Feeling of doom, lightheadedness and weird... - Anxiety Support

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Feeling of doom, lightheadedness and weird flush that goes through my entire body. Gets bad at night? Why does it get worse at night time?

Anxious2befree profile image
Anxious2befree

I have been great for the past 12months then I had a reaction to chicken salt (msg). That has sent me spiralling downwards big time. I can't go to work, can't drive, don't want to go out or leave my home. It's ridiculous what this does to someone and I would like others who have similar experiences to reply please so I know I'm not alone :(

6 Replies

Hi Anxious2befree,

These symptoms of anxiety get worse later in the day when fear and the night combine, a create description.

Technically, this experience is a nocturnal panic attack (NPA).

If I am honest, I found them one of the most frightening parts of anxiety that I had to deal with.

This was not because they cause harm, it was because I didn't know what they were and because they felt so sudden. During the day I could at least feel a panic attack building and when it happened I could try to take my mind off of it by talking to someone or keeping myself busy.

My key thought #1 was nothing feels good when it happens in the middle of the night time.

At night the only time I knew about it seemed to be when I had a nightmare and woke suddenly feeling fearful and disoriented. There seemed to be nothing else but to lie there in fear and hope that it would pass over. I felt very vulnerable as not only was my daytime disrupted but my night time was too.

Anxiety never gave me relief during the day or at night.

NPAs are an uncomfortable symptom., they can cause additional worry to anyone who is suffering GAD.

Sleep tends to be the one thing that can me a break from how I am feeling. When that becomes interrupted too, it is a very difficult time for me. I usually experienced one NPA a night but then sometimes had two or three during the same night. I did seemed to have them over a period of weeks when I was more stressed from things happening around me.

My doctor was a great help. He said the fact is that the brain is always active and does not turn off during sleep. It's common to think that you have developed some new form of mental illness, panic symptom or that this provides some kind of proof that you are "really bad and beyond help" , but you are not. A NPA is just my brain continuing on the same anxiety pattern while I sleep. Nothing more and its completely harmless, not one part of it can hurt me at all.

So let's look at how nocturnal panic attacks happen.

With this in mind I suppose it is logical to assume that because the brain does not turn off then the process of a night attack must be the same as a daytime attack which seems to be from a subconscious level rather than a conscious level (that you are aware of).

You are anxious at the moment in general and so as your brain does not switch off, therefore it is logical to assume that you would feel as anxious in sleep as you would during the day.

How should you respond to this moving forwards?

I will use my experience and learning from a psychologist here and say that you have two ways in which you can respond to this if and when it happens to you:

•You can wake up and then get up. Sometimes after experiencing one of these attacks, it's difficult to fall straight back to sleep as your nervous system is already in overdrive!. Good advice if you cannot settle would be to try to work with the attack rather than against it (remember resistance does not work when panicking as that only makes it worse). Find yourself something to do that allows the attack to pass on its own rather than choosing an activity to help you fall straight back to sleep as this tends to be most effective. Keep busy, don't focus on the attack or try to think it through, just simply be and then go back to bed once you feel calm and ready to facilitate sleep again.

•The other option is just to lie there, accept its an attack and allow it to pass. I find works for me now I know what happening and can rationalise things more, I don't think it would have worked for me in the beginning. I now try to read quietly and focus my mind on the book rather than the anxious feelings. Once my mind is engaged in the book it cannot solely focus on the my negative feelings and so the attack passes. Try to choose a light read or uplifting book that does not heighten emotion further as reading about Axe murderers at this point won't calm your panic.

What to focus on moving forwards? If you have had one attack the temptation (as with all panic) is to begin to worry about having another attack and this is counterproductive. Fearing sleep and avoidance is counterproductive and will keep the panic cycle alive.

It's very easy to fear the cycle and try to instinctively protect yourself by trying to ensure sleep on nights to ease by applying behaviours such as drinking alcohol or taking sleeping pills. Applying these behaviours will only deal with the short term fear making the longer term fear go up.

Key thought #2

Sleep is something that we allow to happen, it's not something we have to make happen or have any control of once we are asleep. Create the right atmosphere for yourself to fall asleep by having a warm bath and drink and try to have your bedroom as quiet dark and comfortable as it can be. Google sleep hygiene for

more tips.

Key thought

#3 Try to see this as a period of disrupted sleep and nothing more, like your panic symptoms it will also pass, if you allow it rather than fight and resist it.

Accept the fear and let go of the control. This stage will pass.

It is important to recognise that the "what if I can't sleep" thoughts are just nervousness and nothing more.

Key thought #4 Check out some CBT strategies for improving your sleep such as relaxation exercises, worry time, writing worry down, AND minimizing looking at electronic screens (TV and mobile devices).

Key thought #5 You have to accept your NPAs for what they are, a product of your current stress, not harmful and although very uncomfortable they are nothing to excessively worry about. They will pass as soon as you let them be.

Sorry if this is long winded, probably the biggest post I have ever done.

Your sleep deserves to be best you can make it :)

Wow thank you so much x What amazing advice and thank you for taking the time to write all that I really appreciate it xx

Anxious2befree, Chicken Bouillon Cubes are high in sodium and MSG. I experienced the weird flush and lightheadedness after eating a Meatless Turkey burger thinking it was a healthy option, didn't know it was loaded with MSG, same reaction. However, it you flush you body out with plenty of water it should be okay after that. The fact that it continues for you sounds like your thoughts grabbed hold of the negative reaction and won't let go. Try going back to working on your relaxation as well as positive thinking. It happened, you weren't imagining it, our bodies are just more sensitive to chemicals but now you need to put that down as a trigger lesson and go on.

You will be okay. You may have to start from Square One but it will be easier this time in feeling great once more. Good Luck xx

Thank you so much for replying I do have to start back at square one unfortunately but I have an appointment with my psychologist this week thank goodness. Fingers crossed I can get through this xx

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Wish I could reply more of a response but real busy ATM. You are not alone. Looking forward to your recovery!

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Totally understand and thank you :)

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