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Hobbes's avatar

Do you think my health problems are primarily physical or mental?

Asked by Hobbes (7368points) October 15th, 2014

First of all, hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since I’ve been swimming with my fellow jellies, but y’all are awesome, and I’m glad to be back.

Second of all, I know that mental and physical functions aren’t really separate, and they can easily influence each other. Yet I still feel like I’m in a “chicken and egg” sort of situation. I’ve been having weird and apparently inexplicable health problems for years, but can’t seem to find any answers, let alone effective treatment, because I can’t figure out what the root of the issue is.

So, let me give you a little background, if you’ll forgive the exposition. I’ll try to be brief. Ish.

For at least five years now, going on six, I’ve had a series of strange symptoms that don’t seem to have any clearly discernible cause. Specifically, these include abdominal pains and general discomfort, as well as itching and pain inside my urethra. I’ve also been having general GI problems, mostly manifesting as chronic diarrhea alternating occasionally with constipation, as well as an often upset stomach and an irregular appetite. In the last five years I’ve lost about fifteen pounds, although my weight fluctuates.

My sleep schedule is also quite skewed. I’ll generally stay up well past midnight, and get up well past noon. I’ve had trouble falling asleep for as long as I can remember, and even more trouble getting up in the mornings. It usually takes me at least an hour to get out of bed once I wake up, as I’ll often just go back to sleep again. Moreover, even once I’m up, I find I lack energy, and sometimes it seems a chore just to leave the house or make myself dinner.

I’ve seen several doctors, at least half a dozen. I’ve been given a few tentative diagnosis, from “Interstitial Cystitis” to “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. But basically, not a single one has been able to explain what’s going on with me. The labels I’ve been given seem to me to more or less be labels for symptoms they can’t explain. Anyway, I have positively ruled out any STD, as well as a variety of other physical conditions.

Through my personal research, I have come to believe that there are two likely possibilities. One is that this is somehow related to diet. I generally try to eat healthy foods and to stay away from nasty chemical additives and such, but there still may be something I’m eating that’s causing a concealed reaction.

The other possibility is that my physical symptoms may be mental in origin. I don’t want to go into to much detail at the moment, but I think I may be suffering from depression. I’m not miserable most of the time, but for quite some time have felt an… absence. It’s difficult to describe, because it’s not so much a feeling as an absence of feeling. Not that I don’t have emotions, I get happy and sad, etc, but my main default mode seems to be a sort of neutral numbness. Like there’s a pane of glass between me and the world. I’ve always had a great deal of difficulty connecting and interacting with people, and have always been somewhat socially isolated, but even more so recently. I’m still in contact with my family, we have a good relationship, I live with roommates and we hang out occasionally, and I have various acquaintances, but other than that I don’t have any really close friends any more. Part of this is that I recently moved to a new city, but the feeling of isolation is particularly pronounced whenever I try to go out, especially to a party. I end up just sort of wandering around, watching other people have fun and connect with each other, feeling utterly alone in the middle of a crowd. I also haven’t had a romantic relationship since senior year of high school, about six years ago. I haven’t even hooked up with anyone in at least a year. Not that I have no interest, although my libido is often lacking, I just feel like I can’t connect with anyone, and sometimes that even the pursuit itself is pretty pointless.

All of this, combined with my sleep habits and general fatigue, and the fact that I’m often assaulted by negative, nihilistic, and occasionally horrific, perverted, and/or irrational thoughts, mostly about myself, leads me to believe that I may be depressed. And yet it feels strange even to say it. Because as I said I don’t usually feel “sad” exactly, and I feel I may just be pathologizing my laziness and social awkwardness.

Moreover, what I can’t figure out is whether (if this is in fact depression) it’s the cause of the other issues, or a symptom. Living in relatively mild but chronic discomfort and pain has a way of bumming you out. But I also know that mental problems such as depression can manifest as physical pains.

So. Sorry, that wasn’t really brief at all. But basically, I’m just asking where I should begin. I’ve tried to change my diet in various ways, and nothing seems to be doing much. I’ve taken some drugs to help with the symptoms, but that’s all they seem to do. So far, trying to tackle it from the physical side hasn’t done much. But there still may be a physical cause, and moreover, the idea of speaking to a psychiatrist still seriously stresses me out. Perhaps it’s the worry that I’ll be swallowed up by the mental “health” system and be labelled as mentally ill. The fear of ending up in a padded cell somewhere is probably entirely irrational and baseless, but it still scares me. So here I am, under the cloak of (partial) anonymity, asking for your opinion instead.

So what do you think, Jellies? Be my WebMD?

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19 Answers

Hobbes's avatar

Again, apologies for the wall of text.

