties because I don't know when people will move and I feel like I can't get out. With public transportation and roller coasters, I know that it's temporary. Mostly, my anxiety is related to school/work. Sometimes, I also get anxiety about disappointing others (I've never had very high self-esteem).
    My GERD / IBS is definitely linked to my psychological issues. My tummy tells me that I'm getting upset before I even realize it. If I have heartburn, I know that I need to talk to someone and have a cup of hot tea. Otherwise, I'll have a panic attack. However, I don't think my belly stuff causes anxiety.
    I'm almost finished, I promise! I have no problems with gluten. I do have problems with raw veggies. Because of that and a few other reasons, I suspect that I might actually have Crohn's disease and not IBS.
    P.S. - I love your blogs! I'm a huge fan and feel like you are a kindred spirit. I know it sounds crazy and hippie-like but we really do have a fair amount in common. :)

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  70. Hi! Yay for digestion and anxiety blog talks. I had paranoid and OCD tendencies as a child, as well as debilitating panic attacks when separated from my family. During my senior year of high school I became mildly depressed due to a family situation. Once that situation was resolved and my depression lessened, the stomach problems started. In the six years since I graduated high school, I have had my gall bladder removed, been treated for a hiatal hernia, ulcers, IBS and tested for celiac numerous times (still negative). I eat gluten and dairy free, along with foods low in acids and fats (no burgers, no bacon, no tomato sauces and definitely no citrus fruit). My anxiety is usually just a monthly occurrence and usually coincides with my menstrual cycle. The weight of an elephant takes its place on my chest and settles there for a few days. Human contact, both proximity and touch, infuriates me and any noise above a whisper can make me scream. Luckily, I married an incredible man who makes me gf/df comfort food, turns on "sounds of rain" on youtube and sleeps close, without touching, until my anxiety passes. Careful diet, lots of sleep, lots of people-free time and an amazing partner (or friend, therapist, etc) are essential for my mental and gastrointestinal state. Although I wish none of us had to suffer from these battles between mind and body, it's nice to know others share the same issues. Thanks for the thread, Jen :)

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  71. Have you heard of MTHFR? It's something I am researching and it is quite fascinating. My anxiety isn't social - but I have a horrible time driving when it is icey or snowy, two winter accidents have left their indelible mark. They were the fault of other drivers and the knowledge that no matter how carefully I drive, some things are out of my control has made me struggle all winter with wanting to hide from the weather. I even tried to attend an anxiety seminar last winter - but it snowed 1/2 an inch that day so I couldn't go! The probiotics information is fascinating - I'm going to try that to see if it helps. And every day I am more and more inclined to try going gluten free.

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  72. I tend to have panic attacks AFTER the triggering even. For example: I took a two day class a few years ago and I had a great big panic attack on the night following the first class. Which also meant that I didn't get any sleep so I was wrecked for the second day of class. FML.
    I have depression, occasional tummy woggliness, and mild anxiety, but it's all basically symptomatic of my autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis and/or spondylitis). I haven't tried cutting gluten, yet, but I have friends and relatives who have had good luck with it.
    And I hate social situations, but I never really had a lot of anxiety issues regarding social interaction. I just... don't really like other people very much and don't enjoy small talk with strangers. I always just called it "shyness"

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  73. Ok, Jen--first of all, I am so glad you are considering your anxiety issues as a whole body thing and not just a mind thing. Second of all, I am not at all surprised to hear there might be a gut issue involved--the more I learn about that stuff, the more I am surprised so many of us are upright and walking around, given what we have been doing to our guts for so long. My issues are not at all like yours--really inconvenient food allergies (a mostly vegetarian allergic to most raw fruits, veggies, nuts, soy. Can you believe it?!), wonky blood sugar, and often severe "brain fog." But the more I read, the more I think I have leaky gut, and my body is doing its best to tolerate all the GMOs and grains and sugars I've been throwing at it for so many years.

    I would like to recommend more than just your probiotic--I would recommend you actually do a cleanse of some kind, to help restore the balance of "good" and "bad" bacteria in your gut. Basically you have to stop eating all the foods that feed the bad bacteria, so they starve and die off! It will take a few days to a week or so--different places tell you to do it different ways, for different purposes--but then your probiotics will have even better success in healing your gut. I have been meaning to do it for a while now, and just can't get up the gumption. If you have too much bad bacteria in your gut, then there is a good chance you will feel really sick (like flu sick) for a day or two when the bad bacteria start to die off. I know--lovely thought. I *know* doing that will be best for me--and help ease my overall life symptoms, which would be great--but I am loathe to do the cleanse without support, because I am a homeschooling mom of 4, and let's just say I don't have time to have the flu. ; ) But a blogger friend of mine is doing it right as I type, and she has Crone's and her son has terrible allergies, and they are already finding they feel better in their whole bodies!

    So, read more about such things, educate yourself (and share with us what you find out), consider the idea of the cleanse, and then let me know if you are going to do it. I might get up the guts (ha!) to join you!

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  74. My mom recently discovered a pretty severe dairy allergy (along with a couple other things that have since gone away after a major diet cleanse) and her doctor told her that her severe anxiety and esophageal spasms were quite likely a symptom of the allergy. I've always been easily stressed out but a couple years ago I started having more severe stress and panic attacks, then the esophageal spasms started and so I tried cutting out the dairy. It has helped quite a lot! I still get stressed but I don't have break downs as often and I'm not kept up at night in a cold panic anymore. Guess what I'm trying to say is it could be another allergen, not just gluten, as apparently worsened anxiety is a fairly common allergy symptom.

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  75. Interesting post. I'm lactose intolerant and can trace any of my gut problems to that and it seems to be totally unrelated to my health related anxiety problems. (I have a headache = It's a brain tumor and my kids are going to lose their mom when they're still babies! Aaaah!)

    My anxiety problems are quite intermittent though and I haven't had any problems in awhile which is nice. I just wanted to add another data point for your clearly very scientific study. ;-)

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  76. I deal with anxiety and have been on meds for at least a couple of years. My worst times have been due to over-thinking and anticipating events more than the actual events. I do get to a point of overstim in some social situations, too. I'm working so hard on learning to control my negative, anxiety ridden thoughts as well as seeking strength spiritually. I've started reading a lot on codependency, too, which has helped as anxiety is a definite factor with that, too. As for GI problems, I resorted to good food supplements and prilosec, healthier eating habits (including less starch, though I don't want to give up bread completely) have all helped. Hope this helps a bit. :o/

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  77. I'm responding for my husband today, not myself. He has both anxiety and gut issues too. In his case, the gut issues have been majorly tamed by cutting out lactose. And, perhaps not coincidently, his anxiety has mellowed out at the same time. There are still bad gut days, and the anxiety isn't totally gone, but ditching the dairy was key.

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  78. I don't know if this is evidence one way or the other, but I can definitely pin-point exactly when the gut-anxiety connection began for me: about 20 years ago while in Africa I contracted bacillic dysentery, and took about 3 months to fully recover. Once I recovered from the initial infection, I started noticing that I'd have ... let's call them "relapses" ;-) whenever I was feeling anxious about something. I'd definitely never experienced that before. Even now, nearly two decades later, although the infection is long gone, I know that if I'm feeling anxious about something, I'd better make sure I know where the nearest toilet is.

    Lately I've noticed my anxiety levels are a lot lower than they've been in years, but I don't know whether that's because I changed my diet (I made a concious decision a year or so ago to eat more fruit and vegetables, and cut back on breads), or because I removed a major stressor from my life. Maybe it's a combination of the two?

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  79. My gut issues seem to be milk protein related, and my kids have it too, to a much more severe degree. I've never really thought of them being related to my anxiety until your post. Last week a friend told me that she got off her reflux meds and started having panic attacks. Then she went back on them and they stopped, so that also seems to support the theory.
    My anxiety is related to social situations. I have major approach avoidance - as an event gets nearer, I get more anxious. I also have an equal level of anxiety to situations outside of my control - a meeting with a boss, a deadline, a presentation. I do not have the completely debilitating type of anxiety - just all the physical symptoms described. I am very lucky that I can usually make myself walk through the "wall." One random and more recent manifestation of anxiety has been losing my voice before presentations. Adds to the lack of control and becomes a vicious cycle.

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  80. I had written a long post, but in the end decided my words failed at describing how reading this blog, and this post in particular, has made me feel. In the end, I deleted it and just want to say, Thank you.

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  81. I'm gluten-intolerant, and while cutting gluten did help with my stomach aches, diarrhea, and general emotional instability, it didn't all go away. In fact, a constant annoyance is that I can't tell whether I've eaten something upsetting or it's just the stress when I have stomach aches around exam time. Cutting gluten helped eliminate many emotional issues (which reappear once a month), but there are still psychological issues to be dealt with.

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  82. I was diagnosed with depression back in 1997 when I was in high school. But I wasn't diagnosed with anxiety until about two years ago. Looking back I can see that I had small panic attacks though out my life. As far as we (me, the doctors, and family) can tell, my attacks are sensory/stimulation driven, but we still don't know what will cause them. I can be at home doing nothing and an attack will hit. I get extreme butterflies in my stomach, heart palpitations, restless limbs, shaky....it feels as if my insides are boiling (not from heat, just the movement). It just takes over my whole body and my mind becomes blank like a wall is put up ( a lot of times I have to talk aloud to break through that wall). It is all encompassing and usually I will start to cry as the emotions and overwhelm me.

