Have you ever become severely anxious by merely hearing your dialyzer alarm sound or being connected to your dialyzer in general? Even Home and In-Center patients who are well established on dialysis experience anxiety during maintenance treatments. Sometimes, they will try to pull out their needles or disconnect their peritoneal catheter mid-exchange, try to get up while still attached to the machine, cry, shout out, and ask the time every five minutes although there may be a clock clearly visible near them. Anxiety is among the most commonly under-diagnosed illness in people with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD).
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What contributes to your feelings of anxiety are major disruptions in your lifestyle; the need to comply with rather strict treatment regimens; diet and water restrictions; hospitalizations; fear of further disability; shortened lifespan, and a general feeling of un-wellness. Restless Leg Syndrome (jumpy legs) may cause you discomfort below the knees and make it impossible for you to relax during treatments or exchanges. Also some hemodialysis patients feel nauseous and uneasy watching their blood flow through machine filtering tubes as they feel the pulsation of the blood being pumped.
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Patients with anxiety during dialysis consider reducing their time on dialysis. Several patients with this problem have tried various types of sedatives, though it is not suggested unless it is prescribed by your Nephrologist because it has many residual effects on ESRD patients. If you are feeling anxiety try to listen to some relaxing music. In normal cases, anxiety can be treated by talk therapy (psychotherapy). In more severe cases, prescription medication can be very effective.
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Although anxiety is treatable, only about one-third of people receive or seek treatment. You may feel apprehensive about getting treatment because you do not like the side effects of medications, you believe that therapy is a crutch you do not need, or you are fearful about becoming addicted to prescribed medications. These concerns are understandable, but advancements in the development of medicines that are geared toward individual adherence, thereby minimizing adverse reactions are now available. So you no longer have to worry about the "loopy" effect that used to occur as a result of having taken medication for anxiety. Do not keep your feelings to yourself or try to correct them by limiting dialysis treatment times. Anxiety needs to be evaluated by a specialist. Your healthcare team can help you locate resources to help diagnose and treat anxiety disorders.
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If you continue to feel generally anxious about receiving dialysis after you have sought treatment for the matter, don't give up. Get back into a discussion with your Social Worker, Nurse, Nephrologist or even Spiritual Leader for further advice and options because anything standing between you receiving the lifesaving treatments you need must be dealt with. Once you have treated anxiety and overcome it, it may change your outlook on dialysis, increase the effectiveness of your treatments, and improve your overall quality of life no matter what your modality may be.
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"Anxiety During Dialysis." The Nephron Information Center.
"Mental Health, Depression, and Anxiety in Patients on Maintenance Dialysis." Research Gate.