_A_Girl_suffering_form_anxietyHealth anxiety is better known as its former name, hypochondria.  This is a persistent and unwarranted fear of getting a serious health problem like cancer.  This is also one of the most common anxiety disorders in the general population.  According to Professor Tyrer, head of the mental health at the Imperial College London, at least 1% of the UK’s population suffer from health anxiety.

Causes of Health Anxiety

Mental health professionals are not sure why some people develop health anxiety and some do not.  Some people may have witnessed a lingering death of a loved one and fear that the same thing will happen to them.  Others may develop health anxiety as part of another mental illness.

The Internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the medical profession.  Patients can quickly look up symptoms to see if they are serious enough to go to a doctor.  However, they may also leap to conclusions and ask for more appointments, tests and diagnostic imaging than they really need.  The Internet may be one reason why mental health professionals are reporting more cases of health anxiety than ever.

Symptoms of Health Anxiety

It can be difficult for doctors and therapists to diagnose health anxiety because the symptoms are different for each sufferer.  It also can hard to distinguish unfounded worried from real worries.  For example, a person who suffers from migraines may naturally worry if he or she has a brain tumor.  But someone with health anxiety will keep asking for more tests even after the first one or two tests clearly show that a brain tumor is not present.

People with health anxiety need constant reassurance that they do not have a potentially deadly or crippling condition.  Signs that you or a loved one may have health anxiety include:

  • Spending more and more time online looking up medical information
  • Refusing to go to outings with family or friends in case they are sick
  • Going to more doctors and looking for more doctors to go to
  • Talking more and more about your symptoms
  • An inability to be calmed by a diagnostic test showing that they are okay

Treatments for Health Anxiety

The good news about health anxiety is that it is treatable.  There is no one right way to treat hypochondria for everyone.  Patients may need a combination of treatments in order to get back to living a more normal life.  Some patients may be suffering with other anxiety conditions as well as health anxiety.

Treatment is often a combination of drugs and cognitive behavior therapy.  Drugs may be taken for the rest of the patient’s life or for a short time only, depending on the patient’s individual circumstance.  Drugs given for health anxiety include:

  • SSRI antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) or paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers, a type of high blood pressure medication

Patients also do well to write about their anxieties in a special journal.  This helps to relieve stress.  It can also be shared with doctors and therapists.

Links for More Information


_A_470_1458438Walk through the fire, through the dust and ashes

while the building crashes…show no sign of fear (Peter Gabriel)
On August 6, 2005, my home in England was burnt down. There are days I actually wake up and forget this minor fact. Seeing my home be digested by flames – including a nearly completed manuscript inside – was not the worst part.

No — the worst part was having to try to live as normal a life as possible while trying to forget that someone set my home on fire. Sometimes I wish I could wear a big sign that says “Home burnt down – Cut me some slack.” It’s been over six years since the fire. My life has improved dramatically and I should be over this by now. And yet I’m not over it. I probably won’t be for a long time.

In various moments of my new life, things happen that trigger the memories of that fire, such as seeing news about a fire on television. Panic attacks built up many times depending on how busy the local arsonists are. I heard a Julian House homeless shelter worker in Bath, England tell me how to deal with panic attacks but it wasn’t until the last few years did I follow his advice.

Oh No, Not Again!

This is the reason why we have panic attacks. We fear that the past will repeat itself. This is a normal instinctive response, but if you let it stay too long, you get so stressed that you can get ill. Also, you can make some very strange choices. I get so panicked; I dive under the covers and won’t come out for hours.

I have these strange arguments with the air about “Haven’t I used up my portion of bad luck yet?” However, the air has yet to argue back, which really makes me feel that arguing with me is just not worth a Deity’s attention. Yup – this is the way my brain works when I panic. Frightening, isn’t it?

Panic attacks screw up my stomach so it’s hard to drink tea . Life is too short not to drink tea when I feel like drinking tea. That’s reason enough for me to work on dealing with my panic attacks. Now, I have not been diagnosed with a panic attack disorder . That needs a doctor’s help. I’ve had doctors tell me that it’s normal to have panicky moments after witnessing my home burn down, but they say I do not have panic attack disorder.

Stop, Look and Listen

If you feel panic coming on, STOP what you are doing. Even say the word “Stop,” if that helps you.

Look around. Is anything threatening you at that moment?

Sniff the air. Listen. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Is anything threatening you at that moment? If not, then concentrate on the moment. If you have someone sympathetic with you, describe the immediate surroundings to them. This should distract you enough to calm down. Also this is where learning meditation really helps. Even rubbing a piece of marble or a smooth stone or a piece of jewelry can soothe you.

Take deep breaths. If you have trouble breathing deeply, then try and sniff something that will force your body to take deep breaths, like peppermint, roses or frankinscence. Although it sounds weird, getting enough oxygen through your body will also help you calm down. When you breathe the shallow, quick breaths associated with fear, your brain goes a mile a minute and you see dangers where there aren’t any.

Other Tips

If you meditate, then your meditation ritual will help you relax. Me, I like to watch my fish swim, or pet my dogs, or even write in one of my blogs. The trick is to do something that takes your mind off of the hamster wheel of remembering your past. And if you know what scenes, smells or actions can trigger a panic attack, try to avoid them whenever possible (For example – I rarely watch international national news programs anymore).

Life does get better after a tragedy. Perhaps panic attacks are our bodies’ way of reminding us, “Could be worse!” All you need is a reminder. Try not to dwell on it. You can do it.