    Sounds are a major factor (but not always), certain pitches and echos can (but not always) set it off. At work I use to have to open and close the store and deal with the alarm system. I was so afraid of the sound the alarm would make if I messed up that I would have panic attacks arming and disarming the alarm. Needless to say, two months ago my attacks were so bad I had to quit my job.

    I also have one type of doom and gloom (fear of harm/death) anxiety and that is driving far distances (10 minutes and up). I can't do it. I live in Arizona where huge dust storms can happen in the summer and I believe that I will be caught in one when I drive too far. I get anxious when there is any wind and I am driving because I believe a dust storm will happen.

    Thankfully I have a supportive family but sometimes I feel I can't always talk to them about it because I feel that they think "ugh, she's having another attack" and get fed up. Because if I'm fed up with the attacks, I know they are too, so I keep a lot of it to myself. And now, I live for 6am, 2pm, and 10pm when I can take another pill to help calm me down.

    Thank you so much for being so open about all of this and helping us know that we are not alone in dealing with this.

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  83. Have you been checked for parasites etc? I've always had stomach problems, and it has been from a series of parasites.

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  84. These issues sound very familiar. My family has labelled me as having a "delicate constitution" because of my digestive issues. I suffer from depression and lost the better part of a year being stuck in bed because I couldn't cope being elsewhere. I also suffered a lot from anxiety right from childhood. As early as grade two, I can remember needing to leave school because I was so anxious and stressed. I have never been diagnosed, but fortunately the skills I learned in therapy for my depression seem to help manage my anxiety. Also, I think that I have reached a stage in life where i just can't care about certain people or things any more which while very painful to learn seems to have made some of my anxiety more manageable. It is very freeing to make that realization.

    In being able to manage my depression and anxiety, my digestive issues have gotten somewhat better. Although, I did identify with the commenter that mentioned food becoming a 'freight train'...some days, its like my digestive tract is an express way :/

    In terms of my anxiety, I really identified with the cartoon about the wall. There are days when it is all I can do to get to work. Fortunately, those days aren't happening as often as I feared they would. I started a full time job - the first one I've had in ten years - six months ago, and the transition has been relatively smooth.

    One thing I have learned is that on tough days, if I set myself a small task sometimes, I can build on that and the day is more or less okay. I have learned to give myself permission to look at the endless list of chores and pick one thing that I think I can do, and if that is all I do that day it's okay. I've found that many times, the simple fact of accomplishing a small task gives me the courage to at least contemplate another. It's still a struggle to find the balance between working and tending house and making time for hobbies, but I am trying - so that is something.

    The most frustrating thing I have found about depression and anxiety is the invisible nature of it. They are both subjective conditions that have no outward signs. If you have a broken leg, its easy to see what is wrong or if you eat something and have a reaction it's easy to explain. A big reason that I am able to manage my depression and anxiety is because I know my limitations and have - mostly - accepted them. It gets tough though when your limitations are not accepted by others.

    I have been contemplating a gluten free diet. A good friend has had success with it. She had severely debilitating migraines. Since she changed her diet, she is much healthier and her migraines, when she gets them are much less severe.

    Phew, that was a lot to say. It is good to know that there are others out there with similar experiences. I have been the only one I know for so long.

    Thanks, Jen, for your blogs and your openness and your braveness in sharing your story.

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  85. Have you ever thought about looking into TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). If you believe into sage tea for a sore throat and camomilla for an upset tummy, give it a try. If you can, find a TCM doctor that has spent time in China and/or will mix their own herbs, and give you the original herbs instead of the powder, the herbs are far more powerful.

    With drinking tea for three days, two or three times a year, I was able to a) stop taking antidepressants, b) stop taking pills for my thyroid, c) sleep, d) sit on the couch feeling anxious about not achieving anything because being unable to move, being unable to move because of the anxiety wall (thanks for the cartoon) that was keeping me pushed against the couch pillows.

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    1. I meant to say, stop doing the sitting on the couch stuff. The tea made it all better.

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  86. I have been an anxious person as in "worrying about all the things all the time" for as long as I can remember. In fact, I always kind of figured that everyone was like that but other people just handled it better, or something. Physical anxiety symptoms became more of a thing for me in my early teens, eventually leading to full-on panic attacks.

    My panic attacks are usually either completely random or triggered by a physical thing--too much caffiene, being short of breath for non-anxiety reasons, etc--but I also sometimes have them when I'm really really emotional. There are some sort of social situations that trigger anxiety issues for me (for instance, I hate making phone calls), but I don't have general social anxiety.

    My anxiety is more general and free-floating, attaching to whatever it feels like at the moment.
    Sometimes I feel like I'm just inventing reasons to feel anxious because my body is telling me that I'm anxious and I feel the need to justify that.

    I've always had pronounced physical reactions to stress/anxiety, but they've changed over the years. When I was in middle school and high school, I got stress headaches mostly. Now I get the headaches on occasion, but far more often it is stomach pain. Sometimes it's just pain or vague discomfort, with no accompanying physical problems (as in, my digestive tract seems to function roughly normally, I just have random tiny stabs of pain accompanied by nausea), and sometimes there is gasiness/cramping/constipation. I've never been diagnosed with anything, and I've tried eliminating milk products and various other things, to no avail. It seems to come and go as my stress levels/anxiety wax and wane, unrelated to what I eat.

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  87. I have social anxiety, about whether people will laugh at me or are judging me or secretly hate me. I'm mostly an extrovert though, which seems to be unusual among people who suffer from anxiety. I'm extroverted around people I know and like, or when I'm feeling mentally well, but I can be quite introverted or shy if I feel judged. I also have anxiety about screwing up, and I think that relates to my mum being quite strict on me growing up.

    My physical symptoms are that my heart rate increases, and I also start to breathe quickly and more shallowly OR hold my breath. This makes me more stressed, as my brain is being depleted of oxygen. I have to really work to break out of that and take normal breaths. I've worked on this in therapy, and also yoga has helped. Sometimes I will feel sick to my stomach if I'm particularly anxious or worried.

    I haven't noticed any gluton intolerances, but I am lactose intolerant. It makes me feel sick in a similar way to extreme stress. It also gives me eczema (I'm not sure if it's the lactose itself, or the dairy in general. I should experiment with lactose free dairy and see what happens).

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  88. I've suffered from IBS for the last 8 years, the 2nd largest amount of nerves in the body after the brain is the gut. If you are stressed you will feel it in your gut, if your gut is inflamed you will feel it in your brain as pain so I'm not surprised the 2 conditions can be linked.
    My anxiety is GAD so I have no triggers yay :) but that means it bites me at random times so boo :( I have even woken up in the middle of the night in the midst of an attack, yeah try talking yourself out of that one! Fun times.
    I am lucky though as there is nothing I can't do, but like Jen I tend to go hyper first so over stimulation can be the cause but that's usually more being over stressed at work for me, rather than riders and movies.
    Exercise is my saviour it helps me learn to control my breathing and not get worried when I get out of breath and it's a great way of getting rid of mental stress and associated stress hormones which I think are behind my attacks. It also get me and my body used to coping with physical stress which again helps.
    Diet wise I just have to avoid tomatoes and ginger calms my stomach nicely where as mint makes me bloat.

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  89. Hey Jen,

    this is not going to be an EXACT answer to your question, but I couldn't help sharing my experience here, hoping that it might in some way help you or someone else. I suffer from fibromyalgia and an anxiety-disorder, for which I have received therapy these past three years.

    Most of that time has been spent intensively researching and resetting my brain's neurological 'default settings', resulting - among other things - in a breach of contact between me and my family for six months last year. Now, we're gradually building the contact back up.

    For the last month and a half, I've been eating a primal (paleo) diet. Because I'm unable to get a lot of exercise, I genuinely wanted to do something good for my body. Mind you - I generally have great digestion and no gut trouble at all, so I wasn't sure if I was going to notice a difference.

    BUT BOY DID I EVER. I've lost around six pounds so far (a guess based on my tight jeans fitting again - I have an eating disorder in my past, so I avoid scales). I feel an 'underlayer' of calm in my daily life. I've gained a remarkable amount of energy. I feel more stable. The constant inflammation/ache in my joints and muscles is easing up. And best of all: I feel curious about trying new things, open to life - something I haven't had 'room for' for a long time.

    It's always hard to attach changes in my energy level or health to certain behavior changes. I feel like there are a lot of factors at play at all times, and they all influence each other. For example, in the last month and a half, I also re-established contact with my parents and built a website for a demanding friend, both of which resulted in temporary flare-ups of stress, pain and anxiety.

    In spite of that, after six weeks of eating paleo/primal for at least 80%, I can confidently say that it makes a difference. And that difference is so profound that I want to keep eating this way - I don't even feel like I'm 'missing' anything. It's amazing how sated you feel if you're eating all the (healthy) fats your body needs!

    If you or anyone else is interested, this site made a great starting point for me: www.marksdailyapple.com.

    Wishing you and everyone sharing their stories here all the best!

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    1. Thanks, Rinske; I'll be checking that site out!

