|New panic about taking my meds
Jan 12, 2012
I'm having a serious issue with anxiety/panic attacks. I've been positive for over 20 years now and have always had a slow progressing virus. I didn't start meds until December, 2008 (Atripla.) The meds worked wonderfully and pulled my t-cells up from 320 to over 500. My viral load has always been very low (pre treated) and became undetectable right after I started Atripla.
I've had periods of depression and anxiety in my twenty years of living with HIV and they have always subsided or I just got over it eventually.
About three weeks ago, I took my Atripla about 10pm and played online cards for about 2 hours. When I got up to go to bed around midnight, I was SO incredibly dizzy and buzzing from the Sustiva that it sent me into a full out panic attack and I couldn't sleep or sit still due to this attack most of the night. Since I've started taking Atripla, I have always had a little dizziness and the normal Sustiva side-effects about 1-2 hours later. They are even a little worse if I eat something just before I take it. So, I just went to sleep and knew that I would just sleep it off and in the morning I would be fine.
Well, since that night, I've been terrified to take my meds. For the next week after that I would panic and fear taking my meds and when I did, I couldn't sleep. Since I wasn't sleeping, I would feel all the dizziness and Sustiva side-effects and that would send me into another panic attack.
After ten or so days of this, I called my doctor and said I had to stop taking Atripla and explained my situation. He said it sounded like I needed to see a therapist for anxiety and suggested starting me on a new drug that doesn't have any/little CNS side effects to see if that helped. So, he put me on Isentress/Truvada and I just started it yesterday. I'm still really anxious and waiting for the side effects to kick in. So far, I feel really tired and almost euphoric, anxious and a little dizzy. But, I can't help but think maybe this is all a mental health issue. I can't become phobic of taking these drugs because I need them to stay alive. I'm beginning to think it might be better to be dead than feel like this.
| Response from Dr. Fawcett
Thanks for writing. Anxiety frequently occurs with HIV and certain medications, particularly Sustiva, can exacerbate these effects more than others. I suspect that levels of anxiety had been building and this particular incident provided a focal point for its expression.
I think it's a good idea that you changed medications. Most side effects from new drugs will settle down fairly quickly. In the meantime, I do think it would be a good idea to speak with a psychotherapist about techniques to help you manage your anxiety. As you note, it's important that you make peace with taking your meds and speaking with a professional might uncover some resistance or fear about which you're not even conscious. Although you don't mention it, be cautious about being too quick to take an anti-anxiety medication. They have their place, but in this case they might just cover over symptoms that are clues to working through issues related to anxiety or depression.
Good luck, -David
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