Anxiety has been described for decades as a disorder where people become so anxious that they experience a number of psychosomatic symptoms, which instil a great deal of fear in the individual afflicted by the disorder. They live in constant fear of the unknown. During an episode of extreme worry, an anxious patient experiences palpitations, sweaty palms, tremors, dry mouth, tightening of the chest and neck muscles, difficulty with breathing, dizziness, fear of losing control. When these symptoms become overwhelming, the individual starts to panic.

What is rarely mentioned or described even in psychiatry text books is the other symptoms that are appear as a result of the anxiety attack. These symptoms include severe intractable headaches, upper body aches, severe lower backache, abdominal (stomach) muscle cramps, a feeling of tiredness, lack of energy. Often, patients attend their doctor for relief of the pain, e.g. headaches, backaches or for their tiredness. All that they receive is a range of analgesics, including the addicting type but the symptoms never settle. The reason for this is: the underlying anxiety is rarely ever diagnosed and treated. What really happens during a panic attack or anxiety episode? The muscles of the entire body go into severe spasms and in the process could cause small tears of the muscle fibres.

These muscle spasms are the cause of the headaches, backaches, tight chest and a feeling of tiredness. The intractable pain disturbs one’s sleep so the individual becomes sleep deprived. At work, these individuals feel very tired, lack in concentration and become extremely edgy and irritable. This behaviour makes them unpopular at work and they end becoming depressed.

They might end being diagnosed and treated for their depression and their anxiety could be missed.

Chest pain is another common symptom of a panic attack. Many fear that they are having a heart attack and end up in the ER all the time. The cause for the pain is spasms of the muscles of the chest wall. Failure to diagnose anxiety and panic disorders has resulted in a number of incorrect diagnoses being made, where patients have been sent from one specialist to the other, costing huge amounts of money on costly unhelpful tests like MRI scans and angiograms. Some of these diagnoses include motor-neuron disease, angina, strokes, acute migraine and fibromyalgia syndrome.

One patient became totally paralysed and lost her speech, after she received the news that her aunt had a stroke. She became bedridden and totally depressed but three months of intense treatment, which included medication and counselling, she regained her speech and was able to walk normally and she return to work. One young patient developed weakness of her upper limbs and could not grip properly and experienced pain in her knees and ankles. She was first seen by a GP, then an orthopaedic surgeon and finally a neurologist, who informed her that she has motor-neuron disease. She was told that the condition has no cure and will slowly deteriorate. This left her terribly depressed and apprehensive about her future as a young mother. After making the correct diagnosis of anxiety and given treatment, the young lady has regained power in her limbs and she felt extremely relieved to know that she does not have a serious untreatable disorder like motor-neuron disease.

So, if anxiety is left undiagnosed and untreated then patients can end up leading very miserable lives at work, home and in their relationships with others. If you happen to experience any of the symptoms of anxiety, it would be wise to seek professional help before you end up with severe depression and all the other unpleasant consequences associated with undiagnosed and untreated anxiety.