beat fear

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 websites 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.

“It is possible for fasciculations to occur in a variety of areas of the body,” says Mitzi J. Williams, MD, clinical neurologist with Morehouse School of Medicine and clinical advisor for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

“The accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles during exercise can lead to twitching in some cases,” says Dr. Williams.

Being terrified of ALS is a prevalent phenomenon in this cyber age.

nerve cells

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 maybe even cramps.

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?

Know this fact: The body is not symmetrical. “There are a variety of reasons both internal and external,” says Dr. Williams.

“It’s partially related to the way our organs develop, but also can be due to our handedness (which side of the body we use more) or injuries that may affect use of a more dominant or stronger side.”

Terrified You Might Have 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.

And remember … the body is not symmetrical. If you start looking for asymmetry, you’ll find it all over the place.

If you keep obsessing about something negative and stressful, new thought patterns will evolve, and this isn’t good for the mind.

Anxiety attacks may eventually occur from thinking about ALS.

You can’t mold your mind this way. Chronic anxiety leaves its mark on the brain and it becomes easier to allow intrusive fears of dying to grip you.

But, this molding process can be reversed with behavioral modification (maybe one strength test per day instead of dozens?) and the calendar tracking.

Strive to go 15 minutes without thinking about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis 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.

Your mind can be retrained to think the way it did before your fear of ALS developed.

Mitzi Williams, MD

Dr. Williams is author of “MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis,” available on Amazon. She is a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
Sources: mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/basics/definition/con-20024397;  cdc.gov/als/whatisals.aspx;    neurologique.org/