What You Need To Know About Dysautonomia – Doctors And Therapists Explain

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Neurasthenia is a medical term founded in the 19th century that turns previously healthy people weak and unable to function normally than before. Its symptoms are complicated, usually fatigue, pain from a part of the body that would move from one section to another (sometimes it goes and then comes back again), overall body weakness, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Doctors had a hard time explaining these symptoms and would attribute it to a weak nervous system. Traditional therapists would also conclude a mental health issue.

Yes, I live with a disease that is not going away. It has changed and continues to change me profoundly. — Katie Willard Virant MSW, JD, LCSW

Back then, women are mostly diagnosed with neurasthenia for men were “men,” strong and sturdy; therefore, they would not let these symptoms affect them. Those who were diagnosed was put into bed rest without proper medication. Prolonged bed rest is also not healthy for the body, and some lost their life due to “over resting.” Though neurasthenia cannot be scientifically explained that time, doctors and other people still took this illness seriously. They give sympathy and respect to those who suffer from this condition and would help patients get through this tough time.

Modern doctors today have always wondered what became of this illness. Only a few believe that neurasthenia is still among us and symptoms of patients that are the same as the ones in neurasthenia are not taken seriously now. They are far less understanding of patients displaying their symptoms.

Often, patients who suffer from these symptoms are written off as “nuts.” However, they are not. There is an imbalance happening in their autonomic nervous system that is being overlooked. The imbalance causes strange symptoms that are now called Dysautonomia.

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How Dysautonomia Affects The Autonomic Nervous System

The Autonomic Nervous System is the one that is responsible for our unconscious bodily movements such as our breathing, heart rate, and digestion. There are two parts of the autonomic nervous system, namely the sympathetic and parasympathetic system.

As a result of having a chronic illness/condition you may feel different and separate from other people. — Dan Mager MSW

The sympathetic nervous system is the one responsible for controlling the fight or flight bodily reactions. It sends out signals to the body that increases heart rate, changes breathing patterns and makes blood rush into the muscles faster to fuel our body in case we need to escape danger or to cope with stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system is the one responsible for our quiet bodily functions, such as digestion. This helps us rest and relax, and both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are often balanced from day to day, depending on the body’s needs.

Symptoms of Dysautonomia often include fatigue, dizziness, faintness, hypertension, low blood pressure, severe anxiety, low exercise tolerance, gastrointestinal diseases, numbness, tingling, pain, and depression. Depression can be the cause of all the symptoms that can be present in a patient suffering from Dysautonomia. 

Depending on the person, he or she can suffer from some or all the symptoms. Symptoms can show up one at a time and can come and go. These symptoms are often unpredictable but are always triggered by a situation or event that harms a person. Since Dysautonomia is not a physical illness, abnormalities, or signs will not show on a physical exam.

Patients who suffer from symptoms that cannot be found in a physical test is often being diagnosed as mentally unstable or suffering from anxiety. Therefore, the patient is not appropriately treated, and symptoms will only be worse.

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The Causes Of Dysautonomia

A lot of different things may cause dysautonomia. There is no information about the exact cause of this illness, and it can be triggered with any of the symptoms mentioned. The only noticeable thing about this is that it usually runs in the family.

Triggers of Dysautonomia are sometimes viral infections and exposure to chemicals. Some triggers are often caused by various types of trauma, especially the ones to the head and chest, also form surgical trauma. Some people who have been exposed to toxins also show signs of the symptoms of Dysautonomia. It is also reported to be found in patients who have undergone surgical breast implants. It might get confusing to some for chronic fatigue can also be triggered after a viral infection or illness. All Dysautonomia symptoms have the same type of onset, and patients and doctors alike are at a loss.

Friends and family often encourage people with illness to stay positive. Is this really helpful? — Tamara McClintock Greenberg Psy.D.

What Happens To People With Dysautonomia

Today, Dysautonomia is not that serious anymore, especially since bed rest is not an option for treatment. People who are diagnosed with Dysautonomia find their symptoms diminishing during treatment and can go on with their healthy lives. Also, patients are now more positive than their illness will eventually go away and makes this their motivation to be better.

Though Dysautonomia is a severe illness, people have been staying positive that they can fight and live a better life during and after treatment. This is what happens to some patients though there are still cases in which people deteriorate to a point where they are unable to function correctly. The best thing to do is always to make sure your health is okay and not neglect symptoms that can probably turn into something more serious.