Stress and the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Stress and the Parasympathetic Nervous System

How can stress affect our bodies so much?



For reasons I’m not going to write about here, I’m having an extremely stressful couple of weeks. I always thought I handled stress well, but maybe not. A couple of weeks ago, I landed in the emergency room for the first time after having what I am hopeful was a panic attack. 

Since then, I’ve been to my psychiatrist and my doctor and have an appointment with a specialist, just to make sure that I’m ok. 


So far, so good. It’s all stress. Or my parasympathetic nervous system. Both of which seem like kind of unlikely and all-too-easy explanations for strange symptoms. But my tests were all fine, even though I didn’t believe the doctor in the emergency room and didn’t like the nurse all that much. 


But what I’m wondering is what other people with bipolar disorder do when they have stress and how they cope when symptoms manifest themselves in ways that aren’t necessarily related to bipolar disorder. Do they (you, if you have bipolar disorder) call your doctor and try to get different medications to deal with the new and not-so-improved symptoms? 


Do you query your friends and family about your strange symptoms to see if they have ever had the same problems? I feel kind of silly when I talk about my parasympathetic nervous symptom problems with people, mostly because I don’t understand what they are or how exactly the parasympathetic nervous system works. I’ve had a handle on my bipolar disorder for years and all of this new stuff is making me about the status of my physical health for a change instead of my mental health. 


How can stress have such a weird impact on the body? How can a panic attack mimic the symptoms of something more serious? How can I feel like I’m somewhere else when I’m not? 


I know my symptoms are not mania or depression because I’ve dealt with those for years. At this point in my life, I know what to do when I have certain issues, but the latest symptoms are new and I’m not sure what to do except seek medical attention and hope that all is well. 


But that doesn’t mean that I’m not worrying about the symptoms themselves; if they are just a result of stress, I’m contributing the problem more just by worrying about the symptoms and increasing the number of symptoms. 


Any advice for how to get out of the vicious circle?