Vaso-Vagal Discussion

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scary attacks when alone

From: Sandy Lou
Date: 11/10/00
Time: 11:06:33 PM
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Hiya! I am a 24 year old female, 5'3", 129 pounds. I just moved to Madison, WI for graduate school and visited my new doctor for the first time today. I made sure to bring a word processed list of every strange episode and symptom that could explain why I was sure that I was dying. One of the things that I asked him about was the recurring "spell" that I would have for one valid reason or another off-the-wall reason. Today was the first day that I'd heard the term "vaso vagal", so I took notes so that I could do some research after my appointment. I've just read through all of your responses, and I feel so much better that other people experience this, too, and that people are trying to get it figured out.

I was 8 years old the first time that I had my first attack. We were watching a "safety" movie. I remember scenes where someone cut themselves washing knives in a sink, where a cycling kid wrecked his bike on the side of the road and split his neck open--it's all very vivid still. I felt like I'd stopped breathing, I couldn't pull myself together. I had to sit in the hallway for the rest of the movie, and I remember that the cold, cold floor felt like something that I needed to be in contact with.

Other times, I've stepped on my foot wrong and have wound up on the floor, unable to hold my head straight, hearing a distinct DRONING in my ears, the tunnel vision would come, sweating. Always, a cold sensation has felt necessary.

Three years ago, I was in a biology class, and my professor was discussing female reproductive disorders. I was sitting right next to the overhead projector. I thought that I was going to die. His voice faded away, the droning in my ears came back, tunnel vision, the whole nine yards.

I stepped on a nail in the spring of 99, and the episode came much, much faster then. I barely had time to sit down on the floor, and I was out. I woke up, and I had lost bladder control. I was very embarrassed.

My last episode was this summer. It was so strange. It was really, really scary, because I live by myself. I was housesitting for some people who were going to be gone for a while, and I didn't have people who checked up on me regularly. I remember being preoccupied with some task all day. I had a large bag of cheese puffs and kept coming back to it for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. I drank plenty of water and only ate cheese puffs. Suddenly, I had a horrible spell in the bathroom. I thought that I was going to die. I thought that even if I fell into a coma, no one would be around to take me to the hospital or call 911. I got into the bathtub wearing all of my clothes still, terribly frightened of passing out again, and I turned on the cold water to shock myself out of it. I had to lay there for about ten or fifteen minutes in the cold water before I felt okay to get out of the tub. I proceeded to have the absolute worst diarrhea of my life. I believe that it was even green. Does anyone have a clue about this?

I can bring myself to sneeze in the sun, too, or by looking at a bright light. But, I have very dark hair and dark eyes, so I don't think that that has anything to do with it (unless I inherited some gene that codes for that from my dad who is fair-complected).

I avoid salt like the plague. I hate it so much. Maybe I've been contributing to my own disorder. I'm going to print out some of this stuff that I'm finding to show my doctor so that we can work this out possibly.

Anyhow, I like to think that I'm a healthy person. I drink copious amounts of water, avoid caffeine (except in occasional moments of weakness), eat lots of fiber, exercise regularly, heck-I work with plants, and that's even therapeutic. I'm so glad that this resource is available. There's nothing more frightening than feeling completely alone and finding yourself unable to explain what's going on when you shut down physically.

Please e-mail me at if you have advice! It's much appreciated! :)

This web site is not a substitute for a thorough medical evaluation and diagnosis of your vaso-vagal type symptoms.  Medical treatment and diagnosis is the only acceptable initial response to these serious symptoms since they might present from any number of life threatening and treatable illnesses. It is for you and your physician to rule out more serious illnesses; Please don't use this online forum as an alternative to getting responsible medical attention and being under the care of a physician for the duration of any unknown, suspected or dangerous vaso-vagal syndrome symptoms.
Last changed: June 22, 2007