Anxiety and Prilosec

Being a brand new first-time father and working as a systems administrator means I don’t have a lot of spare time for Hobbies (e.g.: blogging, homebrewing, etc). Given that my brew pipeline is full of multiple batches, I can now allocate more time to blogging.

This story is long, and I don’t blame you if you don’t read it. You can skip the background and jump straight to my experience with Prilosec if that is what brought you to this page. But if you can devote the time, please read this in its entirety.

For those of you that don’t know, over the course of a year after I relocated for a new job I suffered from what I like to call “acute health anxiety” and borderline agoraphobia. It all started one fateful afternoon in mid 2014 as I rode in the vanpool on my way home from work. As I sat there reading on my phone, I began to feel very light-headed, my hands felt tingly, and I started to black out. Fortunately, I was close to my stop, and as soon as I stepped out of the van I felt much better and was able to walk a few blocks to the apartment I was living in at the time.

This was where it all started.

Still shaken from the events of the van, I was not able to sleep that night. The next day I was very anxious over the whole incident, and drove my own car to work. Being unable to concentrate on the job, I went to an urgent care center. After a clear EKG and other tests I was diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), for which they prescribed me some form of dramamine that was very successful in making me sleep.

The next day I took the vanpool again. Going to work I was fine – nervous, of course, that I may experience the same terrifying blackout sensation, but fine nonetheless. On my way home, I began to have shortness of breath like I have never experienced before in my life. I was breathing hard, gasping for air, and no matter how deeply I breathed I felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen into my body. Panic set in, and after a few moments of this I laid my head on the vanpool window and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to suffocate or pass out. And then it happened – nothing. I didn’t pass out, I didn’t suffocate, but I slowly returned back to normal as the other vanpool riders stared at me in shock.

I once again was able to walk home under my own power after getting out of the van. This second vanpool incident resulted in another night of lost sleep (the second of many).

Being new to the area, I didn’t have an established physician yet, so I quickly sought one out for followup and checkup. During this time, I also made the grave mistake of Googling the symptoms that I had. What did my Google-fu return? Oh, nothing, just multiple sclerosis, heart failure, blood clots, and a whole variety of other things. Yikes!

Over the next year..

  • I began taking my own personal vehicle to work and around town instead of the vanpool and walking. This gave me an “escape plan” should I need to go to the Doctor or Hospital.
  • I began having frequent episodes of shortness of breath, intense enough that I would have to pull over and get out of the car.
  • I began visiting doctors. A lot. My doctor. Allergists. Urgent care centers. You name it. It got so bad, I would drive to an urgent care center and sit in the parking lot, trying to justify the visit to myself before I went in. And once I justified the visit, I never accepted the Doctors advice or information. I began to think I must have something wrong with me. My heart must be going out. They must have missed something.
  • I started having severe diarrhea. Every day. For weeks.
  • I became addicted to taking my pulse.
  • I started having a ton of heart palpitations
  • I started having random muscles twitching. More Google fu. More bad news.
  • I visited the ER. Twice. Multiple EKGs, an echocardiogram, blood work, and an in-home 24-hour EKG all came back negative for anything. But still, they must have missed something
  • I began not wanting to do anything. I dreaded going outside. I dreaded going for drives. I dreaded anything that would raise my heart rate. I felt like I was on severely limited borrowed time
  • My life and my relationship with my (now) wife was going downhill fast..

    One of the things my doctor diagnosed me with during this time was GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). He also prescribed me Prilosec to take to combat my GERD. I took Prilosec for a few days, feeling a bit off. Being addicted to taking my pulse because I was sure something was wrong with my heart, I had purchased a pulse oximeter. After taking Prilosec, I noticed that my pulse oximeter was indicating that I was skipping beats to the tune of several every minute. Nevertheless, I went for a walk with my significant other around the track at a high school. It was during this walk that my pulse skyrocketed to damn-near-200 and I felt like I was going to pass out. I was terrified. I raced to the emergency room for what would be the second time in as many months, and after a whole battery of tests I got the “all-clear” and was sent home with orders to “follow up with my physician about panic attacks”. When mentioning that I just started Prilosec, the ER physician shrugged it off as “curious” and “Interesting”, as did my regular physician on followup.