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  90. I have very little gut issues and when I do I can usually connect them to general stress, but I do have minor anxiety issues. I don't think I've ever had a major panic attack, but I've had some mental breakdowns. My anxiety seems partly social and partly escape connected. Actually socialising was a big problem in high school, but it's a lot better now. Being more confident definitely helped there. I still have problems getting myself to do it though. I can get extremely anxious before going to a party or work or making a phone call (this is where the breakdowns happen). To the point that I do try to avoid social situations as much as possible. Funnily enough, once I'm there, I'm usually pretty ok, I just get tired really quickly.

    The bigger trigger is feeling that I can't get to an exit. Living in London and taking the underground to work everyday, I've definitely had to learn how to cope better with that. I noticed that I'm fine in the train as long as I have a clear path to the exit. Which means I've become quite the expert on finding the quietest part of the train, so I have less chance of having to fight through a packed crowd to get out. I've also changed my schedule so I'm travelling at the tail-end of the rush hour, luckily I have flexible starting times at work.
    When I do end up in a busy train, far from the door, I try to find the line of sight that gives me the most space (in the worst case this might mean looking at my feet). I'm also lucky to be from one of the tallest countries in the world, so I can usually look over most people's heads. Then I concentrate on my breathing, close my eyes and imagine being at the beach with the water running over my feet and the huge expanse of the ocean in front of me. It usually helps me survive enough stops and I haven't had to get off the train at an earlier station due to an anxiety attack for well over a year.

    In the tunnels of the stations I realised I do better when I'm moving, so I try to find those routes that don't have me stand still, even if they take a little longer. I also have separation anxiety. My husband and I travel to work together and being separated by the crowd still makes my heartbeat jump up instantly. We've come up with several solutions. We hold hands whenever possible and if we have to walk single file, he'll go in front and I'll tug the strap of his bag if someone tries to cut in or we are in danger of being separated in some other way. If for some reason this all fails, he'll make sure to stop at the earliest possible place to let me catch up. Just knowing that he's aware of it and that he WILL stop, makes it much easier for me to deal with.

    What I've realised is how much it helps to have someone understand and accept what I'm going through, without expecting me to "just deal with it". Reading this site has actually helped a lot with getting my husband to understand me better (he was already trying, but it can be very difficult to explain) and showing that it wasn't just me, was one of the major factors in that. Knowing that I have someone to count on, who will help me and who will tell me it's ok to feel the way I do, is the single most helpful thing I've encountered.

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  91. Gah. I'm almost ashamed to put this out there, but here goes. My anxiety is super specific - threats to my personal safety. In very large crowds (Disney in the busy season, crowded metro train platforms, DC on 4th of July) I freak out about the possibility of terrorist attack. I know enough to be very methodical about it like -they would block this exit, put a bomb there, then the people will go there. The scenario starts in my head and won't stop until I get out of the area. Then there are the more crazy moments like I can't walk down the hallway to my bedroom at night because someone could have broken into the house earlier in the day and be hiding back there to rape/kill/eat me.

    I too grew up with the nervous stomach. I missed a lot of high school events because of stomach trouble. I remember my boyfriend complaining about it. (::eyeroll::) However lately I find my anxiety is correlated more strongly with my monthly cycle than with anything else. If I'm filled with dread and can only sleep behind a pair of locked doors at night, then it's probably cycle day 19, a week before my period. I swear to all the Gods in all the world, the way medical science brushes that off as "just PMS" is evil.

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    1. AMEN. The week before my period is ALWAYS when I feel the most panic. It's definitely connected, altho I tried hormone therapy for a few years and still found no relief, so now all I can do is just brace for impact, as it were. ;) Oh, and skip social outings and travel during that week, when possible.

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  92. Very interesting and something for me to watch for. I have delayed gastric emptying, which translates into a lazy evil stomach. I tend to have baby panic attacks when my stomach is trying to make me regergitate. Some of it also seems tied to a raging case of endometriosis. Lately I have been trying a stomach blend of aloe vera juice. It seems to help.

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  93. I've had colon issues since i can remember. my issue was being blocked up (TIM?). as an adult i suffered from terrible indigestion. i mean, it can fell a horse, i'm sure. and the more stressed i was about something, the more pain i was in. i was diagnosed with ibs after everything thing else was ruled out. a few years later i was in debilitating pain again. ulcer was the thought. after having a camera shoved down my throat, i was told that everything was pretty and pink in there - no ulcers.

    a friend had recently gone gluten free and told me to give it a try. what could it hurt (other than not being allowed to eat fresh baked bread again!!). so as you probably already guessed it, i have been gluten free for 2.5 years now and my stomach problems have pretty much vanished. i am regular for the first time in my life! it's very liberating. i due get some bad indigestion every once in a while, but then i know that it is really stress related. i do cheat every once in a while, but only with little things like a fresh based cookie of a piece of bread. but then i know that i will probably have to pay for it in a couple of days (my system is ridiculously slow!). i had results within a week when i cut the gluten out. now it's just part of my every day life. and there are so many products out there that it really the only thing that sucks is the fresh bread thing.

    i don't have anxiety issues, i do have stress and control issues. i never thought about the correlation between gut and those issues, so i can't really give any clear indication that going gluten free helped my stress. perhaps give the GF diet a chance? i am not so strict that i read labels. i just basically cut out the big ones, pasta (i use rice pasta) and all baked goods.

    Good luck!

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  94. Hi Jen, I don't suffer from anxiety but do struggle with depression. Several years ago my husband was diagnosed with diabetes and put on a low carb diet to help control his blood sugar. I went along on the low carb wagon to keep him company. The difference in my moods is huge. It's easier to give up the goodies when I can look at a tempting plate of biscuits and think, "Yes, they are delicious but not worth the soul crushing misery of not being able to summon enough willpower to get off the couch tomorrow."

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  95. Depression + anxiety = I'm great fun!

    Or, y'know... not. But I take Celexa every day and I do better. Most people would never guess because it works so well for me. But I do turn down party invites, I do not volunteer for school events for my kids (no matter how often the PTA asks) and tend to avoid unfamiliar situations. I just can't handle them. Heart palpitations are not fun. I always think I'm having a heart attack, which makes me more anxious, which does not help the palpitations. It's a vicious cycle. Gut issues are no picnic either. Just last night, my younger son's Cub Scout den went for a lovely evening hike on a nearby bike/hiking trail. I love this trail! But, it required me to interact with the other parents. So... about 50 yards down the trail, I suddenly needed a bathroom and there was NOTHING I could do about it. I managed, in spite of numerous moments of panic and *ahem* clenching. I've rarely been happier to get home from an outing. It was miserable. I think I'll try your probiotic suggestions. I have thought about taking them before, but after last night? Yeah... probably need to get on that for real.

    Side note... have you ever been tested for Crohn's? If not, it might be worth looking into.

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    1. My grandmother had Crohn's, but no, I've never been tested. I feel like I didn't have the right symptoms when I read up on it one time, but maybe I'll go check again. And if I get the celiac test done, I'll probably get Crohn's, too.

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  96. I have pretty bad anxiety but it only started showing up about six years ago when depression showed up and I started to have problems with suicidal ideation, which is initially what the anxiety clung to. I've since been able to treat and manage my depression (the the help of my not-always-understanding-but-still-loving husband) but the anxiety is still a pain. I do get rather socially anxious but it's worse when it comes to grades or just life in general. I woke up the other morning in the middle of a panic attack that I couldn't shake for most of the day. I just knew something bad was going to happen and luckily my husband and my sister understand that when I call them frantically to make sure they are okay, not to over react.

    Also about the time when my anxiety and everything showed up I was experiencing a lot of...I guess you could say bullying. Quite a few of my then friends turned on me and started leaving messages about how much they hated me etc. So I always figured that was the trigger for it, but now that you mention it, that is also when my IBS started. And I've noticed that as my depression gets better, my anxiety and IBS get worse. I can barely eat anything without it making me sick even a little.

    So maybe I should try some probiotics!

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  97. I've been gluten-free for six years now, to try to control some anxiety issues. I test as having Aspergers, and GF is a recommendation for that, too. My husband said he noticed a positive change in my behavior within a week of going gluten-free.

    Also, there are several GF Oreo-type cookies, by Glutino, Kinnikinnick, Mi-Del, and more, I'm sure.

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  98. If you have questions about being gluten or wheat intolerant.. read the book "Wheat Belly" by William Davis. It will open your eyes. I've been off gluten for 2 years and all grains for almost one and noticed the biggest difference when I went off everything and pretty much eat Paleo. It is hard at first, but I feel so much better now so it's well worth it. Best of luck!

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  99. First of all, thanks for always being brave enough to share your story Jen. It's made me brave enough to share mine and try to figure it out more. I have moderate to severe social anxiety. I'm also a clinical counseling psychology grad student and we just went over anxiety disorders actually lol. I'm not and expert yet and believe me I'm not trying to diagnose you but Jen, what you're describing sounds a bit like agoraphobia which contrary to popular belief is not the fear of leaving the house. It's moreso fear of being in situations outside of the home (usually your safest place) where you think you may not easily be able to escape. I'd definitely recommend looking up more about it.