“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety.” Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D. Alpha Books; 2006.

Daily Mail Online. “10 tips for coping with panic attacks.” Claire Bates. 13 August 2007;

Author’s personal experience

_A_470_2504384It’s too bad women’s bodies aren’t like office software, sending you reminders whenever any important even in your body’s life is going to come up. One morning when you are still a young girl, you should cough out a memo that you’re going to get your first period and what pain to expect. Then, a few decades later, you cough out another memo about normal signs of menopause and that panic attacks will likely happen. Wouldn’t this be great?

Unfortunately, our bodies do not come with an instruction manual or timely reminder about anxiety and menopause. Women think they are going crazy, or are somehow defective, which can make their panic attacks stronger and longer. Women have to take it upon themselves to learn about menopause. When panic attacks come suddenly out of the blue after a couple of skipped periods, know that you are not going insane. Now sit down, open the Ben and Jerry’s and listen up.

Identifying Anxiety

Everyone gets anxious, but not everyone suffers from anxiety. Just what is anxiety? You basically get panicked or incredibly upset for a very trivial reason. Feeling panicked can lead to painful physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, shortness of breath and chest pains. These physical symptoms just reinforce the anxiety.

According to The Menopause Book (Workman Publishing; 2009) women are three times more likely to suffer from anxiety than men. Women who suffer nerves during their periods are also more prone to suffering from anxiety during menopause.

Not-So-Happy Hormones

The ancient alchemists had a theory about the universe – “As above, so below”. This referred to anything, so logically it can refer to menopause. So you can take comfort knowing that some solar system somewhere is going through a hot flash and mood swings. Keep those images in your head whenever you feel a panic attack coming on. It may help you to laugh, which will help you to calm down.

Microscopic things can have tremendous effect on incredibly large things. Your microscopic hormones affect your whole body. Your hormones are going through a civil war at the moment, which leads to mood swings. They can aggravate your feelings of impending doom, nervousness or insecurity.

The exact cause of panic attacks is a point of some debate in medical circles. Some feel the hormones entirely control the response; other feel the organ in the brain called the amygdale is entirely responsible. Whatever! The point is that all bets are off during menopause.


If you have a history of panic attacks, then you really shouldn’t be surprised at getting more at menopause. Check with your doctor, even if you were thought you were finished your menopause. For women that never had a history of anxiety and panic attacks before, still go to see your doctor, but know that your panic attacks are treatable.

Your doctor may want you to get a blood test in order to check for ailments that can cause anxiety, such as a malfunctioning thyroid or abnormally low blood sugar. Ask you close female relatives if they suffer from depression, anxiety or went through a difficult menopause. Your doctor may want to take this family into account before making up a treatment strategy.

Your treatment will depend a lot on what medications you are taking now and your past medical history. You might have to take medications such as anti-depressants, be asked to try breathing exercises during the attack or have a change in your hormone replacement therapy. The Menopause Book encourages regular exercise at last 5 days a week to reduce stress levels.


Wingert, Pat, et al. The Menopause Book. Workman Publishing; 2009.

Johnston, Joni E. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety. Alpha Books; 2006.

Hi, gals! Never had a panic attack before? Feel left out? Well, all good things to those who wait….and bad things, too.

One of the things they don’t tell you about menopause is that you often get gripped with sudden, irrational panic attacks. Oh, they tell you about the night sweats, the sudden hair growth on areas of your body (except the top of your head) and the chocolate cravings, but the panic attacks are not often mentioned. The bad news is that panic attacks are never a thrill ride, no matter what your age. The good news is that they don’t last and can often be managed.

Come Ride the Hormone Rollercoaster

The older I get, the more I’m wish my parents had me spayed when they had the chance …

Please read the rest of this article at Bubblews. Thanks!

Clonazepam, better known as the brand name Klonopin, is a benzodiazepine originally used to treat seizures but later became a popular drug for anxiety. Some people with anxiety disorders feel more emotionally stable on clonazepam. The big problem with benzodiazepines is that they become ineffective over time. A patient winds up taking more and more of the drug in order to get the same effect. This can lead to clonazepam overdose.

Another time when a patient is most prone to an overdose is when they are first prescribed the medication. Since each person reacts differently to clonazepam, a safe dose for one person might be a fatal overdose for another. Anyone taking clonazepam for the first time needs to be supervised or at least needs a medical professional to call and check up on that person for the first few days to make sure an overdose does not occur…

Please read the rest of my article about Klonopin overdose at Yahoo. Thanks!


St. John’s Wort

One reason people persist in using marijuana is because it can help you relax even in extremely stressful situations.  Although I support legalizing marijuana, I do realize that I cannot use it for relaxation because it is illegal.  So I wrote this article about legal drugs that can help you relax or at least help your muscles to relax.  These include chamomile, mint, St. John’s Wort and velarin.  It’s always best to check with your doctor before taking herbs or herbal products.  For example, if you are allergic to ragweed, avoid chamomile.  If you are on antidepressants, avoid St. John’s Wort.

Please read my article about legal herbs at Yahoo.  Thanks!

Perhaps you’ve been prescribed Zoloft (sertraline) for depression, anxiety disorders, OCD or for off-label uses such as for migraines, fibromyalgia or to combat sleep disorders.  What are the side effects you need to watch out for?  What are the other brand names for Zoloft?  I discuss these things and more in an article I did for Yahoo Contributor Network.

Please read the rest of my article at Yahoo. Thanks!  The money I get from page views at Yahoo helps me to keep this blog ad-free.