cast-claustrophobia/anxiety…

… one more thing that i forgot to add to my previous entry.  though  i know this might sound crazy, i had a very odd/troubling experience the other night where i woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly was feeling very anxious and restless in my injured/right leg and feeling a great need/urge to be able to bend that foot/ankle and not liking the feeling of it being constrained.. this seemed odd to me as it’s not like this cast is new, and i’ve been casted for the past 5 weeks.   however, this episode was very troubling as it felt as if i was very close to having a nervous breakdown/panic attack and was having this overwhelming urge to tear/cut my cast off of my foot.  This “episode” lasted for approximately 2-3 hours though i eventually was sort of able to calm myself down by doing some deep breathing/distracting myself by watching TV, but still ended up having what I can only describe as a “low level anxious” feeling the rest of the day.  Thankfully I did not experience anything of the sort last night, so not sure if it was just an isolated thing or something that might come back.  I’d like to consider myself a pretty “mentally/emotionally sound” person who has no history of significant anxiety/panic attacks or any other mental/emotional issues, and I actually work in the mental health field so am very familiar w/ways to help cope w/anxiety/panic,  but none of the usual techniques worked during this episode, which scares me for if I have another such.  I did some “research” to see if others have had any similar experiences, and found something called “cast claustrophobia” which i’m sure is far from a “real” condition, but at least there are some others who have experienced something similar.  Has anyone here experienced anything of the sort and/or have any advice for how to cope?  I asked me doctor to prescribe me something just in case this happens again, and he prescribed me Xanax, but I really am not a “pill popper” and usually like to try anything I can before resorting to medications.

28 Responses to “cast-claustrophobia/anxiety…”

  1. Hi, doesn’t sound crazy - A few people have mentioned this on their blogs. I didn’t experience it myself but you are certainly not alone in this. All the best for a full healing.

  2. thanks ali.. was really quite horrible… i was in tears for part of it feeling as if i was going to lose it… thankfully got through it and hope it doesn’t happen again.

  3. Yeah I know, I’ve had some weird dreams, once dreamt I was stuck on the top of a mountain on crutches and had to ring mountain rescue! Stuart described a claustrophobic feeling post cast, he doesn’t have a blog but he does check in from time to time, in between building a new home! Take care.

  4. Hello np3…i’m sure you are out of your cast by now! congratulations..i envy you. i just had Achilles’ tendon surgery 6 days ago and have already had some minor cast induced panic attacks. this same thing happened to me 2 years ago when i had another similar injury. this time i asked the dr. to prescribe something…he did…prescribing an anti depressant, Trazodone..i think it’s helping a little but i TOTALLY relate to waking up in the middle of the night and going somewhat crazy…”let my foot out of prison!” I was thinking today about a way I could explain the feeling…similar to when I used to ski and I recall a great feeling that I had at the end of a long ski day when I would unbuckle my ski boots and remove my feet…ahhh…how sweet. I just WISH I could reach down NOW and be able to do the same with this cast….drats…I guess I’ll just have to hunker down and try to keep it together…here we go!

  5. np13- I also had an experience very similar to yours. I had a broken fibula and a dislocated ankle (surgery with a plate and screws).
    My “attacks” happened twice; both times in the evening. It was always much harder for me when the sun set… I became really nervous about night time coming.
    I too thought I was going insane and it felt like a rabbit hole that I might not be able to come back out of. The worst thing I have experienced in my life and I consider myself a brave person. I am lightly claustrophobic (I am OK with elevators but not so good with MRI’s). This was a feeling like I was trapped/locked in a 2′ by 2′ box and couldn’t get out… but there was no box. I can also remember thinking while I was going through this that I did not want to live with this feeling…. Could not live with this mental state and I have never had that thought before in my life. I can remember thinking please let me not remember exactly how this feels. It was very traumatic. That is the best way I can describe it. And if you are not a claustrophobic person I don’t think you are going to “get” any of this.
    Both times I had these “attacks” I had to eventually partially remove the splint and then later the cast to escape this intense claustrophic feeling.
    I had had the cast on for one week before I had this attack the second time and my cast was very comfortable I must say. I ended up taking the cast partially off with wire cutters. If I didn’t have the wire cutters I was contemplating going to the ER as it was night.
    The following day at the doctor’s office I refused to have another cast put back on and my doctor (not happy with me) fitted me for a boot. I felt it was either my mental health or my leg.
    I am about 5 weeks post op. now and have done very well with the boot. It was the right choice for me and I know it was healthier for my skin and my brain.
    I did change doctors as well because of the first doctor’s lack of concern with my mental health. He was a good surgeon but had a terrible bedside manner.
    I too was on anti-anxiety pills and they did help but they were addictive too and then I had to deal with coming off of them as well (withdrawal is not fun either). So keep that in mind when you start relying on pills to help you through this… ask about how addictive they are.
    Feel lucky if you cannot relate to any of this.

