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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UPCOMING WEBINAR: February 25 on Sensory Issues at Home & at School


Making Sense of Sensory Issues – How to manage heightened senses at home and in the classroom

February 25, 2015

Presented by Dr. Michelle Miller, Psy.D., a New York State-licensed clinical psychologist who works at Therapy West, a group practice in Manhattan, and as post-doctoral fellow in the Tourette’s Syndrome Clinic at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.

Over the years, parents and teachers have been increasingly attending to childrens’ sensory-related struggles; however, understanding and supporting sensory problems still remains unclear for so many people who work with children. Research also has suggested that 1 in 6 children are significantly impacted by sensory issues, further highlighting the need for this area to be addressed. This webinar is aimed at exploring what sensory issues are, how they look in different children and adults, and what can be done — both at home and at school — to help children with sensory issues thrive.


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Tourette’s & Pregnancy: Trimester 3, Part 1

Fridays are always celebration days because they mean we’re another week closer to Jelly Bean’s arrival, and today marks our victory of 33 weeks! Between starting the nursery (which mean completely rearranging my house…which meant my husband completely rearranging the house), physical therapy for my back, a bit of substitute teaching, and a lot of writing, we’ve been pretty busy around here. I thought I’d take a few minutes and give you a report on how the Tourettes has been doing for Trimester 3.

(If you didn’t catch them the first time, here are my reports for Trimester 1 and Trimester 2.)

I’ll start off by saying that my tics have been noticeably more active this trimester, definitely more so than they were in the first two trimesters. I think this is for multiple reasons:

  • I had absolutely no energy with which to tic in Trimester 1.
  • I was still getting my energy back in Trimester 2.
  • I have a lot of great things going on in the coming weeks, but even good stress is still stress. And Stress=Tics.
  • Admittedly, my emotions are somewhat less balanced this trimester.

Now about that anxiety …

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52 Weeks of TS: Week 41

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Tuesday, noted Tourette Syndrome advocate Troye Evers shares his “52 Weeks of TS” blog journal with the TSParentsOnline community. With just 11 weeks remaining in this series, there’s a chance you missed one more entries from his exciting, revealing journey. You can read all of them here. For more information about Troye, please click on his name or visit his website.

Change, change, change. I have made so many changes in my life in the past few weeks and months, but I can’t say there is much of a difference. It’s really hard to tell. I was sitting on the subway the other day thinking, and I started thinking about my anxiety. Has is calmed down? I’m not really sure, but I think it actually might have a little bit.

With all the changes, I can’t really say what has caused the slight relief of anxiety. Could it be the vitamins, the fish oil, or the fact that I left the setting of my stressful workspace? The anxiety might have calmed down a bit, but the tics and OCD’s are still there. Now I’m not saying that I’m completely stress free, and void of anxiety. It’s still there; I just feel it might have calmed down a bit. I guess for this upcoming week I’m really going to feel it out and see if it really has calmed down.

I’m actually surprised that my anxiety has not skyrocketed this week. I started my new job this week, and that’s usually not the calmest of moments, but I have to say it has been a stress free change. I have told everyone that I have TS, and I’m very comfortable with the new people in my life. It’s actually really nice to want to go to work, and not have to deal with the dramatic situations I was dealing with in my previous work setting. To keep it simple, I’m happy.

I’m still trying to gather up the nerve to make my yearly dentist visit, but the time has really come. The anxiety might have calmed down a bit, but the tics are in full force. One night, I was having a tic attack. I was trying to relax the tics, but the tics were in control. Besides all the head jerking, minor vocal tics, back contorting, nose pinching and rubbing, I was also grinding my jaw. I always forget to mention the teeth/jaw grinding tic — it’s one that is just there. I forget that I’m actually doing it.

This one night I was reminded that I was doing it, when I chipped one of my teeth. Both my parents had bad teeth, and my dentist has told me my teeth are soft. No matter how much I brush, floss, and take care of my teeth, something ends up going wrong; I just never thought a tic would cause me to chip a tooth.

This same evening while I was having my tic attack and chipping teeth, I post a status update on Facebook at 12:30 a.m, saying, “stressed, ticcing, and can’t sleep :-).” I had many supportive comments back, but one that really made me laugh. One of my friends told me to meditate. He said he found meditation and it has helped him out in stressful situation?

I responded that anxiety disorder and meditation doesn’t really combine well. I have tried meditation before, but with anxiety disorder and ADHD, I just can’t do it. I wish I could. The same goes with yoga. Try staying in a yoga pose, while your mind is telling some part of your body to move. It’s impossible.

