General Question

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Have you ever had anxiety so bad that you put off a medical procedure?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23983points) December 20th, 2015

Long story short: I never used to have anxiety, but it reared its horribly stupid head the last few years of my life and, in ways, I was finding it crippling, because I also experienced panic attacks until I managed to get them under control. I am now taking anxiety medication because I was sick of trying to deal with it all, but:

My impacted wisdom teeth have to come out, because they’re coming through quite a bit, are starting to make my bottom teeth go crooked, and the last couple of days, the left one has been hurting badly enough that I’ve had to take Advil for two days in a row.

The thing is… because of my anxiety, I’m terrified of getting them out. I’m worried that I’ll have a panic attack in the middle of it. I don’t want the nitrous oxide, because I’ve seen one too many YouTube videos of people getting their wisdom teeth out, and it would horrify me if I said anything or acted in any way that’s reminiscent to a lot of them. However, I don’t think I could handle being fully aware of what was happening, because I also have OCD.

I have no idea how the heck to go about this, but they really, really need to come out. Like… a long time ago. I’m going to get cavities and who knows what else if I don’t manage to schedule an appointment soon. The idea of the pain alone is enough to stop me, because I’ve dealt with so much pain the last few years of my life, I can’t comprehend making myself deal with more.

Someone help me figure out how to just do it? :( I genuinely need help with this.

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37 Answers

jerv's avatar

I’m in the same boat as I’m beyond anxious at times, and also need dental work (lately, extractions) from time to time. Just the thought of calling the dentist to schedule the work I need done is enough to trigger me pretty bad, so I get that part of it.

Some dentists specialize in dealing with anxiety-prone patients; not merely ones who are nervous going to the dentist, but medically-certified anxious people who eat Xanax like Tic-Tacs. It’s possible that they will put you down a little deeper… if they see you at all.

I must say that if you’re horrified to act like the people you’ve seen on YouTube, then you have larger issues than your wisdom teeth or your anxiety. If acting a little funny under nitrous seems worse to you than the pain of your wisdom teeth, it might be time to re-examine your priorities in life. The only people who will see you gassed up are the dentist, their assistant, the receptionist, and whoever gives you a ride home.

Until you can get over that, then anything else is moot, even the actual extraction. Sure, getting them yanked will hurt no matter what, but that pain will go away and they won’t hurt again. And as for getting giddy on gas, the people in the dentist’s office are trained professionals that see at least one half-baked person every hour, so the only people that will judge you are you and whoever gives you a ride home.

So, how much pain are you willing to endure to avoid the chair? Do you want to dread the chair until you have worse medical issues, or would you rather get it behind you? I hate getting teeth pulled too, but I’ve always felt relieved afterwards. Trading that fear for a few gauze pads and a Vicodin prescription is a good trade in my book.

(Apologies if I sound too “tough love”, but I’m not always good at showing sympathy.)

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@jerv It’s fine, but I wish it was that easy for me. I’ve always been really shy, too, so the idea of doing or saying something extremely bizarre around strangers just isn’t easy for me. I’ve always preferred to blend into the background.

In general, I’m most worried about having a panic attack. Those scare me more than anything. It’s been a while since I’ve had one, but I did almost have one while I was having an MRI to see if I had a bulging disc, and that was probably about a month ago.

All I know is that I hate this. I miss feeling normal and not having anxiety. The contrast compared to who I used to be isn’t a pleasant one.

canidmajor's avatar

When one of my kids had hers out, she was anaesthitized. She was eighteen, so it was not because she was a child, and she doesn’t remember any of it. Can you find someone in your area who does it that way?

flutherother's avatar

I postponed a medical procedure once but ended up having it done and it was fine. I would let your doctor know about your anxiety issues and I would definitely make him aware of the medication you are taking. Discuss it with your dentist, he/she will have an answer to all your concerns.

gorillapaws's avatar

I agree with @flutherother. In addition to speaking with your oral surgeon, I would also talk with a mental health provider about your anxiety issues, especially about how it’s impacting your ability to undergo necessary medical procedures. They should take that very seriously. There are psychological visualization techniques to help you prepare for the events ahead of time that are effective (to the best of my knowledge).

