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Anxiety before tests

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Midpack

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May 31, 2012
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166
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Argentina
Hi!

I have been following this site for some time, but this is the first time i am posting.
I am 45, and have been diagnosed with Mitral Valve Regurgitation (at a moderate level) about 2 years ago (consequence of a mitral valve prolapse). I am currently symptomless, and having echo's twice a year. Unfortunately, i have read tons of information about MVR (evolution, surgery, etc. etc.). And i say unfortunately because the excess of "health related" unfiltered information usually leads to anxiety and fear. And, i must admit, since my diagnosis, i have developped some degree of hypochondria.

In 3 weeks i will have my regular checkup (echo + visit to my cardiologist). And, as it has been happening lately, i become extremely anxious before undergoing the test. Of course i know that surgery (OHS) will probably be needed in the future, but nobody enjoys having it. And it can be needed in 3 months or in 10 years. Nobody knows. And you allways prefer it to be in 10 years, naturally (even if unlikely). Anyway, before my echo, i allways imagine that results will be worse, that i will be scheduled for surgery, etc. etc. And these kind of negative thinking led to anxiety (and some depression). Of course the best attitude is to just forget about your heart condition, and just have your regular checkups. But that is easy to say but very difficult to achieve, at least in my case!

My question is how do you manage these kind of situations from the psychological side. How to avoid negative thinking? How to cope with anxiety, or get rid of it?

Thanks!

PD1: english is no my native language, as you can easily guess :cool:
PD2: i run regulary. My nickname comes from the fact that, as a recreational runner, in races, i usually end in the middle of the pack...
 

ryen0

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Jun 2, 2008
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Location
Atlanta
Hi Midpack,

You have described myself perfectly. I am five years out from having my mitral valve repaired (also due to prolapse). This time of year for me is always really hard because I know my annual echo is coming up. Every year I go in and know full well that I may get some bad news. I'm not going to waste your time by telling you to think happy thoughts. I do think positive thinking helps, but you already know that. For the psychological side, I experienced anxiety before my OHS, but it went into overdrive after the surgery. For me, it helped to seek counseling and I was also given medication that helped as well. My humble advice to you is that if you are experiencing a lot of anxiety, seek help from a professional. A therapist can help you evaluate your fears and deal with them. It has helped me a lot and I am better at dealing with my heart issues. It is still difficult at times, but you should never allow your fears to dictate your quality of life. Ok, i'll stop with the rant, but I wish the best for you. Waiting is sometimes the hardest part. I discovered that my valve was in severe regurgitation out of the blue, so I didn't have to wait very long until it needed to be fixed.
 

pellicle

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Nov 4, 2012
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Queensland, OzTrayLeeYa
My question is how do you manage these kind of situations from the psychological side. How to avoid negative thinking? How to cope with anxiety, or get rid of it?
...
Well these days I feel myself getting anxious about even a blood test. Not severely anxious, but I notice it.

I call it "white coat syndrome"

My strategy is to try to out the entire thing to the back of my mind and to focus more on the time past when it has gone.

Oh, and welcome :)
 

dwhist

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Dec 30, 2011
Messages
139
Location
Elmhurst, IL
I still to this day cringe when I see a message from my cardiologist. I got through everything with some meds. Xanax was given to me by family doc and made a difference. Talk to your doctor when you see him and tell him about anxiety. No need to feel stressed out.
 

epstns

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Dec 26, 2002
Messages
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Location
Chicago area
I just ask myself "What is the worst that can happen?" I then proceed to think through what would happen if that were to come to be. Once I understand that it is really not life threatening (although unpleasant), I can go on with life. This is easy now, after valve replacement. For a new patient, who does not know what the surgery and recovery are like, it is more unsettling. If you are not able to comfort yourself, perhaps a talk with your doc or a therapist would help. I would try that before medications, but some folks here have consulted with their docs and used various meds to help them control their thoughts and emotions. I personally think that the worst approach is to ignore how you feel, as it probably will not "go away."
 

Midpack

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Joined
May 31, 2012
Messages
166
Location
Argentina
Thanks you all for your comments!!
It is pretty recomforting to find persons on a similar boat giving their support. Once you feel you are not alone, you feel better.