    My social anxiety kicks in in performance situations (speeches and singing for me) and when I have to interact with people that i don't know (going to parties with a bunch of people I don't know, talking on the phone to people I don't know, group activities, sometimes customer service). Just being in a crowded place doesn't' do anything but when I know I'll have to interact with someone for an extended period of time (more than just checking out in a store or ordering food in a restaurant, that's what does it). My symtpoms are usually near hyperventilation, increased heart rate and major nausea. My fear is that I'll do something embarrassing, that people won't like me, that they'll criticize and judge me. That's what social anxiety really is. I get anxious (to a lesser extent) thinking about those situations but even moreso while actually in them. Luckily I don't get too anxious reading or hearing about other people's anxiety issues. In 2 of my classes this semester I have to give presentations and do a group project. Since the very first time I heard about these at the beginning of each class, I have been worrying about them and when I think about them too much the anxiety symptoms kick in but over the course of the past month, I've started to worry a tiny bit less. But I know when it gets closer, I'll start up again. Every time (though few) that I can get through a normally anxiety provoking situation with little to no symptoms, I'm really proud of myself. I've never seen anyone or taken anything for my anxiety (I have a problem taking medicine) and so far have just taken each situation as they come to me because I tend to avoid them if at all possible. And if I can't, I deal with it with great distress. I've read up that changing things such as diet and maybe exercise can help the symptoms and I've been trying to eat better forever anyway (but food comforts me). But because I'm realizing my anxiety now more than ever I'm going to try to take greater steps to fix it. For most anxiety disorder, exposure is the best bet but exposure is scary of course, haha. So I'm going definitely be on the lookout for things that have worked for others. I've never had any stomach problems or anything like that but I've had depression in the past but anxiety most of my life. I wonder if I should get tested for any other medical conditions though.

    The other thing is that people mistake being in introvert for social anxiety. I like to say my anxiety kicks in around strangers and my introversion kicks in around my friends or family. For me it means that most of the time I'd rather be doing solitary activities I enjoy like reading or watching a movie than interacting with a bunch of people at one time. When I am in the mood to interact with lots of people (like maybe dinner with my friends), I get exhausted from it and need alot of time (sometimes days) to "recharge". I'm not anxious at those times, just tired and want to be on my own for a while afterwards.

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    1. Good points, Samantha, and I agree that I do lean more agoraphobic - insomuch as I know of it. Sometimes I thing my self-imposed hermitage as a blogger might exacerbate it, but I'm too happy at home to want to change. I just have to work on leaving the house at least a few times a week, and having social outings that make me even look forward to it.

      I'm going to review a book on introvert...ism? Is there a word for that? Well, a book on introverts, anyway, soon, and WOW was it eye-opening. You're right about people mistaking it for shyness and anxiety, altho the two do overlap often times.

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  100. I'm not sure if this is of interest, but I've had terrible stomach issues for years, most of my life, it feels like. I've been to countless specialists and have endured all sorts of tests that involved being poked and prodded and scanned and x-rayed and sitting with all sorts of embarrassing specimens in waiting rooms across my county. Each time the response was something along the lines of, "We don't see any issues, so keep doing what you've been doing (nothing but being miserable), and we'll check back in a few months." I switched my GP a couple of years ago and mentioned my stomach issues to her in hopes of hearing some miracle cure.

    I was pretty surprised when she told me there's almost no doubt that anxiety and stomach woes are intertwined and therefore she would like to treat me for anxiety. On the whole, I'm a bit introverted, but not particularly anxious. I passed on the anxiety meds only because she warned of side effects of sluggishness and tiredness, but took her up on the suggestion of using good probiotics. I absolutely think they've made a huge difference.

    Then, this summer I was hit with about a week of nearly constant stomach pain. Someone mentioned trying out protein and fiber packed smoothies, so I've started having those for lunch and I suddenly feel just like a normal person again! I can go out and about and not have to be worried that I'll suddenly be hit with the pain I've been used to. It's been wonderful!

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  101. I'm glad you mentioned gluten intolerance, because I was trying to think of a way of suggesting a gluten-free test without sounding like One Of Those People. I will say that for me, and for most members of my family, gluten is an issue. It affects my dad's digestion (and mine), gives my mum and my brother stuffy noses, makes one of my sisters unable to concentrate on anything, and wreaks havoc with my aunt's entire body.

    So if you decide to give it a shot - just to see what happens - I'll be extraordinarily pleased. :) We eat lots of rice and potatoes so it was easier for us to transition, but we're still working on substitutions for baking. . .almond flour and oat flour are our favourites!

    Best wishes and good luck!
    Molly M

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    1. Oops - and by 'gluten-free test' I don't mean a medical test. Durr. I just meant an elimination trial diet :D

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  102. A few years ago I started to have horrible stomach problems and depression that caused me to go on leave from school for a year. I always had problems with my stomach growing up, but never with depression. I always thought the stomach problems caused the depression, but my doctor was convinced it was the opposite. I was put on an antidepressant as well as multiple prescription antacids and while my depression went away, my stomach problems always came back. Even though celiac disease runs in my family, my doctor would not refer me for an endoscopy (the blood test came back negative) because I 'do not look malnourished.' A few years before, my aunt had had both a blood test and an endoscopy done, both of which came back negative, but decided to try a gluten free diet anyway. It helped her, so I decided to try it too. Since going gluten free four years ago, my stomach problems have disappeared and I was able to successfully taper off my antidepressant a year later. I'll never know if I'm truly a celiac, so I just tell people that ask that I'm gluten intolerant.

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  103. I get doctor anxiety, anxiety in big crowds, before parties, and as an event approaches. Event meaning anything from a day with family or going to see a play. Will we leave on time? Will my hair look ok? Where will we park? What if we can't find our seats? ... It's annoying but these are the things I worry about.

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  104. Hi Jen, it's been a long time since I last commented, but I wanted to add that like other commenters, I have been following a "real food" or "paleo" way of eating, and it's had a positive impact on my mental health. So much so, that I now know if I eat sugar, I will feel depressed the next day--a good incentive to avoid sugar! I've been eating this way for more than a year now, and it's impacted me physically too; for example, my periods are lighter and not painful now, and I've gone from full PCOS to borderline PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

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  105. Re: the gluten intolerance question! My mother has a laundry list of food intolerances: gluten, soy, eggs, chickpeas. She went through an elimination diet to find out what she could and couldn't have, and found that upon cutting out those things, her depression diminished massively.

    I don't really have the strength that you do to talk about my OWN problems, but thank you so much, because reading your posts makes me feel Not Alone.

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  106. Hubby and I both deal with both sides of this. He has IBS and it causes anxiety. I have social anxiety and general situational anxiety (usually jobs or traveling) and it occasionally triggers gut issues.

    I've cut back on my gluten, sugar and practically cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup completely. I've had fewer headaches and body aches and generally feel okay. We are considering cutting out gluten for both of us, but not sure yet.

    He does eat yogurt every day and usually some form of high fiber. We've learned to love beans.

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  107. It's hard to say exactly what started when or what led to what, but I definitely have multiple interlocking mental and physical issues. I was always a "shy" introverted kid. I opened up once i felt comfortable with a person though. In a lot of ways I'm still that way, but it can be a viscous cycle where I don't say much, then I say a lot, then I worry that I've said too much so I clam up again, etc, etc, etc...

    Over the years I have definitely dealt with multiple aspects of both anxiety and depression. In more recent years the GI issues have come into play. They may have always been there to an extent, but they reached the point of making me constantly miserable just a few years ago. I agonized over the decision to finally go to the doctor, but once I did some of the anxiety lifted almost immediately because i was finally taking some action. They never really found anything and eventually called it IBS. I wasn't ever fully happy with this diagnosis as it felt more like a catch all for when they couldn't find anything else, but at least it was something. I was told there was no specific treatment for the IBS, but that they could treat individual symptoms if they were bad enough. By that point I was tired of doctor appointments so I went home armed with this quasi-diagnosis and started treating myself.

    Over time, I've found that a combination of eating healthy (no specific diet, just making good choices and avoiding potential triggers), exercise (nothing high impact, just walking around the neighborhood and at local nature parks), and a consistent schedule (eating, sleeping, etc) have helped me get things mostly under control. I still have my bad days, but they are less frequent and less severe. My bad days now are equivalent to my good days a couple of years ago.

    It's not always easy, especially because the triggers aren't always the same. Sometimes I can eat certain foods and be fine, other times they bring on 2 days of misery. I also get bad social anxiety still, but if I feel moderately in control of the setting that helps. Sometimes the anxiety triggers the IBS, sometimes the IBS triggers the anxiety. I'm not sure which one is dominant, but they definitely go hand in hand (along with stress, fear and depression).

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  108. Since you've got gut issues going on, check into abdominal migraines. Basically, they're like head migraines, but it takes place in the abdomen instead. Rare in adults, but still possible.

    I had two times in my childhood (about 5 or 6, then 12/13) where I had stomach trouble, did the soft foods diet, etc., and they never found anything. The second time it was diagnosed as psychosomatic due to intense family troubles at the time. A few years ago I stumbled across abdominal migraines while researching something else, and I'm almost positive that's what I had.

    I don't have anxiety issues, thankfully, but being nervous does upset my GI a lot. And I now have a lot of headaches and occasional migraines, and they tie in with my gut about half the time.

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  109. May I suggest you go to www.grainsandmore.com Your gut and the food you eat have a direct relationship to mood and anxiety issues. I had a cat with IBD, no reason for it and no clear activity that triggered an attack, but changing his diet made a huge difference. Perhaps it can help humans too.

    And no one description of anything fits everyone.

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  110. Have you tried magnesium supplementation? A high quality one (like Jigsaw) can do wonders, and can help anxiety.

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    1. Yes, and I do think it helps, so I need to be more consistent with it. (I tend to forget. :))

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  111. The other kind of anxiety, post partum anxiety, got me. I have since heard it referred to as hormonal anxiety, which didn't really make me happy. Mine was not social at all. I would have random panic attacks about whatever topic was at hand when the biochemical processes in my brain rolled a six. Money, came up a lot, but it could also be things like dust on the baseboards or other things that before and after my couple of years of mental illness don't bother me at all. Racing heart, lump in throat, nausea, shaking limps and sense of doom (for my, my daughter or my husband) were all there. Then, by the time she was two, it was mostly gone and by the time she was two and a half I was all the way back to my normal self. So for all the new moms out there, it isn't just you and it does get better.

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  112. I have found probiotic pills to not work for me - i have to get my fix from yogurt. I prefer greek because they have the most live cultures - usually 5 - normal yogurt usually only has 1 or 2. I used to take the Cancer Treatment Center of America private brand of probiotics, and they did nothing for me - i've given them away to people who said they are the best. So that proves to me that things in pill form are not always your best bet. now the problem is i HATE yogurt. so finding a way to hide it in things is my daily challenge. Fruit smoothies are the best for me. and gross as it sounds - v8 smoothies are good too. it's like cream of tomato soup. just my thoughts.

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  113. Hi Jen, (LTRFTC) I've been on a gluten free diet since 2006, and it has made a significant difference to my mental health. It didn't fix everything, but it helped. It also significantly helped with my GERD and my IBS. My IBS symptoms are almost completely gone (unless I get glutened), and I was able to stop taking acid reducers.

    There are really great replacements for lots of the foods you think you can't live without. Mueller's even has an inexpensive GF pasta now (which is pretty good). There are tons of great websites out there with guidance and recipes, and I'd be happy to provide any advice I can. Good luck, if you decide to give it a try.

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  114. So many comments for such a new post.... Someone may have already brought it up, but since I'm a little concerned that reading all the comments may be a trigger, I'll just post here in the hopes that someone who experiences a similar form of anxiety.

    I'm relatively sure (an official diagnosis would require funds or insurance, and I don't have either) I have SPD--sensory processing disorder--as well various forms of anxiety (which has been officially diagnosed) that are triggered in various situations. I've mostly come to terms with them, in part due to the realization (thanks, internet!) that I'm not alone in those feelings, sensations, etc.

    However, one that still really frustrates me is my reaction to medical procedures. Yes, I DO have enough anxiety that the mere description of a medical procedure could cause me to faint; however, it is unrelated (or at least seems to be) to instances in which I pass out during/after a medical procedure. I'm not sure how to make this make sense, but what I mean is that if I faint after having blood drawn, or while undergoing dental work, or during a trip to the gynecologist, (hello, speculum) or even once at the dentist's office, it is a PHYSICAL reaction to a sensorial violation, (e.g. the moment the needle pierces my skin, or the drill touches a tooth, etc.) rather than a reaction to any sort of irrational fears I may have regarding medical procedures.

    Telling me to remain calm or not to worry isn't helpful because most of the time, I am calm. The mental reaction tends to come up in theoretical situations, (an oral surgeon giving her legally-required description of a planned surgery, or a particularly gory film) whereas actual contact with an intrusive, foreign object (no sniggering or innuendo, please) causes a purely physical reaction for me.

    I wonder if it's because I'm super lucky and have both sensory and anxiety issues, or if other people (with or without SPD) have similar experiences....

    Anyone?

    p.s. You know something that's a total NIGHTMARE for anxiety/SPD sufferers? Bed bugs. We've got'em. Waiting on a second (and hopefully final) visit from the exterminator. And between the anxiety and the sensory issues, I'm going completely effing insane. Not being able to sleep isn't really helping matters....

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    1. tal - your description fits something called vasovagal synscope. It simply means the vagus nerve (large 10th cranial nerve which controls heart rate and vessel dilation) can get overstimulated during blood draws, bowel movements, etc. and the effect is like an anti-adrenaline rush...everything slows way down and bam! you faint. It's a very real phenomenon and affects many people.

      So, you're not imagining things. It's real...and is possibly the cause of your medical procedure anxiety.

      p.s. I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL...just a weirdo with a variety of issues...LOL

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    2. I have experienced the syncope as well... I can't watch my blood being drawn, etc. Earlier this year I had an episode of syncope that happened after I did my monthly breast exam in the shower. I thought I felt a lump, and the idea of that scared me so badly that I literally fainted and fell out of the shower. I came to half in and half out of the shower stall, with my husband worried sick. It's a very real syndrome. Nicole S

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    3. Thank you awesomesauciness, (love the name) I'm going to read up on that.

      @Nicole, nice to know it's not just me. :)

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    4. A bit of internet research later, and yes, that does indeed sound like me. Even what they're calling seizures. I've always been told by doctors that the convulsions that sometimes occur with my losses of consciousness weren't "real" seizures, but perhaps it's time I looked for a doctor who saw things differently.

      The only thing that didn't fit the description was that I often desperately crave salt before or just after fainting, but that could be my body's way of restoring blood volume, or have something to do with adrenal issues. (Pretty sure I have those, too.) And no, hypochondria is not one of those issues. ;)

      So, thank you for giving it a name. Maybe I can figure out how to control it now.

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  115. I just recently learned that there is a second nervous system in the stomach: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=gut-second-brain

    Kindof exciting, right? Before I started taking probiotics, I used to get sick 3x a week. I could barely eat anything. Then I started eating 2 yogurts a day at my doctor's recommendation and now hardly ever have problems. My doc discovered that in addition to lactose intolerance, I was also sensitive to other sugars (apparently this is common) and couldn't drink anything with a high carb load. Like, apple juice will mess me UP. It's pure sugar and my gut doesn't have enough bacteria to process the sugars quickly enough, it seems, so it makes me sick.

    I just went on an extremely strong course of antibiotics a few days ago and my drs were worried it would kill all the good gut bacteria I'd been building up so I spent 30 minutes googling on my phone in front of the vitamin aisle yesterday trying to learn about probiotics. I read that Dr. Weil said to make sure it contains "colony forming units" (CFUs) in the billions (so discard anything in the millions), and that lactobacillus GG is a must (the GG part is important).

    I couldn't find anything with lactobaccillus GG PLUS others so ended up buying two different things, "Culturelle" and "Ultimate Flora" - not affiliated and no way to know yet if this is the best combo because it's so early yet although it seems to be helping since I'm tolerating these strong antibiotics well so far.

    The gluten thing I don't know, but some people who have kids with autism have found better behavior by removing gluten from the diet, and an association has been found: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/807390

    There's also some thought that leaky gut syndrome can be linked not only to physical health but emotional: http://www.alt-med.org/ap-depression-may-be-linked-to-leaky-gut-syndrome-1356900118.php

    A question I would ask you about the anxiety is, are you feeling anxious and then get the racing heart, or do you get a racing heart and then get anxious? Which comes first?

    I wonder if you have a condition (that a relative had) where palpitations and anxiety are linked, but it starts with a physiological thing and the panic arises because of all the other hormones (adrenaline, etc.) that go with it?

    I just put that book you mentioned in my amazon cart - thank you so much for mentioning this, what a great help your post is!

    I've found some additional help in a meditation/mindfulness practice called "focusing" (http://www.focusingresources.com/articles/strengthening_attachment.htm) where you focus on your body and pay attention to it and that tightness and other physical sensations loosen because suddenly they are "heard" - they don't have to shout to be noticed. I'm new to the practice but have noticed it helped. Two books I am currently reading are "The Power of Focusing" by Ann Weiser Cornell and "What's Your Body Telling You" by Steve Sisgold. They both got good reviews and I'm finding the wisdom within pretty good.

    I'll stay tuned for more of your writing, can't wait to hear more ideas and suggestions and thanks for having the courage to talk about such a prevalent thing. <3

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    1. "Ultimate Flora" is the one I'm taking now, so I'm glad it's a good one!

      My first attacks were very much a physical-first thing, because my heart would skip beats & palpitate, and then the fear adrenaline rush would hit like a tidal wave & cause an attack. Now, though, I have all these secondary fears and associations built up, so I have more traditional (if such a thing exists) anxiety. It's frustrating that in a way I've created my own mental disorder, allowing these psychosomatic fears to take hold, but that book I mentioned helped me realize it happens to a lot of people, so at least I'm not alone.

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  116. I definitely am more panicky in crowds--it's not about interaction, it's about the press of humanity. Ugh! Typical introvert issues too--too much social interaction and I'm drained. But panic-wise, it's about crowds.

    As far as gluten, when I gave it up, my eczema that I had for 25 years (which the doctor said was "chronic and incurable") completely cleared, as did many GI issues. It's worth it to give it up for a while and see--there are so many alternatives now that you'll be amazed you didn't walk away from it sooner!