LuckyGuy's avatar

When I was in my early 20s I started getting headaches. At first we though tit was nervous tension, TMJ, dehydration, blah, blah, blah,... Turns out my wisdom teeth were coming in.
I had them removed in two sittings and it worked beautifully! No more headaches, no more loss of peripheral vision. Wonderful.

Want to know what I remember? The dentist said “Count back from 100.” I said “Wow, lust like in the movies!” And when I woke up… my wallet was gone, I had a tattoo of Tinkerbell on my thigh, and I was missing a kidney. Don’t you hate when that happens? :-)

You’re going to get it done eventually. You will and it will never be easier than doing it right now. You will not get younger. You’re teeth will not decide to recede.
Can you go with a friend? That helps a lot.

JLeslie's avatar

I have avoided going to the doctor more than once because of anxiety.

You need a big dose of Ativan (or something similar) before the procedure and you will be fine. Talk to the oral surgeon. Do NOT get this procedure done by a dentist. Promise me.

Also, get a second opinion about having them removed. If they aren’t causing you pain (are they?) or shifting your teeth, then possibly you don’t need the procedure. If you do need it, it is easier at a younger age before real problems develop.

Buttonstc's avatar

You basically have two possibilities.

The first would be having it done in a hospital under full anesthesia. It is surgery, after all. It will be more costly but you’ll be completely out, so no incoherent babbling.

Some hospitals have a setup for short procedures so hat you don’t have to stay overnight but still have all the safety advantages of a regular OR. Make some calls and find a hospital and dentist working with them for this.

The second option is to find a therapist who is experienced in dealing with phobias. When I realized that I had a blood test phobia (not needles, but needles in my veins specifically) that’s what I had to do.

It took a month or two but it worked. I honestly didn’t think it would work but it did.

So, depending on how much time you have, those are your basic choices. It will have to de done at some point. So choose which method you feel best about.

If it were me, I’d opt for the phobia treatment since this can also be helpful for other situations in your life besides just this one.

Whichever choice you pick, at least you’ll be in control. If you wait too long doing nothing you might end up with no choice at all. So pick one and commit to it.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They put me out for mine. It was literally done before I realized I was even put under.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie: the OP mentioned that her teeth are shifting. Sounds like this is necessary.

jca's avatar

No. I don’t have anxiety.

My first piece of advice. Stop looking at You Tube videos of the procedure.

My second piece of advice: Ask someone you know for a Valium or ask the dentist to prescribe a one time single pill dose. Maybe a ten for maximum effect.

I had dental implants three times. On two occasions, for the surgery, I “borrowed” a Valium (I say that in jest because you can’t borrow a Valium, I know) from someone. It made the whole procedure a total lark. Total lark, trust me.

JLeslie's avatar

She shouldn’t have to borrow a Valium, the oral surgeon should be dosing her up. He can monitor her. Not that I’m necessarily against borrowing some bensos, but it isn’t unusual to be given those drugs for something like this.

@canidmajor Thanks.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They gave me all kinds of good stuff.

Buttonstc's avatar

@jca and @JLeslie

In her details, she states that she is “NOW” taking anxiety medication. (doesn’t specify the name)

Do you really think that advising an added 10mg. or more of Valuum on top of the existing meds and likely nitrous oxide is really that great an idea?

(Many years ago I was taking Valium and that little blue 10 mg. looks tiny but really packs a wallop. It is by no means as benign as it appears to be.)

Covering up her problem with even more (non-prescribed) medication is a recipe for disaster. It does nothing to address the underlying problem and could possibly be a deadly combo. Anxiety meds plus benzos is like playing pharmacological Russian Roulette IMHO.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Thank you for sharing your situation with us. That took courage.

I highly suggest you immediately stop getting any medical advice from strangers on the Internet and talk to the person who prescribed your anti-anxiety medication about this matter. Talk to them today. Don’t wait.

And I must say strenuously it is highly irresponsible for anyone to suggest taking medication without a prescription. Not just irresponsible but also illegal.

Now that I’ve said those things, let me add a personal note. I am a mental health professional, and I have a mental illness. I have experienced panic attacks. I understand. I learned a long time ago to trust my mental health caregivers and professionals and to tell them everything going on with me. They are trained to listen to me and help me work through my own difficulties. They always help me.

