Exercise-induced anxiety

Exercise Induced Anxiety AttacksWhile researching for another article, I happened upon a discussion thread about anxiety attacks and exercise. While science has shown that exercise generally lowers anxiety by producing endorphins in the brain, a number of individuals stated that as much as they want to exercise, doing so induces anxiety attacks for them. Obviously, this is a problem. We need to exercise for health, as well as to lower our stress, but how can we do that if the exercise itself produces anxiety attacks?

To be honest, I’ve noticed a similar problem sometimes when I exercise. It’s usually after I’ve been on the bike for about five minutes, right when I’ve gotten warmed up and have raised my resistance on whatever machine I’m on. My heart starts to pump even harder than I expected, and suddenly, distressing thoughts and images come to mind. Worst-case scenarios present themselves, and I feel a quick bout of near depression. My first instinct is to jump off the bike. If I started feeling that way while exercising, isn’t it best to separate myself from the situation?

It’s More Common than You Think

Summer Beretsky wrote about a similar experience in the article, “When Physical Exercise Feels Just Like A Panic Attack for Psychology Today. In it, she talks about how her doctors and friends told her over and over again how getting in shape and exercising regularly would help her lower her anxiety. There’s a Catch-22, however, she says, “exercising made me panic.” 

Livestrong.com’s article, “My Anxiety Gets Worse During Exercise,” also notes the struggle for some people who who have anxiety. The article notes that adults are often more aware of signs of anxiety attacks after they’ve had one, which means they’ll be on the lookout for anything that seems like an anxiety attack later on, even if it’s not.

Both articles note the same thing: Anxiety attacks and exercise share certain symptoms, the first being increased heart rate. This means faster breathing, as well as a rush of adrenaline. I’ve also read in online discussions that increased sweat production bothers some people. We can see how it’s easy to confuse the two. And honestly, if you’re trying to avoid anxiety attacks, the last thing you probably want to do is put yourself in a situation where it feels like you’re having another one.

So we know the symptoms match, and we know that it’s easy to confuse exercise and anxiety attack symptoms. The question is, what do we do about it?

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Guest blogger: Sophia and her TS

Sophia talks to Tourettes Action about her experiences of living with TS and what it means to her.

For me, Tourette’s made its appearance a little later than usual. I was 16 and had just been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, OCD and depression. Antidepressants were prescribed to help me manage my anxiety.

One morning, I woke up and was no longer in control of my body movements, my arms and legs were doing exactly what they wanted to, as if they were not a part of my body. I kept making noises, barking and meowing. I couldn’t stop. The inside of my body felt as if there were ants running inside me, combined with a strong burning sensation, a building tension that reduced ever so briefly, but only after a ‘tic’.

From that day, my tics became more complex and at one stage the movements were constant. I shouted things out and repeated other people’s words, phrases and actions. A constant feeling of unease, not knowing what was going to come out of my mouth until it had been said. Not only did I have to adjust to my new situation, I also had to accept the stares of onlookers, many of whom had only ever seen Tourette’s in the media.

Unfortunately, the media often has a tendency of over focusing on the ‘swearing tic’, known as coprolalia, which only affects a small number of those who have Tourette’s. “I wish I had Tourette’s so I could just swear all the time” is a phrase that I’ve heard more times than I would have liked to. Coprolalia is involuntary and certainly not something Tourette’s sufferers enjoy having, nor do they use it as an excuse to swear.

Tourette’s is more than just tics, many of us have multiple co-occurring conditions that have their own symptoms. Although Tourette’s is manifested outwardly, sometimes it is the symptoms people can’t see that cause us the most problems.

Two years passed, along with lots of hospital visits. Tourette Syndrome was mentioned throughout, but my official diagnosis was given to me at the age of 18. Now, I am studying Psychology at University. My tics change in frequency and severity, new tics emerge and old ones return. I have slowly learnt to accept my conditions and I am fortunate in that I am surrounded by wonderful people, who are incredibly supportive.

I think it is important to educate and challenge the stereotypes. To become your own advocate and to embrace what Tourette’s has taught you. To those reading this who have Tourette’s themselves:

“Keep Calm and Tic On!”

“Why do you let Tourette rule your life?”

This week I’m taking a week off from the “52 Weeks of TS” series that’s been posting here on the TSParentsOnline blog for the past 41 weeks. Today, I want to talk about one simple question that someone asked me:

Why do you let Tourette rule your life? 

What an interesting question. I don’t think my Tourette rules my life, it inspires me. I let my writing rule my life, and my ability to educate and inspire other people.

There are hundreds of thousands of kids and parents of kids that are dealing with complex disorders and syndromes, that they don’t understand. It’s even harder for the parents when the medical professionals don’t fully understand it.

These parents and children search for understanding, and I think through my writing (books and blogs) I have helped bring a little bit of understanding to the complexity of Tourette Syndrome. I have heard from hundreds of parents telling me how through my writing, they understand what their child is going through, and kids saying that I have wrote what they are trying to say. they feel like they are reading about themselves.

The most effective way to educate is opening your mouth, and that’s what I have done. we all have the ability to educate, but first we have to open up.

If children do not learn the way we teach them, then we must teach them the way they learn.

Tourette’s & Pregnancy: Trimester 3, Part 2

This post is all about the “secret weapons” I am using to combat the anxiety and everything else that comes with being pregnant and having Tourette Syndrome:

Exercise

I was thrilled to tell my physical therapist yesterday that I got a stationary bike for my house, the kind with the back support. An older patient chuckled and said I wouldn’t have to worry about using that after my little one comes. I smiled back to be polite, as I know he meant well, but deep down, I have to admit that it frustrated me.

People who don’t have chronic anxiety or tics often don’t understand why exercise is so important to me.

I know I shared this picture in my last post, but I'm just so stinkin' excited about my bike and balance ball!

I’m so stinkin’ excited about my bike and balance ball! To them, it might not mean a whole lot to stop exercising, but for me, it’s not just an activity – it’s a necessity. I’ve had to cancel at least half of my exercise plans during the second two trimesters because of back problems, nausea, and all the other fun things that pregnancy brings, but I could always tell when I’d cancelled too often. My tics would jump, and so would my stress.

Because simply getting to the gym can be a hassle (and will be even more after Jelly Bean arrives), I decided I needed to tackle my problem from another direction. I researched exercise bikes and then purchased a simple, somewhat inexpensive one for my home, along with a balance ball. Those, combined with the small sets of weights I already owned, made up my new home gym. It was pricey, but to me, keeping my stress levels down and my health up is worth it. That way, after Jelly Bean comes, I’ll be ready for some quick rounds of exercise whenever the time presents itself.

I’m not saying I’ll get in an hour every day, but from the first day I’m allowed back on that bike, I will be. Exercise will be a priority because I’m making it one. The only way I’m going to keep myself healthy and at peace enough to properly take care of my family is if I’m taking care of my own anxiety levels first.

Now about my diet …

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