Anxiety and Panic Attacks with Hep C

Anxiety and Panic Attacks with Hep C

Last updated: December 2018

Our mind and body are hard-wired for anxiety. Really. It’s healthy for you to get stressed out. If a car pulls out in front of you, anxiety helps you to swerve instantly. A creepy stranger starts walking toward you with a weapon, and you are ready to get out or get in a fight. It’s called the fight or flight response. But what happens if we have hepatitis C and everything becomes a fight or makes us want to flee? I lived with HCV for many years and had end stage cirrhosis. I know that anxiety and panic attacks with hep C can derail your life.

I remember the first time it happened. It was October, and some leaves fluttered onto my windshield. My legs shook so hard that I pulled the car over and cried. I called my doctor. There was no test for hep C, so we blamed menopause. It was the beginning of many lessons about how our body reacts to stress.

Your body reacts

If there is any kind of threat going on in your life, your brain releases chemicals that flood your body. There is a split second message to prepare for danger. First, your heart starts racing. That leads to faster breathing, which keep your oxygen levels balanced. Your body takes the blood from your organs and moves them into your arms and legs. Why? To get you moving and save your life!

Dangerous situations

If a person were in front of my car, it would be SO awesome that my arms pulled the steering wheel into a swerve. Hitting the brakes would have been heroic! But it was leaves. They were giant maple leaves. They weren’t going to kill me. My brain didn’t know that though. Because of the virus changing my body messages, I was imbalanced.

Creating a habit

I couldn’t help it that my body was overreacting to threats. I had all kinds of things going on from hepatitis C, including elevated liver panels, high viral load, fatigue, and brain fog. But my brain didn’t know that. There was no test for HCV. It just knew that when an alarming situation came, I needed to act. So it sent messages to my brain, and my brain sent messages back to my body. I was unwillingly hooked on the chemicals flooding my body.

Conditioned response

My mind began to recognize many situations as fearful. I had traveled with my job for years. All of a sudden, I was fearful of planes and paperwork. I began to smoke cigarettes to try and calm myself down. It did change my body chemistry and calmed me, but it created another problem.

I needed better solutions. I ended up taking time off to figure out what was happening. The internet wasn’t available, so I went to city and university libraries nearby. You won’t believe what I discovered. This series is going to take you inside your anxiety and help you get a grasp on how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks with hep C.

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