You are taking medication to help you with your anxiety. That’s wonderful! That means you saw your problem, and you reached out for help. Good for you!

You reached out and found help once before. You can do it again. Do it. Call your doctor who prescribed your anti-anxiety medicine. Call that doctor right now. Do it.

augustlan's avatar

I’m in the same situation, @DrasticDreamer…for wisdom teeth, too! I’ve known they need to come out for a long time but have been putting it off forever, and now I’m in pain. We both need to reach out to our providers and get some help so we can get these necessary procedures taken care of. How about we make a pact to do so? <3

Pachy's avatar

Yes—currently. And I have an annual physical scheduled for Wed. that I’m absolutely dreading.

janbb's avatar

I have found that dentists and oral surgeons tend to be much more sensitive to pain and anxiety than they were when I was a kid. Some even specialize in treatment for the apprehensive patient. Have you chosen a surgeon yet and discussed your anxieties with them? If they are caring and sensitive, they may be able to anesthetize you in a way that makes it more comfortable for you. I would definitely try that approach and if one seems heartless, try another one. Maybe your GP or regular dentist can suggest one with that in mind.

Also, is there a friend who might be able to accompany you and wait for you to take you home? Knowing there is a support person in the waiting room can help alleviate anxiety. Both my kids had wisdom teeth out. One was a little loopy when I picked him up but neither had bizarre reactions.

If a psychiatrist is prescribing your meds, you might talk to him or her as well.

You do need to have this done.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My wife is in that boat, it takes zanex the night before and gas during anything as simple as a dental cleaning. I’m opposite, I need to get procedures over with before I can start to relax.

JLeslie's avatar

@Buttonstc What I think is I said an oral surgeon will dose her up and be able to monitor her. Most likely the doctor will give her more drug than a friend’s pill, which is one reason I think she should talk to the doctor. I wasn’t agreeing to just take a 10mg Valium, I don’t know Valium dosages. I would only tell someone to borrow a pill if they had already had experience with that pill themselves. I didn’t name Valium, @jca did. I said the doctor will give her some Ativan. I’m talking about in an IV.

The OP doesn’t like to take medication, I’m sure she isn’t going to randomly pop pills she has no experience with.

Just to add, taking a higher dose of meds for a procedure is not a recipe for disaster, but I agree she should do it under a doctor’s supervision.

My GUESS is the OP doesn’t take bensos, or she would know just how calming they can be. Some people don’t get great effect from them, but most do.

jerv's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I get that. I rarely go a week without an attack myself, and that’s without involving dentists.

If it’s any help, I had all four of my wisdom teeth yanked in boot camp. Since military recruits are treated only slightly better than cattle in a meat plant, they skimp on novacaine anyways, and I tend to need a double-dose. Despite being high-strung and the novacaine wearing off halfway through the second extraction, I managed. It sucked, but not nearly as bad as expected.

@Buttonstc Good point. One must take their metabolism and medical history into account.

@JLeslie I guess I am in the minority there as they really don’t do much for me.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@JLeslie They’re impacted (growing in and popping through completely sideways), so I have to have an oral surgeon do the procedure. My dentist office said that they wouldn’t even consider trying to remove them because they’re so impacted. But then I never scheduled an appointment after that and it was probably more than 6 months ago.

@Hawaii_Jake I’m definitely going to talk with my doctor about this, because I have to have something push me to do it. I was hesitant to go to her for anxiety meds, but I just started getting so sick of my anxiety (especially because it really was starting to interfere with some normal activities) that I decided to. It was a huge deal for me, because I have – to put it very mildly – an extremely hard time opening up to strangers about problems I have and it took me years to work up the courage to talk about my anxiety. She’s great, though, and she makes me feel really comfortable. She suggested therapy for my anxiety and gave me a list of places to think about going, but I never bothered looking into it. Again, because the idea of opening up to strangers about certain things is literally one of the most unappealing things I can possibly think of. I would probably be a difficult patient, in the sense that, if they asked about my past at all and didn’t simply try to help me cope with anxiety, I might be very tightlipped. :-/ I have trust issues.

@LuckyGuy and @janbb That’s a good idea, actually. My sister, after I talked to her about how seriously freaked out this makes me, offered to go and even sit in the room with me, since it might be more likely to prevent me from having a panic attack. Which is really great of her, because I might need it. I’m not sure they’d let her be in the room, but it’s something I can ask.

If I can be completely put under, like some of you were saying, that would relieve a ton of my anxiety. If at all possible, I would prefer to not be awake, simply because of the possibility of a panic attack combined with my OCD (OCD is pretty mild compared to a lot of people, but sometimes it can make things pretty uncomfortable and I don’t handle gory things well at all).

@augustlan Yes, I would definitely be willing to do that! Whatever support we could give each other might actually push me to schedule the dang appointment!

Oh, and don’t worry: I’m not big on taking any medication unless it’s absolutely necessary, so I wouldn’t even consider taking anything else without talking to my doctor first.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Drastic dreamer, a therapist will only talk about what you want to talk about. They may ask questions for clarification and to guide your thoughts so you can resolve your issues. They aren’t like a medical doctor who listens to your symptoms and then tells you what’s wrong. You tell yourself what’s wrong.

They want to help you guide yourself to feel better. They never force their ideas on their clients. You set the agenda and the pace.

You were unhappy about your anxiety, and you spoke to your doctor. Now, you’re in terrible pain, yet you’re having difficulty getting the help that will end your pain. If there was a way to help you with your fear, would you try it? A therapist will help you find coping skills to handle your fear, and then they will work long term to eliminate your fear. If that sounds worthwhile, give it a shot. You’re in charge. It’s up to you.

They can help you with your trust issues to, and they will do it gently at your pace.

JLeslie's avatar

@DrasticDreamer I really believe you will feel MUCH better when you talk to the surgeon. Ativan (it’s the same drug class as Valium) is one of the standard drugs before a surgery. You won’t really be asking for something extra, and most dentists and oral surgeons deal with some patients who have a lot of apprehension about oral surgery.

If you don’t have an appointment to meet the surgeon before the procedure, think about making one to discuss your fear, and feel comfortable he takes it seriously. Bring a friend if one will come. See if she can be in the room during the surgery. If not, then maybe ask for some sort of way to signal the doctor if you feel nervous and are unable to verbally communicate well. Maybe a hand gesture. Give yourself control.

My guess is you actually will be out during the procedure. You can ask if there will be an anesthesiologist in the room, or if you will just be drugged for anxiety and local pain anesthetic. Probably, you won’t have to ask, he probably will just tell you what to expect if you just ask him how it will go.

If Diprivan is an option (I have no idea if it is, but I request it for colonoscopies) that might be a good one for you. You will spend the rest of the day after the procedure calm. You will have to have someone drive you home. That drug you are not fully aware how medicated you still are until the next day when you have clarity again. Its a serious drug, and I think most states require an anesthesiologist administer it. I’m not recommending you push for a specific drug, I am
not a doctor, but what I am suggesting is there are quite a few options. Standard drugs for surgeries block the anxiety mechanism in our brains, and you should not feel badly about needing to address this issue.

Are you taking a Valium type drug now, or just an SSRI antidepressant type of drug? Maybe I missed it if you already said.

@jerv My dad says the same thing. He doesn’t feel anything when he takes Xanax.

JLeslie's avatar

There are perfectly happy, usually anxiety free, people who have intense fear about surgery. I just want you to feel confident you are not alone and the majority of surgeons will not view you negatively, and will want to be helpful. You know how incredibly negative I am about most doctors, so I hope you know that if I think positively about your anxiety being addressed that I really truly believe it. If the surgeon doesn’t seem to take you seriously enough possibly talk to another one. It might cost you some extra money, but even if you didn’t have an anxiety issue you should feel comfortable with your surgeon.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I might consider a therapist since it’s something else I’ve been thinking about for years, but it’s hard to overcome the apprehension I feel regarding it – which I know is a little ridiculous, because I encourage other people to speak with therapists all the time. I don’t think lesser of anyone for doing it, it’s just really, really hard for me to feel comfortable with opening up to someone like that. However, if I remain in control and just say that I don’t want to talk about certain things, that would work much better for me. Even though I’m not sure certain things could be ignored if I was addressing my anxiety. I’m open to the idea, but, yeah… it’s difficult for me.