  6. Can anyone tell me how to start a blog on this site? I’ve created a user ID and received a password but can’t seem to find where to begin. I know it must be staring me straight in the face somewhere!

  7. OMG I went through this last night, which is how I found this thread. I can’t deal with this cast, I just can’t. It’s all I can think about, it’s making me crazy and I am not normally crazy or dramatic. I fear I will cut it off at home tonight!

  8. Stay calm Bree. When was your atr? Can I suggest that you post on the main blog, achillesblog.com or create your own blog within it? Do you have a rehab protocol and timeline? Op or non-op?

    Take it in small chunks of time and try to manage what you expect and when. Definitely read the posts regularly - helps you to understand that you are not alone in this. Masses of real life experience too.

    If you’ve been in the cast for more than 2 weeks, ask why. In many cases you could be in a boot after diagnosis, and certainly at 2 weeks. Mobility as soon as possible, and don’t leave the weight bearing too long.

    Keep posting - being ‘crazy’ will slow you down! But I know what you mean…

  9. Bree - I felt the same about the cast and I found I had a type of claustrophobia. Go to your GP Doc. He can help you with some medication to ease the anxiety in the short term and then see about getting into a boot ASAP.

  10. A few folks here have had trouble “winning the mental game”, Bree. The injury is a bummer for all of us, though lots of your neighbours are suffering with worse. Stay sane, keep coping. There aren’t any freak-out moves that will make anything any better — definitely including cutting off your cast!

  11. First off, I am a very claustrophobic person and now four days in this cast for Achilles repair. I am having panic attacks like crazy and was actually charging my air tools when I caught myself. I wake up in cold sweats and feel very confined. I don’t do CT scans, MRI’s, or anything confined without meds. Does anyone have a suggestion on a exercise or way go get over the initial onset? With all due respect, it is good go see a site like this to help people with this condition.

  12. Bobby,

    I know exactly what you mean I remember wondering if I had anything in my kitchen that would take off a cast. I don’t know what your history with meds is, (1mg of atavan in the evening helped me), but if you don’t want to use meds, the other thing that helped was deep breathing and focused relaxation. I found that thinking about my foot was actually better that trying to put it out of my mind, I just took deep. slow breaths, and concentrated on keeping my foot soft and still and totally relaxed. Find something calming and reassuring to read. Even if you’re not religious, the psalms can be very helpful, especially #91. If not that, something else that’s meditative and soothing. Quite, relaxing music can also help. Good luck.

  13. @cwessels — If you have emailed Dennis (creator of this site) at achillesblog@gmail.com and received your user id and password, your personal blog should be at: achillesblog.com/cwessels, assuming that cwessels is the name that he set you up with.

    Then all you do is go to achillesblog.com, log in by clicking on “Log in” link on left side of screen. Then you should be transferred to the admin part of your blog. At the top to the right of middle you can post your first blog by clicking on the New Post button/menu.

    If you can’t log in or have other issues, I guess you should email Dennis.

    Good luck!

  14. Bobby, in addition to meds and relaxation techniques, you may be able to argue your way into a boot. You still have to keep your foot 100% immobilized, NWB and protected for the first ~2 weeks, but you may find it comforting just to know that you COULD take the boot off. Starting ~14 days in, it’s recommended by most of the best protocols - like bit.ly/UWOProtocol - to remove the boot for gentle seated exercises and gentle PT. Casts don’t allow that.

  15. I have just cut myself out of part of my cast and now feel much better. It felt far too big, I now have a cast more like an ankle boot which feels much better and my foot is still immobilised.

  16. Hi guys, well you lot have done way better than me! I have never had panic attacks about anything and have had a number of surgeries which didn’t faze me in the slightest - however my “partial” atr went into a cast & I was fine for a while then had two massive attacks. Calmed down after xanex & my sister shouting at me. Had to go to my local a&e the next day who put it in a backslab which wasn’t as bad (although I was trying to unwrap it a bit). Outpatients two days later and still no scan and was told I’d be in a cast for 4 then 6 weeks. By the time the full cast was on I was going bananas - I was clawing at it and by the time we were home I was a mess and trying to take a hammer to it!!
    My sister rang a recommended ankle guy who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t scanned & recommended presenting myself at his a&e.
    So the next morning I went - as soon as they split the cast down the side I was fine - it was still in but allll anxiety was gone.

    2 days later I went for a scan finally - all this time being told it was a partial - eh no! It was a full tear and required immediate surgery!! After much begging pleading and understanding the risks I had the operation the day before yesterday - with a boot not a cast.

    Thankfully I had already been on the crutches and had a knee walker so I understood non weight bearing and now have to be SUPER careful because there is slightly more movement in the boot than a cast but keeping my fingers and (good) toes crossed!!!

  17. Hello RoseMary

    I hope that you’re feeling nice and calm today, feet up nice and high, so important at this early stage. Easy for new atr victims to feel a little hysterical but it usually settles down when you know what is going on now and what is going to happen over the next 12 months.

    Interesting that you wanted to have the stress of an operation as well as suffering with the broken tendon but I guess the jury is still out on which way to go (sometimes depends I think on whether you want the cut and stitch route or a more relaxed non surgery procedure), although complicated because many of the medics don’t seem to be up to speed with best practice. Don’t worry here though, yours will be fine, you have the boot nice and early, and they’ll be having you mobile and exercising by September, and in 2 sensible shoes in October. Might want to check the fit of that boot - you should be able to get it nice and snug.

    Where are you based?

  18. I am so sorry you had to go through those panic attacks. Unless a person has experienced it, it is difficult to I again how catastrophic it feels. Even when you tell yourself you are bing irrational, it doesn’t help. I am no different than you so I wanted you to know you are not alone. In fact, I told my surgeon I didn’t think I would repair if it meant being In a cast and he agreed to put me straight it I a walking boot. Even though I didn’t take it off initially, just knowing that I could if I wanted made all the difference. I am almost four weeks post op and I think things are going pretty well. I hope you are doing okay and I may so glad your doctor agreed to out you in the boot. Be very careful and keep it nice and snug. Best wishes for a speedy recovery,

  19. I am so sorry you had to go through those panic attacks. Unless a person has experienced it, it is difficult to imagine how catastrophic it feels. Even when you tell yourself you are bing irrational, it doesn’t help. I am no different than you so I wanted you to know you are not alone. In fact, I told my surgeon I didn’t think I would repair if it meant being In a cast and he agreed to put me straight into a walking boot. Even though I didn’t take it off initially, just knowing that I could if I wanted made all the difference. I am almost four weeks post op and I think things are going pretty well. I hope you are doing okay and I may so glad your doctor agreed to out you in the boot. Be very careful and keep it nice and snug. Best wishes for a speedy recovery,

  20. Well, it looks like this thread of valuable information has been dormant for quite some time, but the very nature of how invaluable it has been to read all the insightful comments here has compelled me to post and hopefully pay it forward to the next person that finds themselves in the same situation and questioning their sanity as a result.
    Only a few days ago I slipped on some ice hidden under fresh coat of snow and my foot went right and the leg went left. Broken ankle. Emergency room visit provided my a temp “stability cast” which was made a bit tighter the following day when seeing the ortho specialist. I am due for surgery requiring screws and plates –and what I am sure is a regular cast in less then a week when the swelling subsides so I am still in the same “cast” which is wrapped together. It wasn’t until last night (day 4) that I was trying to find the “sweet spot” to elevate my leg. It was at this point–late at night that for the first time in my 49yrs on this earth that I experienced what I can only describe as a true panic attack. The feeling of my heel sweating…sticking to the gauze under wrapping….the knowledge of a forecast of a min 6 weeks after surgery before I can put pressure on it, my veritable “house arrest” in a 2nd floor walk up apartment with no way to drive myself anywhere all culminated on my psyche at once. I needed to escape my situation….I needed to feel air on my leg/foot, I needed to get out of my apt……I was beside myself. I opened a window here in the middle of a January Chicago night to get air. I couldn’t stop sweating…..catch my breath. The prospect of an even MORE restrictive cast ahead of me for the next 6 weeks was too much to bear. I finally bathed, walked around the apt in my crutches……trying to work off my busy energy. After I finally passed out from sheer exhaustion. I figured I just had some odd reaction to the Norcos I was talking at bedtime, but alas, the same symptoms returned after my first cup of morning joe. It is how I arrived upon this very informative thread and I thank everyone for their insights. I now know I MUST INSIST upon a compromise with my ortho specialist regarding a permanent cast BEFORE my scheduled surgery next week! Just knowing I am NOT alone in this type of anxiety and that a reasonable practitioner should sympathetic to “cast claustrophobia” lessens my anxiety to a tolerable level—for now. Thanks again to all!

  21. Ron M- Hope you return to keep us updated. The good thing about this site is the way it lists recent posts, so even non-active posts are seen when someone posts on them. I’m glad you took the time to “Pay it Forward” I’m scheduled for surgery in a few days and even though I am not normally claustraphobic, (I do have a small fear of heights.) I have had my moments of “crazy” this past year with multiple medication changes etc from the numerous physicians I see for my problems. Trying to figure out how to get a policeman to stop and shot me the day after I started a new pain med had me asking my daughter to take me to the ER because I knew my thoughts were not normal ones. I’ve found I’m VERY seceptable to meds that have dual pain/depression properties and have to be very vigilant about talking to my doctors on how they affect me.

    So I’m very glad you found this post and posted. I won’t “worry” about it but I know to be aware of the possibility now should the “crazies” return post-op.

  22. i am 70 yr F who suffers from claustrophobia with a broken humerus. had a slab on for 2-3 weeks. first 3 days were horrendous. cast was digging in - inside of top of arm and forearm. I was very weepy and felt very trapped. i woke up with nightmares about the COLUMBAN MINERS and Stewart DIVER who was trapped for 63 after a landslide in Thredbo NSW. Two physios at hospital just suggested cotton wool to relieve pressure.
    Had sarmentio brace put on 16th march but by the evening it was digging into my armpit like cheesewire and i was having very severe panic attacks pacing the floor and knew i would have to go back to hospital to get some of it cut off. I was crying so my husband gave me 2 panadol forte which knocked me out. The next day the lovely physios in plaster room cut off my brace and strapped it to my arm and said that there was no need for to feel trapped anymore because i could always take it off. i just needed to tighten the straps as it got looser. Knowing this has taken away all the stress. They also told me I was not alone - many people feel trapped when in a cast

  23. Ely - I am very much like you. Ended up being prescribed Valium and it really helped but I did not want to be on that for the entire time so my doc got me into a boot after a week. Good to hear there was a solution for you. I am good in confined spaces and have been caving and scuba diving but the constriction on my limbs seems to be a problem. I have often thought how I would have managed if I were in the same position as Stuart Diver.

  24. you will certainly have the ability to go into the Musically area. There you will certainly give a username and also password of your option for your account.

  25. Email notifications at every phase of the transport process. Deducible distribution, from the minute the parcel is collected to its ultimate drop off.

  26. As The guy at the emergency room was putting on my cast for my broken fibula I started feeling a little anxious ,,,, after three hours and laying in bed my husband and I were having a severe fight because I was telling him he had to find something anything to cut off the cast!!! I felt like I was losing my mind and I have never been claustrophobic before , by the next day I had tried scissors and tin snips from Home Depot The thing that finally worked to cut off the fiberglass was getting those handheld branch cutters from the garden department that can cut a five eights inch branch , when I finally got it off it was miraculous I felt so peaceful and happy I overnighted a boot from Amazon and in three days I go to see my first orthopedic appointment I don’t know what to do I can’t go back in a cast I’ll just go crazy . My own story of cast claustrophobia

  27. Thank you so much for all of your stories! I too had panick attacks and I never had this intensity in my life. I fractured the 5th metatarsal. It was the 1st week of me wearing a real cast (the week before was a slab to wait for the foot to be less swollen and I felt fine.) I was going mad. I wanted to take my cast off from my right foot. I was thinking of things in the kitchen that can cut this cast off. I didn’t think others understood me. I didn’t want to wake my husband up because I felt bad. But it was maddening. I felt trapped. I was afraid that if I kept being in this constant stress, I could kill myself. And that thought was really scary. So I meditated and prayed. It actually helped me a lot, but I was in a constant stress. I was finally taking up a courage to ask my doctor to change back to a slab after the week 2. I was afraid he would thought I was demanding and being a troubled patient. But I cared for my sanity than my foot at this point. I was so glad he was ok with me wearing a slab. I just had to be extra careful. I am in the week 3 as I am typing. I just wanted to support any person out there to go through this or knowing a person who go through this. I totally understand how you feel. I am also grateful to read others’ stories who went through the same as me. Please find a doctor who can support you.

  28. I am so relieved to read all these reports! I have just come back from the hospital cast free! I had a temporary cast for a broken elbow and after the first day I started noticing the feelings of enclosure and being trapped. It got so bad I had a panic attack and wanted to cut it off, my husband told me it wasnt a good idea but i made him free my hand. I had to take sleeping tablets to sleep but it just got worse. I was trying to hold it together and stay calm, focus on other stuff but it just wasnt working. After a breakdown at hospital they finally cut me free. I’ve never felt so good but the whole experience shook me up and the lack of control was scary. I’m due in on Tuesday, meant to be getting a proper cast on but there is no way I’m letting them do that! I saw online somewhere where they have supports which are strapped on so you can free yourself when you need to but I’m in England and these were from America. Hopefully I will find a solution but I would rather suffer my arm than my sanity! Glad I’m not alone!

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