A KidneyBuzz.com viewer that conducts Dialysis wrote, "Ever since I started Dialysis I have been suffering severe anxiety and panic attacks before I go on. Is this a common issue and what can I do to control it?"
Yes, many Chronic Kidney Disease patients who conduct Dialysis suffer from severe panic and anxiety. This is especially true during the holidays. In some cases, these side effects are even worse than renal failure itself. Panic attacks can feel like imminent death, insanity, fainting, or some other terrible loss of control. Anxiety is a physiological, psychological, and emotional state that results when we behave apprehensively (worry that something bad or harmful may happen). This stresses the body, and a body that becomes overly stressed can cause serious issues. Yet, most Chronic Kidney Disease patients wonder, can severe anxiety and panic turn deadly? What can be done to limit these destructive feelings?
Dialysis patients should know that they are not alone or being overly dramatic when they experience heavy anxiety. Perhaps the greatest issue is that the flood of anxiety that you get during a panic attack also causes a feeling of doom. Your entire body starts to think: "This is it, I'm about to die," almost like you are faced with a terrible predator. Many patients describe having chest pains, heart palpitations, tingling fingers and hands, lightheadedness, trouble thinking, difficulty breathing, and feeling like they are about to faint.
So can you die from a panic attack? Thankfully, the answer is no. Let's be clear, panic attacks aren't without their physical issues. They are extreme stress, and so if you do have a terrible heart condition, that stress can be dangerous. But these can easily be checked out by your Nephrologist and ruled out as problems. Also, Hyperventilation can make you come close to collapsing and fainting and blocks blood flow to your brain, and those with panic attacks while driving may find that they are so distracted by the attack that driving becomes more difficult. Yet, in general, a panic attack itself is not deadly, and despite living with stress (which can damage your body over time), there are no long-term repercussions.
Some suggest that panic attacks and anxiety are the worst when you first start Dialysis and subside as you become use to having "large needles placed in your arm." Yet, this is not always the case. Many people receiving Dialysis suffer from these challenges throughout the entire time they have to conduct the treatment, and it can greatly reduce their quality of life. What is worse is that there have been cases of patients ending-up in the hospital due to these challenges or stopping Dialysis altogether.
Some medicines that you should discuss with your Nephrologist that may reduce your stress and anxiety are Valium, Xanax and Lorazepam (Ativan). If you are suffering panic attacks during your treatment, some have found that Benadryl administered through an IV helps to keep them calm and able to sleep while on Dialysis. In fact, a patient has mentioned that "I take Xanax and then receive the IV Benadryl while on the machine. It helps a lot!" While any combination of medicinal solutions must be discussed with your Nephrologist, these options should provide you with a path forward.
Non-medicinal solutions include listening to music that makes you calm when your feel anxious or panicked. Also, light exercise such as walking and leg lifts can help alleviate fears as well as clear your mind, while taking deep breaths can also be very calming.
Although panic, anxiety, and depression from Dialysis are commonly brushed aside as simple side effects, we at KidenyBuzz.com understand just how much it can impact a patient's lifestyle. It does not make you weak to acknowledge your anxiety, fears, and depressive moods due to Dialysis. Let's have an open and honest discussion about this.
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