@JLeslie and others: Sorry, I forgot that part. I’m just on a low dose of Sertraline, which is generic for Zoloft. 25mg – but it has helped me deal with some of my stress, and I think it might be the only thing that stopped a panic attack when I was having my MRI. So it’s definitely been positive so far.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, so am I to assume you have never taken anything like Xanax, Ativan, or Valium? If not, you have no idea what the typical calming affect is. Those drugs for most people are fantastic, and partly why people get addicted. I wouldn’t worry one second about addiction for a procedure, I’m just saying the anti-anxiety properties are probably like nothing you have ever experienced if you haven’t taken them before, or had them administered in a hospital setting. The Valium type drugs take effect within in seconds given IV and minutes when taking a pill.

JLeslie's avatar

I hope you update us when you talk to the surgeon. We are all pulling for you. We understand your fear. Your fear of the fear. The fear of an anxiety attack.

JLeslie's avatar

Your first appointment to talk to the surgeon you are making zero commitment. You are just going for information. Get that one booked.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@JLeslie Actually, a few years ago when my health got really bad and they tested me three times for Lupus and other things, I was having heart palpitations and other problems, so they put me on something that I think was Ativan? That’s not what it said on the label, but after I looked it up, I’m pretty sure it was either the same thing, or fell into the same category of drugs. It was only 10mg, but it was potent and made me see things every time I closed my eyes. I didn’t like it at the time because it was such a heavy sedative and I was having breathing issues, but I don’t think that would be a problem now. Ah, the name just came to me; Lorazepam.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, I think that is Ativan. I don’t know the dosages for that drug, so I don’t know if they gave you too big of a dose maybe? Some people don’t like Ativan, but do well on Xanax, some like Klonopon better. There are several similar drugs.

The few times I take that type of drug I prefer Xanax at .25mg. I don’t feel sedated at all. The dose is so different between the drugs. I have been given Ativan before surgical procedures. I am definitely whoozy on it, but I figure they also are giving me a huge dose. I have taken Klonopon in a low dose and it made me sleepy.

si3tech's avatar

Yes, I cancelled an appointment with an oral surgeon and did not reschedule. It was for implants. Last week a tooth broke off at the gum level and with a history of having taken Boniva my dentist referred me to the oral surgeon for extraction. Apparently there can be some complications after extractions after having taken that class of drug. (for osteoporosis) I put off having it done until after the holidays but tomorrow I will try to make an appointment for next week. @JLeslie I think lorazepam is generic for ativan.

JLeslie's avatar

@si3tech That’s what I said.

filmfann's avatar

Just before having my fourth surgery in a three month period, I began getting very stressed about it. To calm myself, I put on my iPod and listened to some gospel music. It really did sooth me.

majorrich's avatar

Valium seems to be my calmative of choice. 20mg will get me into the dentist office. I had my wisdom teeth removed by the dental college at Ohio State University when I was a student there. They needed people to practice on and my teeth had already erupted, pointed inward toward my tongue. I did get to keep the teeth and had one mounted on a tie pin as a badge of courage. I gifted it to a dentist friend of mine when he retired. Human ivory he called it.

lasuz's avatar

It wasn’t because of generalized anxiety but I’d had a very bad experience with colonoscopy in the past so put off for 10 years. I finally did it and other than prep it was a pleasure- well it was fine. They found three polyps and those are the guys that can become malignant so fortunately I was okay.

Regarding your anxiety in general you may want to consider seeing a psychologist or the like who does neurofeedback. It has been wonderful for me.

Regarding your wisdom teeth I had 3 impacted ones removed and it wasnt fun but that was 40 years ago. I’m sure it is much easier now. I’d suggest scheduling the procedure with someone excellent and see a hypnotherapist a month or so ahead. I did that prior to surgery and no anxiety. Hope this helps.

Zachary_Mendes123's avatar

There was this one time when I had really bad anxiety and I NEEDED to get surgery to get a mass that was building up around my heart somehow. Since my anxiety was so bad I was so afraid that I was going to have a panic attack at some point. I told my mom about it and she was like “You got to have the surgery or you are going to die” I knew that. I was still supper scared. Then after a month, while I was on death’s door step, I finely agreed. Now I’m a 18 year old kind of living an anxiety- free life.

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