I don’t know where to start. I woke up the other morning in complete and total panic. I was shaking and I had diarrhea. I became overheated. I had a weird thought that I was being possessed. Why would I think that? Now for the last 4 days, I have been experiencing horrible anxiety that only disappears when I am working because then I am busy and do not have time to think. I am under a lot of stress. I lost my mother in a car wreck 2 years ago, I have an 18-year old who is lost I would say because he quit school and has used marijuana at times, I feel like I have no family support. I know all of this will lead to anxiety but why in the world would I fear being possessed? It is so irrational. Do other people suffering from anxiety also fear this? Also with anxiety, can you have problems with diarrhea and stomach cramps and also lose your appetite? I also have had 4 days of insomnia. I went to the doctor, he gave me lexapro 10 mg which has made me feel a little more calm. Is that possible for lexapro to make me feel calm after taking it? I just need some advice. I have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks in the past. I just have never had the irrational fear of something evil.

A: Anxiety can indeed make a person sick. Your body goes on high alert, in much the same way it would if you were at serious risk of harm. People often get diarrhea, overheated, and so anxious they can’t sleep when they are afraid. It’s all part of the “fight or flight” response. Nonetheless, I’m glad you are seeing a doctor just to be sure that the problem isn’t medical as well. Even if you do have a panic disorder, you can be sick. If the stomach cramps continue, please keep in touch with your doctor.

Anxiety attacks feel terrible, especially when they come without warning. In the moment of extreme anxiety, it’s not unusual for someone’s thoughts to turn to extreme explanations. It doesn’t seem possible that something that feels so bad could be part of ordinary life. In your case your thoughts go to evil. My guess is that at some time in your life, this idea was presented to you. Maybe you had an older relative who talked about it. Maybe you once went to a church that emphasized the fight between good and evil. Perhaps you once saw a movie or read a book that scared you. Maybe you have people around you who believe in possession. The idea didn’t come from nowhere. If we were talking in my office, we would try to figure it out, mostly to give you some peace of mind.

And – if we were talking in my office – our priority would be to help you with the stress in your life. You are grieving your mom. You are terrified for your son. You are feeling too alone. I’m thinking you could see the panic attacks as your inner “smoke detector.” It’s going off so that you will pay attention to your own needs. Since your family isn’t able to be there for you, I hope you will consider making an appointment to see a therapist. A few therapy sessions would give you a place to get some of those bottled up feelings out so that they wouldn’t sneak up on you in the form of panic. You and your therapist could also talk about strategies to help you cope and some practical ways to help your son.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie