If you’re terrified of ALS because of twitching muscles, here is a complete guide to get you through your most terrifying moments.
As you already know, ALS is an incurable, fatal disease, and if you’ve googled twitching muscles or muscle twitching, you’ve seen the ALS links pop up. This is because twitching muscles is a symptom of ALS.
And since googling, you’ve been terrified of ALS, because of your twitching muscles and the web sites that list muscle twitching as a symptom of ALS.
Being terrified of ALS, even though only 5,000 Americans a year get diagnosed (cdc.gov), is far more common than you think.
Many men and women are scared out of their wits over the possibility of having ALS, even though their only “symptom” is muscle twitching — which, by the way, is a perfectly normal bodily occurrence.
Everybody has twitching muscles, especially after exercise or during moments of anxiety, including anxiety that you might have ALS.
“Fasciculations can appear in almost any muscle,” says Daniel Kantor, MD, director of the Neurology Residency Program, Florida Atlantic University.
“When we overuse a muscle, it can twitch…your leg muscles may twitch after a long run.”
Being terrified of ALS is a prevalent phenomenon in this cyber age.
Terrified of ALS – Upon realizing that muscle twitching is a symptom of ALS, some people will then study up on this horrible disease and learn that muscle weakness and muscle cramping are also symptoms.
It’s at that point, or shortly after, that these individuals then begin perceiving muscle weakness and cramps.
Terrified of ALS – This is why, when a person realizes this sequence of symptoms, they begin manufacturing the existence of muscle weakness.
This leads to an obsession with repeatedly testing out the perceived area of weakness with various strength tests.
This can occupy a significant part of their day. This fixation develops into making constant visual comparisons of one side of their body to the other, to check for muscle atrophy (wasting).
How does one stop this two-ton snowball from hurtling down the hill?
“Our bodies are not bilaterally symmetrical,” points out Marc I. Leavey, MD, who is a primary care physician with 40-plus years of experience, and has a blog, STRING OF MEDICAL PEARLS.
“Even identical twins have subtle differences,” says Dr. Leavey. If you are right handed, your right arm will be a bit more developed from the increased use over years.”
Terrified of ALS?
Next, hang a nice calendar and every morning, place a red star (or make a big red circle) on that day.
Before you know it, two weeks’ worth of stars or circles will have passed — and you’re still able to run, lift, jump, go up and down stairs, unscrew jar lids, etc.
Keep putting those red marks down every morning. Soon, you’ll have 30 days behind you, and the more time behind you, the smaller your fear of twitching muscles will become.
The sight of 30 red stars will be very encouraging. Soon, you’ll have 45 red stars to look at: even more encouraging. When you have 60 red stars facing you, you’ll feel wonderful.
Just keep marking that calendar every day. It won’t be long before 90 red stars are gleaming at you:
That’s three solid months behind yourself — and you’re still able to run, lift, use your hands, etc. The fear of dying will be the size of a peanut.
In ALS, by the time a person can see the atrophy, there has already been significant muscle weakness.
True weakness includes difficulty doing simple things like walking up stairs or stocking shelves with cans.
Like Dr. Leavey says, the body is not symmetrical. If you start looking for asymmetry, you’ll find it all over the place.
Every time you fixate on something, this causes neurological changes in your brain as far as reorganization of the wiring, and hence, new thought patterns evolve, and sometimes these thought patterns are not healthy, are obsessive, and mushroom into full-blown panic over ALS.
You are literally “molding” your brain this way. Chronic anxiety leaves its mark on the brain and it becomes easier to allow intrusive fears of dying to grip your soul.
But, this molding process can be reversed with behavioral modification and the calendar tracking.
Terrified of ALS? Strive to go 15 minutes without thinking about the disease and ignore twitching, muscle size comparisons, etc.
Next step: Go 30 minutes. Keep increasing. Forbid thinking about ALS for allotted time periods. This will gradually “remold” the wiring or thought patterns in the brain.
The brain physically changes according to our environment. The mind can be retrained to think the way it did before your fear of ALS developed.
Dr. Kantor is also President Emeritus, Florida Society of Neurology.