Here2_4's avatar

I am far from qualified to help you, but I wonder if you have been checked for bacteria levels.. Our bodies are supposed to have certain bacterias which are beneficial. Just today I was hearing again about it on the radio. I’m not saying I think it is the problem, I’m just trying to think of what may have been missed.
Yes, some people can have psychosomatic episodes, having real symptoms to no real condition, but it sounds worth pursuing. It does sound as if you may have a mild depression, and yes, that can stem from physical causes.
I think you should tell your concerns to your current MD. That is where you should begin with your concerns of possible depression. With the added information, your doctor may have a different view of what may be the root of it all.
Sometimes medical problems are tricky, and just keep fooling us for a while.
Try to find a doctor you feel you can stick with. Sometimes after seeing you a few times, something clicks, and they think of something which hadn’t occurred to them before. We all have that happen, I think.
I wish you luck.

snowberry's avatar

First thing I thought of was along @Here2_4‘s answer, and also Candida. Candida (yeast) overgrowth can cause all of those symptoms. In addition, the by-products of yeast mimic estrogen so much that they can fill up all the estrogen receptors in the body. This can play havoc with your hormones.

That said, do you crave sugar? Most folks do because most folks have had enough courses of antibiotics to throw off the bacteria/yeast balance in the gut. The bacteria is killed by antibiotics, the yeast takes over the job the beneficial bacteria was doing, and it takes on a life of its own.

Hobbes's avatar


Well I appreciate the effort anyway :-)

I have heard of the bacteria thing as well, and that might be a worthwhile test. One possibility that’s been raised to me is the overgrowth of certain gut flora (specifically Candida, as you say, @snowberry) which can be caused by taking antibiotics. I did a course a few years back and it’s possible that they did more harm than good.

The trouble with going to an MD is that because I’m in a new city, I don’t have a regular relationship with any doctors in the area. I’m sure I could find something though. As you say, I just want to find someone I feel I can stick with. Someone sympathetic to my situation and knowledgeable about both mental and physical problems but who isn’t a quack. That, by the way, is what worries me about the candida thing: there seems to be a lot of quackery associated with it. It’s obviously a real issue, but there’s a lot of confusing and contradictory information out there about candida overgrowth issues.

As far as craving sugar… it’s hard to say. I like sweet things, and I suppose I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, but it’s not like I binge-eat candy or anything.

I didn’t know the bit about mimicking the effects of estrogen and thereby screwing with hormone levels. That would explain some things, but again, there could be other causes.

Anyway, thanks and lurve to both of ya!

snowberry's avatar

Most MD’s aren’t willing to prescribe an anti Candida medication except under certain circumstances. Besides that, the medication they would use is very hard on your body, and you sort of feel horrible for a week or two. An alternative is to go to a naturopath or master herbalist who can tell you how to deal with it naturally. It takes much longer, but you don’t feel so awful. (PM me for details)

Regardless of what route you take, you will have to change your diet to get better, and it’s long term. The challenge of changing your diet is partly in your mind, partly figuring out how to eat. Let me know if you want to know more.

susanc's avatar

Can I just say I think it was brave of you to give us the wall of text and I think we may feel complimented by your trust.

Now you need a doctor you can feel you can trust in the same way (or better!). It may be arduous, but that is the Hero’s Journey.
You can’t shift this alone. And it’s really serious. May the force be with you, along with all of us.

Hobbes's avatar


My understanding is that systemic candida overgrowth infections can and do happen, but almost always in patients who are already have compromised immune systems (chemo patients, people with HIV / AIDS, etc). I haven’t been able to find any reputable research on similar systemic problems in otherwise healthy people. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, but there also does seem to be a lot of psuedo-science around the issue. For example, the “spit test” to supposedly see whether you have candida overgrowth was cooked up by a company trying to sell supplements, and actually just roughly measures how thick and full of mucous your saliva is. At least that’s what I’ve gathered from research on the internet. I have considered speaking to a naturopath or alternative medicine practitioner, but as I said my concern is that there are a lot of quacks and snake-oil salesmen. Plus insurance usually doesn’t cover their consultation and services. I don’t know if mine would but I doubt it. Thank you though, and I’m not dismissing the possibility, but I am also hesitant to just jump on board with it.


Thank you, I really, truly appreciate that :-)

Joseph Campbell would be proud, I hope. I just wish I could battle literal dragons and demons instead of the invisible ones inside myself. It’s much simpler to fight something you can see.

snowberry's avatar

@Hobbes You’re right. Insurance won’t cover it. If you’re going to demand a medical test to prove you have candida overgrowth in your body, you’re going to look a long time.

The medical community isn’t terribly motivated to deal with this anyway. All I can offer is anecdotal stories of how it’s worked on me or people I know. Good luck.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’ll say probiotics cured my i.b.s. Get the highest quality you can find if you decide to try. We are talking 50 billion plus…

LornaLove's avatar

I can relate to a lot of your symptoms, even the moving which has honestly left me spinning. I am TOTALLY alienated. Reading your post I kept thinking of a food allergy like wheat or lactose. I get the same bowl symptoms as you, but I have noticed that it is more frequent if I eat milk products and/or wheat. I haven’t been diagnosed IBS, but suspect I am. (IBS by the way is irritated by wheat or milk and sugar intolerance or allergies).

