After remaining on my Fluoxetine medication for the past eight months, I’ve hardly had any panic attacks and have only experienced mild anxiety. However, my anxiety crept up the last week at camp, for no apparent reason. I didn’t have to worry about school, and we just started training this week. I’ve lifeguarded at two camps before, so I wasn’t nervous or anxious about training, yet I still had anxiety symptoms.
I kept asking myself, “Why? Why am I so anxious, when I don’t have anything I’m worried about?” During CBT, my therapists taught me to pinpoint my anxiety triggers and try to figure out where the anxiety came from. I went through my triggers, and other than stepping into a new environment, I didn’t notice any of my normal anxiety triggers.
After being at camp for two weeks and having a history of altitude sickness, I’ve noticed my “anxiety” is just my body having difficulties adjusting to the altitude. First, I’ve felt fatigued and have gone to bed at 8 or 9 at night––I usually go to sleep around 10. Second, I’ve felt unmotivated to swim some days, and I’ve had headaches or felt out of breath. Third, I don’t feel like eating at times. Fourth, my heartbeat has accelerated during any kind of physical activity. Fifth, I became so lightheaded one day that I almost passed out. What in the world was wrong with me?
I eventually realized I immediately went from 1,000 to 6,000 feet elevation, so my body needed quite some time to adjust. I’m feeling a bit better now, but I still struggle at times. After making the connection, I looked up symptoms of acute altitude sickness:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Headaches not relieved by OTC medicines
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Dizziness and fatigue
Plus, a publication from the NCBI states that hypoxia from altitude can produce many anxiety symptoms, leading the anxiety sufferer to believe they’re having an anxiety or panic attack. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
So, if you’re like me and your anxiety flares up in the mountains, try keeping a small journal. In each entry, write down when and where the anxiety occurred, what you were doing, and possible triggers. If your anxiety mostly occurred during physical activities, it’s most likely just acute altitude sickness.