Home » Adult ADD / ADHD » Palpitations, Migraines, and Fatigue . . . Oh My!
December 22, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

Palpitations, Migraines, and Fatigue . . . Oh My!

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Because symptoms like depression, fatigue, and migraines are associated with every health issue I deal with, when one or more of those symptoms becomes worse, I tend to look to one of those issues to blame.  Do I also have IBS-like symptoms accompanied by gas and bloating and intestinal pain?  I must have been glutened.  Do my arms and shoulders and upper back hurt and has the weather changed recently (from cold to hot or humid to dry, or the other way around) or did I overdo something physically?  It’s just a Fibromyalgia flareup, then.  Could it be hormonal?  It could be related to the menopause, or the PMDD, or maybe the PCOS.

Update 3/24/09: If I experience “brain fog” or an inability to focus on or begin a task, this could be caused by (or due to a combination of causes related to) gluten, Fibromyalgia, or Adult ADD, which I was diagnosed with in January of 2009.

But when it’s accompanied by intense feelings of panic or anxiety (as if my chest is going to explode or I’m going to jump out of my skin), palpitations, chest pressure, a heavy “sinking feeling” (sometimes accompanied by a feeling like grief or dread) in my chest, or a really uncomfortable “fluttering” in my chest, as if my heart has turned itself upside down, I haven’t known what to do with that.

Update, December 2009:  It turns out that my palpitations apparently are anxiety related, not MVP, and the ADD meds make a huge difference in making them go away, but I am leaving the information on MVP in this post as originally written, in case it may help someone else.

My sister, who was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse about 25 years ago, has been telling me for awhile that I need to mention it to my doctor, because so much of what I describe sounds just like what she experiences.

“Anxiety, panic attacks, and depression may be associated with mitral valve prolapse. Like fatigue, these symptoms are believed to be related to imbalances of the autonomic nervous system.” – MedicineNet.com

I’ve been having palpitations at times for about 25 years (most often after eating, and they last for at least an hour, usually longer), but the other stuff is newer, over about the last year to year-and-a-half.  It took me a while to bring it up to the doctor, because I don’t see my GP very often, and every time I’ve gone, they always said my heart sounded great, though I do know that MVP is difficult to hear.  I did have a different doctor, about 12 years ago, tell me she heard a “click”, and she asked me if I’d ever heard of MVP.  I said yes, that my sister had it, and she suggested that we look into that.  I changed insurance companies shortly after that, though, and changed doctors as a result, and when the new (my current) doctor and nurse practitioner never heard it, I just assumed it was a mistake the other time.  My blood pressure and cholesterol are always very good, but that probably doesn’t indicate anything in this case.  I’ve just always been kind of proud of having a healthy heart and haven’t wanted to concede that anything could be wrong (as if I had anything to do with it; with the way I eat and my lack of exercise, I definitely can’t claim credit for my good fortune in the healthy heart department).

Anyway, I finally brought it up when I saw my nurse practitioner last week, and she ordered a consult with a cardiologist for this morning, and I’m on a Holter monitor for 24 hours.  (I told my coworker when I got back to work, “Don’t freak me out; I’m wired.”)

I’d mentioned to my nurse practitioner that certain foods trigger the symptoms I’m experiencing.  She told me to eat some of those foods today.  Peanut butter and corn chips are two biggies, and I had temporarily forgotten (over and over again) that M&M’s belong on the list, too.  It seems that every time I eat M&M’s, I have a reaction, but in the month or two before I buy them again, I manage to forget that I reacted to them in the past.  Denial is a powerful thing.  In fact, I had completely forgotten (until one day last week when I was talking to my sister about it) that a few years ago, when I was dog-sitting for some friends and was sitting and eating M&M’s while watching TV, I had some pretty intense chest pain afterward.  Most people don’t forget that sort of thing, you know?

But anyway.

I’ve been thinking it was more likely that this is a food sensitivity thing than MVP, but from reading the information on the Conscious Choice web site, I learned that they could go together.

Update, 10/20/11: I see that the Conscious Choice web site is no longer there, at least not as of this date, but I also found the information below on this site.

“Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and MVP
In the new field of environmental medicine we are identifying a type of patient we call a “universal reactor.” This is a person who appears to be reacting with hypersensitivity to many environmental influences, including food additives, chemicals in the environment, dry cleaning chemicals, smells from plastic or vinyl, or the detergent aisle in the grocery store. These stimuli can set off a cascade of distressing reactions. Conventional medicine views this as a delusional state, and suggests that these people are becoming phobic to foods or smells, and suffering from depression or panic disorder.

“A more enlightened view is that these patients have suffered various environmental insults, such as living or working in an unventilated space with overwhelming paint or new carpet fumes, which have triggered their multiple sensitivity. People with mitral valve prolapse may have an underlying susceptibility to environmental stimuli that helps trigger this condition.”

My sister was the one who pointed out to me that not only am I gluten intolerant and extremely sensitive to even the slightest cross-contamination, but I also comment often about strong smells that others around me don’t find to be nearly so strong as I do.  Just last month, on the final day of NaNo, I was down to my last 1000 words, and I took a break and was looking through some old stuff in a drawer and I found several packages of incense that I haven’t used in years.  I couldn’t quite remember why I had stopped using it, and I got a stick out and lit it, and had chest pain, which was when I remembered why I had stopped using it before, so I put it out and I’m going to give all the incense away.  I can handle scented candles, but if I’m too close to them, I sometimes will feel choked up.  I also remember having chest pain when I used to use oil warmers and essential oils, which was a huge disappointment to me, since I loved them.