Steve: the problem i find with your question "What is the worst that can happen?" is that my (rational) answer is "to die". I know the odds of dying during OHS may be around 2% (maybe even less, depending on other factors), thus HIGHLY unlikely. Perhaps we can rephrase your question as "What is the worst that has a fair chance to happen?" :thumbup:
 

epstns

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Or, we could think of it as my surgeon noted. The worst thing that can happen in all this is death, but if that happens, will we know it?

I'll buy your modification as "What's the worst that is likely to happen?" None of the likely outcomes scared me as much as the thought of just doing nothing.
 

AgilityDog

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Joined
Nov 5, 2007
Messages
1,637
Location
North Texas
Midpack, you sound perfectly normal to me!
I second the "try a little xanax as needed." After emergency MVR, I spent 4 years waiting to be told it was time for the AVR (and got a TVRepair at the same time!) So I understand your "waiting anxiety." Like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and in some ways it was worse when the second surgery was scheduled, because I had such a rough go the first time, I knew what it could/would be like (fortunately the second was NOT as difficult).
 

Gail in Ca

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Jun 26, 2001
Messages
946
Location
SF Bay Area, CA
I sympathize with your situation. Usually, I haven't had much anxiety over tests. I remember when my cardio was watching my porcine valve for 3 years before he said it was time to think about replacement in 6 months. I cried after I left his office.
But, just yesterday, I had my cardiac MRI done. I was dreading it mildly, the whole hold your breath thing. I don't care about the closeness of it, but yesterday, the noise, the non-stop breath holding, and it was so cold in the tube, even with a blanket. My back began to hurt early in the test but I didn't say anything, just wanted it to be over.
I actually dozed off at the end, only to be startled awake by the tech. It took an hour or more! I couldn't wait to dress and get into the sunshine. When I walked outside, something took over me and I started to cry. I don't know where that came from, just the stress of it, I guess. After I settled down, I got in my car, went to a nice pastry shop near my test, and got something to take home for dessert. That helped. But, I was just exhausted the rest of the afternoon. UGH! I was very surprised at my emotional reaction. Sometimes, I think I am just so tired of all the tests, and it gets to me.
 

ejc61

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Joined
Jun 24, 2010
Messages
278
Location
Kennesaw, GA
Hello Midpack,

My situation was similar to yours as well and I was about your age as well. I was having echos twice a year as they watched regurgitation. After about 3 years, it reached severe and then it was time for surgery. Since then I still get anxious whenever I see my cardiologist whether its an echo, stress test or just a consultation. This year I actually will have no testing done for the first time in 7 years. I plan seems to be echo or stress every other year. As far as anxiety, my wife who is a nurse told me to breath in and out of a brown paper bag for a few minutes until I feel a little more relaxed. It did help. I know this whole thing is scary but it'll be ok.
 

T in YVR

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Feb 22, 2013
Messages
241
Location
North Vancouver, BC, Canada
You would not be normal if you were not stressed out, and a little anxious at times :) I think everyone gets that way to varying degrees. I was diagnosed in early Feb and am now 6 months on the wait list, with surgery in a few months time (date still TBD but should know soon). I have a hard time sleeping the night before my appointments/tests and have ups and downs in terms of how much I think of it. For me, I don't use any drugs to treat anxiety - its a last resort for me, but everyone's situation is different...I get plenty of exercise to the extent I am permitted, try to get plenty of rest, eat/drink very healthy (watch things like carbs/sugars...you are what you eat...), and like some others said, I try to keep it in perspective. I am focused on everything I can possibly do to help ensure the surgery and recovery are as successful as possible. I think all of this is easier to do when people with these issues are asymptomatic (as I am). If I had tons of symptoms, SOB etc, I'm sure my anxiety would be higher, but then again you would be operated on ASAP. Things could be better and none of us want to deal with these heart issues, but it could be way worse. As my Dr. said: "it could be worse, I could be sitting here telling you you have high blood pressure, plaque on your arteries, high risk of heart attack, etc". At least with valve replacement, it is more easily treatable (and hopefully has a positive outcome to let you get on with your life again quickly). Hang in there!
Tony
 

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