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  117. Hmmm, my anxiety seems to be different than both that you described. I definitely have the occasional social anxiety (mainly thinking about going to a social event, but occasionally while at one) but my anxiety is mainly unrelated to social situations (not that I like them, cause I don't). My anxiety seems much more linked to an overactive brain/imagination and my fear that others are judging ,etc. For instance, I will be driving and suddenly think about what would happen if I ran off the road, or be looking at stairs and think of how awful it would be if my daughter fell down them (this is not a desire or impulse to do myself harm, btw). Or I will be in my office and suddenly my heart will race and I will have the impulse to either run or hide (often linked to worrying about whether I am doing work well). But yeah, not related to social situations much and also not to stimulation (though sometimes stimulation (loud music or movies) gets to me.

    As for gut health, I never thought to link it to my anxiety before, but I have had a "nervous stomach" all my life, and have wondered sometimes (often when my anxiety is also at its worst) whether I have IBS. I have also been becoming more interested in the link between gut health and anxiety, so now I am going to try a probiotic, I don't seem to be very affected by gluten. I had to give it up while nursing because my daughter was sensitive to me eating it, and I didn't notice any changes.

    Oh, and Tal, I TOTALLY know what you're talking about with an infestation. We had mice recently, and it was AWFUL for me.

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    1. Mice are not fun. I hope you were able to resolve the problem. Depending on how one's anxiety manifests, I imagine their being bigger could be worse, but part of my issue is that the bugs are tiny and translucent in the beginning. I saw what the exterminator found crawling under where I sleep the first time, and now I'm taking a sleep aid every single night and it still doesn't always work. :-/ I feel like they're on me all the time, even though I know that's ridiculous. I know what they look like now, and whenever I "feel" them on me, I should be able to see them, too. So, fun fun.

      But yeah, infestations of any kind are the pits for anyone whose sanity level is easily threatened. I'm crying myself to sleep most nights right now. :(

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  118. I am going to confess that I have no read all 148 previous comments, so I'll just start by apologizing if I repeat some others.
    1. If you just randomly started having drop out of the sky panic attacks a few years ago without some major life trigger, might I recommend seeing your doctor? I know, I know, nobody likes doctors (including me, and I might just be one in real life). But, sometimes, they can be caused by something caused mitral valve prolapse, which is usually benign, and somewhat common, but is associated with anxiety and panic attacks. A blood test to check your thyroid, if it has not been done, may also be in order.
    2. There is some evidence that even in people who do not have celiac sprue (allergy to gluten), IBS symptoms may improve by eliminating gluten. The OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED DIET is called the FODMAPS diet. This is the best and most understandable chart I have found is this one: http://www.ibsgroup.org/brochures/fodmap-intolerances.pdf

    Seriously, most of the information on FODMAPS is crummy and annoying and really tough to understand (and I have an ungodly number of years of education under my belt).

    Paleo is somewhat similar, is somewhat more user friendly, and in the non-randmized, non-controlled experieince of a fair number of my patients, pretty effective. It has the benefit of also being hugely popular right now which means there are a lot of user friendly web-sites and recipes out there.

    Good luck.
    --A friendly, not local, but pretty not-scary Family Doc

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    1. Thanks, Doc. And not to worry; I've seen LOTS of doctors. I spent 4 days in the hospital with my first attack, having every test imaginable, so I guess all the usual culprits are out. All they found was critically low magnesium & potassium, so I was on IVs for all 4 days to get my levels back up. Still no idea why, or how exactly that's connected (though I've read low potassium can weaken the heart), so I take supplements for those... when I remember. Heh. After that I saw heart & kidney specialists, and then a naturopath MD who practices both traditional & alternative medicine. It's been a few years since I've tried anyone new, but if any new theories or tests sound promising, I'll overcome my doctor-office-jitters to get there - promise. :)

      Oh, and I tried looking at the FODMAPS site last night and quickly gave up, but I'll check out that chart you included, so thanks!

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    2. Hmmm. Doctors tend to want to put me on magnesium whenever I get sick. I wonder if it's a common deficiency in people with anxiety....

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  119. My anxiety isn't social at all. Admittedly, I'm not a social butterfly, but I don't have a problem if thrown into a social situation. Mine is more of a worry about everything, all the time, situation. I definitely have the escape fear (not as severe as you, but I can't sit with my back to a door or a crowd). I've had panic attacks since high school, but they've only recently started happening at random, without correlating to any specific situation. Stomach wise, I don't have specific stomach problems yet, though I do eat Pepcid for heartburn like it's going out of style. This could be associated with being overweight though. My daughter (age 6, poor thing) has had stomach problems for over a year now, and her doctor says she is the type of person who carries her worry in her stomach. He said some do stomach, some do their neck and shoulders (me, me, me!), some get migraines (me, me!), so my guess is you are someone who carries yours in your stomach. Her doctor recommended relaxation techniques for her. Breathing and yoga, that sort of thing. Something I'm sure you've already tried. Hope this helps you feel more normal! I had to laugh at your being anxious about not being anxious correctly. Classic.

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  120. Jen - the random heart palpitations may not just be anxiety. You could have a very common condition called paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia - PSVT - which is an electrical short inside the heart.

    Relax, it sounds much scarier than it is. It's not uncommon, and many people simply learn to control the sudden palpitations with a variety of proven tricks - drinking really cold water, coughing, splashing the face with water, and so on.

    I have this, and unfortunately must take heart medication to control my crazy heart. It would go from the at rest of 62 bpm to 180 - 210 bpm for no reason. After a prolonged episode, my cardiologist finally suggested the drug Cardizem. It works perfectly and no more crazy heart so long as I take it.

    The only way to diagnose the condition is by wearing a holster-type EKG for a while to try and catch these 'excursions'. I had to wear mine during a HOT Texas summer for two weeks. Ick! But, they found the anomaly.

    However, before they found it I did deal with a lot of anxiety over the unknown and the when-will-it-happen-next of it all.

    p.s. AGAIN, I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL

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    1. I believe my docs looked for that - I even wore the monitor for 3 days - but all I remember is one doc showing me a graph where my heart did SOMETHING strange, but not in a diagnosable way that caused him any concern. I wish I'd been more educated then, though, so I could remember it all. :/

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  121. If you could live a happier, healthier life if you gave up green beans, would you do it? Of course you would. The very fact that you find the idea of giving up wheat almost impossible to contemplate suggests you have a problem with it. The fact is, modern wheat is physically addictive. Given that, it isn't surprising that many people balk at giving it up. Have a look at the NYT Best Seller book "Wheat Belly" or even just peek over at this post by the same author. http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/04/wheat-is-an-opiate/

    PS-I can't do glutens. If I eat them, I swell up, have acid reflux and get deep muscle ache. An Oreo isn't worth all of that.

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  122. Something else to think about. B12 deficiency can cause anxiety. Taking reflux drugs can cause B12 deficiency. Taking hormonal contraceptives can cause B12 deficiency. Having a leaky gut, which is common in people with gluten issues, can cause B12 deficiency AND US path labs consider B12 levels normal at a MUCH lower level than is considered acceptable in the rest of the modern world. So if you ditch the wheat, heal your gut and don't have reflux, you could also improve your B12 levels, which could significantly help your anxiety. More at http://chriskresser.com/b12-deficiency-a-silent-epidemic-with-serious-consequences

    Absolutely double thumbs up to the idea of exploring GAPS, Paleo or other whole food diets. You'll be amazed at how effective these ways of eating are in improving health.

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  123. My anxiety has no triggers. It just happens randomly, at different times, in different situations. I have no fear, am almost overly social, love acting and speaking in front of crowds, but I have no lead up, it just hits me randomly. I could be having a fantastic day haveing a giggle fit, and within 2 seconds, everything switches and I feel like I'm going to die. I get shaky, doomy feeling, chest pain etc. Sometimes they wake me up. I've just been diagnosed with inappropriate sinus tachychardia - so I'm wondering if my anxiety is triggered by this, or if my anxiety causes it. Either way, it's not fun.

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  124. Jen,
    I'm a therapist with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (you'd be surprised how many therapists have their own problems). My anxiety centers around just about anything! I am most often anxious about the future, but I also get anxious in big, noisy crowds.

    The fun thing about anxiety (and any of the other mental illnesses in general) is that if you are diagnosed with one illness, chances are good that you have at least overlapping symptoms with another one (I also have a Specific Phobia of injection-needles)! And since every person is different, their anxiety is going to be different, too. So you have a lot of specific triggers that focus around social situations, while I have no real specific triggers (except a trip to the poor lady who gives flu shots) and I can get anxious over anything!

    That being said, comparing your experience of anxiety to other people's experience is going to be difficult. Don't get me wrong, it's one of the most reassuring things in the world to know that there are people out there who cry when a nurse comes at them with those little test strips they use to check your glucose. But chances are good that you'll never find an exact match to your symptoms. And that's okay. Because everyone is a unique zebra print (I'm so over the snowflake analogy). :)

    As for the GI link, it makes sense. Humans have a cool "second brain" in the gut that is made up of nerves that connect to the brain brain. And that second brain is super sensitive. So if your brain brain is constantly under duress because you're anxious about the long-term impact of living next to heavy marijuana smokers on your unborn child (why, yes, I AM speaking from experience there), you may experience all sorts of problems with your GI tract.

    Personally, there's a history of both anxiety and GI problems in my family (thanks, dad). Luckily my anxiety is pretty well controlled with medication, which means that my GI problems are down to a minimum (unless I eat something super-gnarly). I never associated my anxiety with my GI problems, but then again, I began controlling my anxiety at the same time I went through grad school, so I didn't have the knowledge that I do now.

    I guess what I want to say to anyone who is experiencing anxiety is this: talk about it with someone. Whether it's a close, trusted friend, a professional therapist, or a medical doctor, talk to someone. You don't have to keep it to yourself, and there are things out there that can help. Not everyone has success with medication, not everyone has success with talk therapy. But there is something out there that can help you, and you'll never know until you ask.

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  125. I have been pretty lucky because (at least so far) I only have one trigger that causes panic attacks - putting my head below water. If I am just swimming I'm fine, since I can reach the surface in a second or two, but (before I identified my fear/trigger) I've always dreamed of scuba diving. So in college I took a class. Well, it turned out that even walking to class, knowing that I was going to have to be below water for significant periods of time, would trigger an attack. The type of attack of, "I'm going to die, this is how I will die," (*which in all reality, is an actual danger of scuba diving). So, I dropped the class. I was sad to not be able to fulfill a dream, but it simply wasn't worth it.

    Now that I've experienced panic attacks, I have immense sympathy for those whose triggers are not as easily avoided as mine is.

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    1. I think this goes to show how different each of our triggers can be: I find it incredibly relaxing to put my head below water, because it muffles the world and makes me feel safe and insulated. I can understand how it would do the opposite for you, though. And good on you for identifying the trigger & working around it.

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  126. Wow. I had no idea. I am so sorry. Reading this will help me be more aware, more compassionate and (I hope) more supportive. I vow to never be the horse in the second comic.

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  127. Jen - this is pretty far down in the comments, so you may not even be checking any more - but while there have been many really good recommendations about what goes IN to your body diet-and-supplement-wise, there is another aspect of this that you can address, which has to do with how things, well, come out. It helped me: it's a plastic stool called a Squatty Potty. It sounds strange, but your colon is definitely part of your GI, which as everyone has pointed out is/can be highly sensitive. At the most, you restore a balance to your guts that helps your overall well-being in a very positive way (my experience). At the worst, you don't find a benefit or you dislike using it and you're out $30. The only harm would be to your wallet.
    Like I say, I know this sounds odd, but you can go to the Squatty Potty website (squattypotty.com) and read up on it. Seriously, if you're going to all the trouble to analyze what goes into your body, you should also make sure that it's coming out correctly, too, and this has the advantage of being strictly passive. Everything's connected, after all.

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  128. So I don't have anxiety - but I understand your worry about being able to escape - and I can talk to the gluten/GI thing. I used to be more like those overactive bladder commercials - needing to know where the bathrooms were for any particular trip I needed to take or place I needed to go because I never knew how my GI tract would react to anything.

    After a few doctors, (and an IBS diagnosis with the directions to "eat more fiber and yogurt (for the probiotics)), I found a doctor who had me cut gluten from my diet (just to see what happened - I had already tried cutting dairy with no effect). It was A.MAZE.ING! (I know that isn't spelled right, but it works for pronunciation). Needless to say, I've been gluten free ever since (over 12 years ago) and had it confirmed with the blood test a few years ago (I was diagnosed before the blood test existed - there were scopes from both ends involved).

    The gluten free food has gotten so much better and easier to find than when I was first diagnosed. Just try it and see how you feel. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but if you really are intolerant it's so much better.

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  129. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a "nervous stomach". It started when I began Kindergarten at the age of 4. As I got older, I would almost always feel stomach sick in most social situations, even ones that I wanted to participate in (birthday parties, school dances, family holiday dinners, weddings, etc.) I even spent my wedding day afflicted with horrible gastric problems. I distinctly remember after dealing with the receiving line having to run off to the bathroom, and was gone from the reception for the first 45 minutes. I couldn't even enjoy the reception- couldn't eat anything at all, and could only stomach the ginger ale that the waiter brought me. Once the reception ended and we were on our way home, I was fine- ravenous even. Looking back 15 year later, I should have sought help a long time ago for this, but I never had a name for it until more recently. When I gave birth to my son almost 5 years ago, I started having full blown panic attacks, which were brought on by postpartum hormones. It got so bad that I couldn't leave my house with the baby alone. I was terrified that something would happen to him or to me. When he was about 9 months old and was weaned from nursing, I got on Zoloft to help manage the panic attacks. I have been on it for almost 5 years now, and have since been prescribed Buspirone as an additional medicine to manage the anxiety, but it's still not a perfect fix. I still suffer from sudden onsets of panic, often for seemingly no reason at all, but I do notice that they seem to occur the most in the week leading up to my cycle. I am perimenopausal, so I believe my hormones are one of the culprits. Triggers for me still stem from social situations though, and I often have to really steel myself for parties or family dinners with the in-laws, etc. Another trigger for me stems from anything to do with potential illnesses. Sometimes just hearing about a serious illness like cancer or heart problems will trigger me, as those are my biggest fears. I don't know if anyone else reading this has a similar or relatable situation to mine, but I welcome any and all input. Also, I want to add that although I have scripts for Xanax and Clonazapam, I cannot get myself to take them when I am suffering an attack for fear of becoming dependent. It's a nasty circle I admit, but I don't really know how else to deal.- Nicole S.

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    1. Ah, you've reminded me of my first date with John, Nicole, which I spent a large portion of doubled over in agony in the restaurant bathroom. GOOD TIMES. :/ I'm also skittish about taking my Xanax, so if you're looking for a non-dependance-forming alternative, you might try L-Theanine. It's a derivative of green tea that comes in capsules, and the one supplement I've found most effective for taking the edge off early-stage or low-level panic. (Much better than Valerian.) Might be worth a shot!

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    2. Thanks Jen! I'll make a note of that. Where do you purchase it? (I am in South FL, is it in any of our local stores?) And yes, back in my dating days, I would almost ALWAYS end up in the bathroom with horrible "dirty stomach" as I call it. It was ugly. lol. Nicole S

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  130. I have had anxiety (I don’t actually say suffer because it is now so part of me that I can’t imagine being myself as I am now without it) for the past 18 years and at first I had no idea what it was, all I knew was that on a daily basis at from what I could tell random moments I would start to panic. I will admit that my head wasn’t in the right place at the time –eventually leading to a very long journey to being diagnosed with cylcothymia – so I had no idea what was happening, why it was happening or what to do about it. Over the last 18 years I have figured out what triggers me and how best for me to deal with it for me (the list is actually endless so probably best for me to not start with that one). In relation to the GI link I am not so sure about that but I think it makes sense…I know that I am more anxious when I don’t feel right in myself (not that I could tell you what being right in myself feels like after all these years) I do know me and how I should feel. I know that when I do get anxious my stomach doesn’t work right (I will spare you the full picture…I am sure everyone knows about that one)but I will say that in my opinion I don’t think that there is a ‘quick fix’ if there was then no one would have an anxiety disorder. There is research which links cutting out gluten and the effects that it can have on people with autism and there is some research which seems to suggest that food intolerance can create changes in brain chemicals (which are directly linked to anxiety) however I am unsure from the research I have done whether this would work for everyone.

    For my two pence worth I will say this. Anxiety – as with all mental health issues – is your own, we may all have been diagnosed with the same name for our anxiety but our triggers will be entirely our own and so will be the way that we deal with it. I for instance have issues with large crowds but it could be that what triggers us is totally different. Because my anxiety is mine and no one else I have to be in charge of it…just the same as everyone else. If for you drinking a probiotic drink which will enable you to settle your internal bits and pieces then links to reducing your anxiety then that is you taking charge of your issues and that can only be a good thing. You should do your own research and try some things – cut out gluten or coffee or whatever – but do it for an extended period of time and do it with support. I spent many years not having any support and everything that I tried almost certainly failed because I only had myself….get the support to help you and make sure they are aware of what you are trying and how to help you as well. That way when you take control of your anxiety and understand it then everything you try will be worth it whether it works or not.

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  131. I don't have anxiety in a diagnosable way, but I was diagnosed with "being extra anxious when things should cause me some anxiety." This has always manifested in needing to poop immediately when anxious, which will be really unfortunate in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
    I have IBD. I found that cutting out all yeast (or as much as possible since yeast is on the outside of every living thing), was the secret to stopping my bowel disease. I have been on a yeast free diet for coming on 4 years, and my Crohn's/Colitis is in remission. It is not the same as a candida diet, because my body is yeast repellant, so I can have sugar and other delicious things, but I have to avoid anything that has yeast as an ingredient. I still have small flares when REALLY anxious (or when I am not careful enough when eating), but for the most part, they are few and far between. I started a blog about it, because I had my friends with IBS try it and it helped their symptoms too. Yeast-Free Pain-Free
    For a long time, I was anxious about going out in public, specifically where I knew I would be expected to eat. Now, I am fine. I do have lingering fear from 8 years of suffering with no help at all, but 4 years in, I will actually go places after I eat on occasion.