(I’m including all this excess information in this post just in case someone lands here in an effort to understand some weird symptoms they are having.  If I can help someone else, that’s great.)

At the risk of looking and sounding like a raging hypochondriac, I made a spreadsheet where I copied and pasted the main symptoms for each issue I deal with, and made a column for each issue and checked off what the symptoms apply to.  I alphabatized the list and combined same or similar symptoms and those that were lumped together, and I can clearly see that my top complaints in how I feel and function do indeed apply to all the issues.  I wound up being glad I spent the time to make the chart, because now when I’m depressed or having a migraine or feeling painfully fatigued (yes, it really does hurt), I can remind myself it’s just something I’m going to have to keep consciously working to overcome and not a personal weakness or character flaw to beat myself up for.  And I can’t help but to keep hoping that it is still within my power to reduce my symptoms significantly, by losing weight and avoiding trigger foods and by exercising, which I haven’t really done with any long-lasting regularity yet.

I had been feeling pretty good toward the end of last week and over the weekend (after a really bad bout of constant anxiety and all the symptoms in paragraph two, along with depression).  I cut out caffeine (with the exception of a few small pieces of dark chocolate), peanut butter, corn chips, and M&M’s.  As each day passed, I felt better than the last.  Then last night, I bought more M&M’s so I could eat some today for the test, and of course, the temptation monster was extra powerful and I ate some last night.  I had anxiety and palpitations all evening, during the night when I was trying to sleep, and this morning.  Maybe now I’ll finally start to remember what they do to me.

My sister has told me about how her doctor had asked her if she had any recent, irrational fears or phobias at the time she was diagnosed, and she’d remarked that she’d been suddenly afraid of thunder storms for no aparent reason.  Her doctor told her that irrational fears or  phobias can also go along with MVP.  I’ve been noticing that for a year or two, I’ve been way more paranoid than I ever used to be (mostly about the state of my job, and the way my focus and concentration problems cause trouble in my ability to do my job properly).  There is a basis for some of the paranoia, but not to the extent I seem to take it in my head.

My sister also told me that ever since she began to have symptoms, she finds that she can’t stand to hear music that has a heartbeat-like rhythm or watch a scary movie where they use that heartbeat-like sound to induce tension.  My “thing” is (and has been for several years) being near a car with one of those booming stereo systems turned up loud.  I’m generally a pretty passive, live-and-let-live sort of person, but if anything can make me feel like getting out of my car and pulling a stranger out of his/her vehicle by his/her hair and beating the crap out of him/her for no reason, that is it.  Of course, I’ve never acted on those feelings, and I haven’t been noticing those kind of stereos for at least a couple years anymore.  I think there were new noise laws passed awhile back that must account for that.

So, I’ll know what’s going on soon.  Of course, I’m not automatically assuming it’s MVP.  It still could be another food sensitivity issue (though what is in peanut butter, corn chips, and M&M’s, I don’t know; corn syrup or corn oil seems like the most likely possibility, except it’s not listed as an ingredient in my peanut butter), or it could be pure anxiety, possibly magnified by menopause.  And, this is a particularly stressful time in several ways.  It’s Christmas time, which has always been hard for me, and money problems have been continually worstening for most everyone.  I made the decision to go back to school for Medical Transcription, and that brought a whole host of questions to the surface that I don’t know the answers to (Am I physically capable of the kind of commitment it will take to go to school for two to three years, probalby two to three evenings a week, in addition to working full time, when for the last few years, holding down my job has been about the limit of my functionality?  And if I don’t go back to school, where will I be in two to three years?  And, of course, there are the lack-of-confidence issues, like the fact that I haven’t been a student in 24 years, and I wasn’t a good student even then.  The last time I was a good student, I was in 6th grade.  That’s probably a whole entry in itself.)  Coupled with the stess is the fact that I drank more coffee in November, during NaNoWriMo, than I generally drink in probably three months.  Fortunately, I didn’t continue the candy thing all month, but the amount I ate was way too much.

I just feel that I’ve spent so many years researching, trying new vitamins and supplements, new diets, etc., avoiding medications and all their side effects, only to have most things seem to work wonders at first and then gradually lose effectiveness.  So I’m tired, and yeah, as bad as it sounds, I would love for this to turn out to be a clear-cut physical condition (especially one as relatively minor as MVP, as opposed to heart disease) that I can take medicine for and feel better.


  1. Comment by sanityisknocking:

    I just wanted to say thanks for the link! I have also linked you 🙂

  2. Comment by davidrochester:

    I don’t blame you for wanting it to be clear-cut. I know how frustrating it is to deal with “undiagnosable” symptoms, and to try everything under the sun.

    Keep us posted as to the test results. My mom has MVP, and it’s been pretty scary for her, though she’s now on medication for it and no longer has the fluttering/palpitating episodes. My grandmother had it too, long before they knew what it was, and her doctor told her, when she was 30 and complaining of the fluttering/sinking stuff, that she’d be dead in a year. She lived to be 94, so … yeah, that’s how much doctors know. 🙂


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