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52 Weeks of TS: Week 39

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every Tuesday, noted Tourette Syndrome advocate Troye Evers shares his “52 Weeks of TS” blog journal with the TSParentsOnline community. In cased you missed any of the first 38 weeks, you can read them here. For more information about Troye, please click on his name or visit his website.

Where is the bubble boy?! I am sick once again. Now I’ve just spent the whole week feeling miserable and obsessing on who and how I got sick. Ironically, before I got sick, I was able to use my extreme couponing abilities and I bought twenty bottles of hand sanitizer for 50 cents each. Even with the sanitizer, I still got sick, but at least I can keep bubble boy fully equipped.

Truthfully, if bubble boy did actually exist, I’d get more stares from walking around in a big bubble holding hand sanitizer and Lysol than I would for just my tics. Here we go, back into thoughts of agoraphobia, I will just never leave my house. Yet another impossible option.

How is it actually possible to be agoraphobic, when you live in NYC, you have to go to work, and you’re the person who runs the social group for the TSA-NYC? I guess what I really need to do is work on my anxiety. I know my anxiety is taking a toll on my immune system, but I’m at a point that I’m not sure what to do. I know there are things in my life that I should rid myself of, I can rid myself of some anxiety, but most of the causes of my anxiety I think I’m stuck with.

Speaking of the TSA-NYC social events, we had our Social Hour this past week. We have this the last week of every month, and I love it. It is a time to hang out with other people with TS in our area, but this week I really realized how hanging out with other people with TS really triggers my tics. I guess the alcohol doesn’t help, but even without the alcohol, I still am triggered.

For the most part, I can usually control my tics to a point, but while with other ticcers, I don’t. I’m not sure if it’s the comfort of being around people who understand what I’m going through, or just the increased social anxiety. This week I was actually embarrassed by my tics. When I’m out with them, my coprolalia comes out. Usually I can hide this in a whisper, but I was just screaming out my special words, especially if I hear the words.

That’s one of the problems, there are a couple of friends who know my tic words and they will say them, then I just scream them out. We all laugh jokingly, but the next morning I had such a feeling of shame. It’s not fun to be out at a crowded bar screaming out “peanut butter f—er” or “Hey.”

The “hey” tic isn’t that bad. That one I let out a lot throughout the day, but most people just think it’s a conversation starter. I do try to suppress this one until the right moment. I can easily walk into work, an elevator, or a room full of friends, and do the “hey” tic without anyone knowing it was just a tic. It’s one of those subtle ways I let my tics out without people knowing it’s a tic. While I talk, I can easily do my throat-clearing tic without people knowing it was a tic. I also move my shoulders and arms around a lot while talking to someone and people think I’m just very theatrical while I talk.

I do have to say, besides being sick, it was a semi-calm week. I’m glad to be back in the comfort of my own home, and back into my ritualistic daily. I know my ritualistic life can actually cause me more stress. It takes a lot out of you to wake up and do the same thing every day, the same way every day.

Right now, I’m feeling the need for change in my life. Change to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that I go through in my day-to-day life. I think in this upcoming week, I’m going to take moves to change. I’m starting a new, reduced work schedule, which I hope will help with my anxiety. I think with my extra day off, that I’m going to look into a vitamin regimen, try to talk to a Chinese herbalist, and maybe discuss the possible outcomes of acupuncture.

I’m not saying I will actually get acupuncture, but it’s not going to hurt to discuss it with a professional. I have discussed this option a few times over the past many weeks, but never had the nerve to go through with it. My OCD just takes control, and I start thinking about where those needles have been before they are put into my body. I know that they have been sterilized, but still, they have been in someone else’s body. Ewwww!

Who knows, maybe it’s the season, or maybe I’m reflecting on all the brave kids at camp last week, but I think my life can be a lot more manageable than it is right now. Am I letting my TS control me, or am I controlling my TS? It’s a question that’s been racking my brain, or a question that I’m obsessing about. I can write and talk about what’s going on in my mind and body every week, but unless I do something about it, I’m not going to change it. I always say, “We have to open our mouths.”

We need to educate others about the realities of TS, but education starts with us. We also need to educate ourselves more about our own TS. I say I’m open about my TS, but I think the truth is there is still a small boy suffering inside me, the young Troye suffering and hiding. In these upcoming weeks that we near the end of my “52 Weeks of TS,” I’m going to work on changing myself, educating myself, and stop hiding.

Until next week, “I’ll tic to you later.”