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  132. Jen, Having lived with anxiety issues as long as I can remember and raising a son who has exhibited symptoms of anxiety disorders since he was a baby, I have come to two conclusions.
    1. There as many different types of anxieties as there are people with anxiety issues.
    2. Whatever makes YOUR body the healthiest and the most fit, is what will reduce YOUR anxieties.

    Thank you for sharing. It helps reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues.

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  133. I have a strange form of anxiety. I haven't told anyone and I have never been diagnosed but I know and have known for a while that it is what I have. I have the hardest time talking to individuals. I am great at public speaking and even tried a career as a teacher for a while. Large parties aren't my thing but if they are all my friends I'll go. When I get one on one with a person. (Sad to say but even my mother makes this happen) I can hardly speak I feel like I am going to throw up, I often cry and all of the other symptoms of anxiety show up with a vengeance. I don't even know if this is a social anxiety category. There are a very few people in my life that I am actually comfortable being around one on one. Happily my husband is one. :)
    I do suffer from GI problems and have all my life. I can not tell you how many tests of so many different kinds and the same ones over and over they have done to try and figure it out. Recently (about two years ago) I gave up and decided I would just live with it. I was tiered of taking so many medications a day. I am now down to two that are for a separate condition and I must take if I want to live. (talk about over dramatic). Sadly one of those pills is causes extreme GI problems and the other is to try and fix the acid re flux that was eating away at my esophagus. (the other issues they have no help for.
    I wanted to contribute to let you know that my GI problems happened WAY before my anxiety showed up. I am going to try that probiotic you spoke about. Thanks for speaking openly about these things.

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  134. As for probiotics, have you looked up VSL3? It's specially formulated for those with IBS, Chrones, and Ulcerative Colitis (which are all related diseases - I have UC and the other two are in my close family). I've found taking VSL3 and oral Mesalamine has helped keep my UC in remission for a significant period of time. http://www.vsl3.com/ I take one pouch, mix it with a glass of milk, and chug it first thing every morning. I take two when my guts act up.
    I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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  135. I get anxiety usually before a social activity starts, like on my way there, and once I'm there for even 10 minutes it goes away. It's the build-up that's the worst for me. My anxiety also acts up when I'm not in control, or can't easily get out of a situation, which is why instead of flying from NJ to FL, I drove (all by myself, I might add, and it was still less anxiety-ridden than if I had flown with other people.)

    Surprisingly, I also get anxiety about things other people tell me they're anxious about. For instance, I read that you get anxious on the rides at Disney, and when I went to Disney I got anxiety from the rides. It wasn't something I had ever thought about before I saw that it happened to you. Worrying about if I'm having anxiety or are just uncomfortable can also trigger a panic attack. It's kind of ridiculous when I really think about it and generally I can calm myself down because logically I know it's silly and I'm not anxious but just having stomach issues or something.

    As for the GI problems, I've had IBS for years and it acted up long before my anxiety came back full force. I have now resulted to taking an anti-diarrheal pill everyday (after consulting my doctor) and it's seriously the only thing that helps. I was taking a probiotic for years but when the anxiety is bad, nothing helps. I found that the IBS and anxiety fed each other and now that I don't have to worry about the IBS, the anxiety isn't nearly as bad. And I still poo, just on a more regular schedule!

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  136. Hi Jen, god do I wear ya and all of the people who commented. I to have anciety attacks but there are always when i'm at home. Do not why they happen and never did have those until a was 40 or i just did'nt see them. The dred of dying you talk about, I know my heart pounds in my chest, i get all the symptome of a heart attack but that not it. It's SCARDED the living day light out of me, until i talk to my doctor and she explaned what it's was and why I have it. Genetics! yep my family are all anxous, so me too. So now I know what to do when a have an attack like 2 weeks ago. I was cooking, one of my favority thing to do and BAM crazines. So i got my naturel pills, took 2 of those, then got the lavender oil out, rub it on my solar plexus counter clockwise and on my phone i have breath wave. This helps you breath with your heart http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM2gq8kYKyE go check it out. 15 minutes later i was fine and everything was back to normal, what ever normale is. Thanks for talking about this, i feel less alone. Hugs and Kisses my dear. Nadia

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  137. You have a ton to read, so 1) Thinking about social interactions, and dying over past social interactions (that happened 20 years ago.) 2) Gluten free almost cured me. No more listening to the rapist coming down the hall, no more wanting to poke my eye out with a fork after a social gathering. No more slamming doors or yelling at my kids. Stupid gluten, I liked to bake too! There ARE very good GF oreos though!

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  138. I think it can be dangerous to suggest that diet is the magic bullet for anxiety or any other mental issue, just because the flipside of that is, "You'd be fine if you'd just stop eating twinkies" or "I was cured of all my issues by taking turmeric so why don't you?" Not that YOU'RE doing that, but I can see some of this discussion headed in that way. I know that discussion about rheumatoid arthritis always heads towards "Just do this, and you'll be fine," and that's not helpful to me in the slightest.
    That said, I do think that diet and supplements and getting enough sleep and drinking enough water keep us on a more even keel. But everybody/every body is different, so it might take some trial and error to find out what will work for you. Depression and anxiety run in my family but fortunately I struggle with neither. I DO have a lot of problems with my stomach, which makes me think that there may be a connection that goes beyond just "I'm stressed out so my stomach hurts." I have found that cutting out gluten and limiting sugar helps with my stomach problems, so maybe if there is a stomach/brain connection that manifests as anxiety/depression, cutting gluten and sugar may be a good place to start. I also highly recommend getting enough sleep and staying organized, both of which have helped members of my family manage their anxiety a little better.

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  139. My body doesn't seem to work in general. I have stomach issues but I have always attributed them to having my gallbladder removed. Everything I eat makes me sick. I also have issues with my thyroid, weight, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. I have general and social anxiety. Since a young age I have been terrified of making phone calls. What if I say something wrong? What if the person I expect doesn't answer? It makes being a teacher very difficult sometimes. I also have a major problem with worrying and taking everything personally. I feel like I am responsible for making sure the world keeps turning and my family stays happy. I analyze every social situation and beat myself up over it. I am on meds, which have helped a great deal. I just try to take things one day at a time.

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  140. Interesting... I've started to have "gut issues" lately. Pain, bloating, swelling... and it doesn't seem to matter what I eat. Bread and water equal just as much pain as a spicy taco! And I've noticed that I'm not myself lately. Frustrated if I have to leave the house. Anxious to get home. It doesn't happen all the time... sometimes I'm ready to get out and stay out for a long time. But those times seem to be getting less and less. Perhaps I need to start on some probiotics and see what happens??

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  141. Jen, thanks for this post. I've always been a high anxiety person generally, and have had issues with depression, but never (except right after my mom died when I was 19) had issues with panic attacks. About a year and a half ago, I got food poisoning, and for MONTHS afterwards I felt nauseous almost all the time. Waves of it would come over me for any reason--not eating, eating, sometimes no reason at all. It was especially bad at night, and I would end up reading for hours (and man, do I need sleep, so this was killing me). Then I started having these episodes where I felt like I couldn't breathe--just sitting in the car or on the couch. The worst episode happened on a trip to NYC--I get nervous traveling on my own, and I ended up basically having a full out panic attack at a super nice (really crowded) restaurant with my cousin who I never get to see--the worst part was the food was BEAUTIFUL and I couldn't eat any of it. I had to go outside and call my husband and have him talk me down--I was standing on a busy street in the village crying...it was just awful and I was so confused about what was happening. It took me months to realize that the breathing, the panicky feeling, the nausea, were all coming at the same times. I saw a gastroenterologist, and he told me that sometimes when you have an episode like food poisoning, it can throw your gut off for a really long time--it can literally take up to a year for things to get back to normal. I ended up doing the probiotics for several months, and I also drank a lot of a mixture of apple cider vinegar (natural probiotic) mixed with water, honey and ginger--that really seemed to settle my stomach. And to echo other folks who have commented, exercise REALLY helps me, when I can make the time. So YES, I think that a lot of this research is right on--so many of our neurons are in our gut that it is crazy to think it wouldn't impact our mental states. I am so glad to read your story and all of these comments--I definitely felt like I was alone in this experience, and it is great to know that I am not. I am still feeling wary about traveling, which is sad because I love traveling, but at least I feel like the day-to-day is a 1000 times better than this time last year. I think you have to listen to your body and take care of it, and sometimes try things out to see what might work for you. Hang in there!

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  142. I'll start with my gut issues, I used to feel sick every time I ate and I was tested for ulcers, acid reflux, gallbladder issues, etc. I had none of those things but I was put on Zantac anyway in an attempt to manage. However, I've always been an anxious person..more in an OCD way than anything else. For instance, I write lists of things I need to do or want to buy, or really just random lists to occupy myself and then I re-write them, and re-write them in an attempt to make them perfect. I panic during tests or anytime that requires me to finish within a time frame. I also panic in large stores where there are a large number of people..like Wal-mart. There are times when I can't breathe in there and I have to leave. I manage that by shopping very early in the mornings. I also over think things and I have to talk about them incessantly to turn my mind off.
    However, I know some people aren't into medications, but I take a low-dose of Zoloft. It's not a perfect cure, but it eases my symptoms enough that my intestinal problems have stopped completely. I still get panicky sometimes, but it's much better in many respects.

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