When under stress our bodies (apparently) can create allergies which then go away at a later time. So, it is not always that helpful to do an allergy test. Have you tried to omit certain foods? Wheat allergy or intolerance can cause many of the symptoms you describe including dizziness, anxiety and mood swings.

If you are depressed you can get help for it as you know. Depression anyway is always better managed with correct diet and exercise (sounds easy but far from it, I know).

Some personality disorders can create a general feeling of depression, anxiety, alienation and psychosomatic symptoms. Going to a psychiatrist might help in the long term because if you have a personality disorder (for example) you can be taught how to manage it. (Speaking from experience). Plus, many people PD’s but very few seek them out, so mentally ill? Pah! it’s more common than you know. The good thing about getting ‘into the system’ is the help you could get.

I am of course assuming there is no underlying illness that has not been diagnosed so am going on what you say. It’s strange to read ‘my story’ in a lot of what you have written and I suffer with BPD, Bipolar and also PTSD. Gosh, what a handful eh? I do believe that most of my symptoms come from a deep and persistent feeling of generalized anxiety. I hope this helped in some way.

and by the way candida as some suggested is also tied into wheat. We also produce too much cortisol . Maybe check out adrenal exhaustion.

lillycoyote's avatar

As others have mentioned, I think you should redouble your efforts to find a doctor you can work with, feel comfortable with and have confidence in. Whether your problems are biologically/physically based or a mental health issue or a combination of both is best determined by a medical professional.

That being said, have you been screened for celiac disease? It would explain the gastrointestinal symptoms, the weight loss and the fatigue and may possibly explain the depression too (see symptoms). And if that is what’s wrong with you you couldn’t ask for a better time to be diagnosed because gluten-free diets are all the rage now. The only people who really need to be on gluten free diets are people who have celiac’s but the fad has really increased the number and variety of gluten-free products for the disease’s sufferers and a gluten-free diet is the only available treatment for celiac disease as far as I know.

Good luck and keep us posted.

janbb's avatar

I was thinking celiac too from what I’ve read. But I am in way a doctor.

Hobbes's avatar

Hey all! I have been screened for celiac and the test was negative, but that’s what I thought it might be as well. Wheat may still be part of it though. Anyway, I’m going for the weekend so I won’t be on for a few days, but thanks again for all your answers!

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is not in your head or caused by your head. Did it start with a jew sex partner. I know you ruled out STD’s but I firnly believe there are bacterial infections that are passed sexually that are not classified as STD’s that can cause problems. Chlamydia was considered to me nomral flor until about 50 years ago.

Have you tried antibiotics and seen any improvement while taking them? Not once you stoped taking them, but maybe around day 3,4,5,6 was there any magical relief?

Did they test your urethra for micoplasma and ureaplasma? These are in question for whether they should be considered STD’s. They are treated with drugs like doxicycline, which you possibly were given already even if your tests were negative.

Augmentin is the winder drug for me, but I am not saying go out and take a bunch of antibiotics, but the next time you get a sinus infection try the augmenin instead of the zpack, just to test it.

You also might try cipro if they have not given you that med. It treats a bunch of stomach bugs and also can treat UTI’s.

susanc's avatar

@JLeslie – I KNOW you didn’t mean to write “did it start with a jew sex partner” but it made me laugh the moment I figured it out.

JLeslie's avatar

Lol. Yeah, new.

janbb's avatar

Proof reading is helpful.

Response moderated (Spam)
extremely_introverted's avatar

My GUESS is that you have a very poor diet and very bad lifestyle that is now taking a toll on your health mentally and physically. I’ts telling you, it’s payback time. You are extremely under stress. Stress isn’t just about emotion related stuff or worrying etc. When you sleep late ( like what I’m doing now), when you eat crap every day, not enough rest, even too much exercise can contribute to stress. So start by doing a lifestyle change and make sure to stick to it. Give it some time to work. Be honest with yourself. Do not fool yourself. You would be surprise how it can tremendously help you to be healthy again mentally and physically. Eat healthy. Cut down processed food. Find some healthy but at the same time tasty, affordable alternatives that YOU will like, not what others like. If you have insomnia then do something about it like training yourself to go to bed at the same time everyday, use fan as white noise. For insomnia google decalcify pineal gland and how pineal gland is related to melatonin. Drink pure cocoa everyday I highly recommend it. To relax your mind try meditation or yoga. For candida, avoid eating too much sugary food but IMO the real main culprit is not sugar but fatty and oily food. So limit eating fatty and oily food and eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and broccoli everyday. (wash lettuce and broccoli properly if it’s not organic, you can use water and vinegar to wash it.) Eating small frequent meals btw can avoid too much acidity in the stomach. Most of all try to relax, avoid worrying. Not worrying too much is part of the treatment to good health. Good luck!

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