    Being a systems administrator I know cause and effect. I had just began to take Prilosec, and now I damn near had a heart attack. So what do I do? I take another Prilosec pill the next day, experience the same sensation, experience extremely dark beer-colored urine, and then quit taking the pills. The racing heart and terror sensations lasted a couple more days, and subsided. The dark urine was gone instantly after quitting Prilosec.

    Originally when Prilosec was released to the market, it had no indication that it would or could cause issues with your heart. However, in “post release” or “post market”, Prilosec has officially been linked to a higher risk of heart attack due to (among other things) the fact that it can inhibit magnesium absorption. The Prilosec side-effects list has been updated to reflect the data that were not available with the small subset of people they had done a trial of the drug on. There are also some class-action lawsuits that are arising because of death and/or damages done to those that have had an adverse reaction to Prilosec.

    Now, I’m not saying you should disregard the advice of your Doctor, but given the data that ties Prilosec to heart conditions are very new, your Doctor is probably not up to speed on it. After all, they are human too. If you have an adverse reaction like this to Prilosec and your Doctor insists you keep taking the drug, or shrugs it off as something else, please direct them to any number of recent studies that are showing this link. These can be easily found by doing a Google search on prilosec heart condition.

    Medical Conclusions
    My doctor(s) diagnosed me with a few things after dozens of tests came back negative:

  • Anxiety disorder (cause for some panic attacks, “heart” issues, hyperventilation, diarrhea)
  • Addictive personality (I get addicted to things. Fast. Thus my addiction to visiting Doctors and pulse checking)
  • Severely deficient in vitamin D (my vitamin D reading was 19 – the lowest my doctor has seen in his career.)
  • Severely deficient in magnesium (twitchiness, can lead to heart rhythm issues)
  • GERD
  • I’m allergic to Prilosec and/or the extended release coating on it
  • I’m allergic to dust.And apparently, I’m allergic to taking the advice of Doctors.Overcoming
    With time came the realization that the full on panic attacks were a result of Prilosec, as stopping Prilosec made them stop. The shortness of breath and other things were attributed to very low magnesium and vitamin-D levels, as well as the stress of moving, getting engaged, and starting a new job all at the same time. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I am an addict. I get addicted to things. Easily. Package all of the above together and you come up with a recipe for a self fulfilling prophecy of anxiety and panic. With time, vitamin supplements, and a lot of internal reflection, I’ve been able to overcome and keep my panic at bay.Is it there? Always. Is it under control? Yes.

    In hindsight, now that I am over that period of my life, I can say that the Doctors were correct – nothing was wrong aside from being anxious and allergic to Prilosec. But, at the time, I did not believe them.


  • The forums and chatroom helped me a lot.
  • Ocean Recovery Centre: Here’s a useful guide explaining the link between addiction and anxiety
  • meANXIETYme: One persons blog about living with Anxiety. They had a very similar experience as I did with Prilosec. It also helps knowing you are not alone.Your experiences and comments more than welcome.
    You can also E-Mail Me
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  1. It’s interesting as I didn’t recall that you had been diagnosed with BPPV. I have imbalance due to silent migraines (so they tell me), which causes me to have anxiety. Generally, since its onset 15 years ago, my brain has adapted to my imbalance. But on days when it gets really bad, I feel like I’m on a boat all the time (“floaty” and bobbing sensations), which increases my anxiety because I’m afraid I’ll fall or crash my car.

    Not alone. It’s helpful to feel that way. Thanks for sharing your experiences and linking to my blog.

    1. Oh my goodness! I feel like I’m on a boat all the time too! I’m also super sensitive to a lot of medications. I’ve been on Prilosec for 5 years and this story could have been written by me, down to buying a pulse ox to check my heart rate! I stopped Prilosec 2 weeks ago and I’m on a very bland diet. I still have insomnia, but I seem to be managing better. I know this was a couple years ago, but I hope you are better now!

  2. Just found your blog post after being severely afflicted with panic (racing heart, shortness of breath, etc.) after I took Prilosec for a few weeks. I have stopped taking it but the symptoms persist (perhaps worsened by a brief stint of Zoloft to try to ease the problem). Is there anything you have found that makes the problem go away faster? I’ve been off the Prilosec for 3 weeks but am still struggling. Like you I’ve had multiple EKGs, ER visits and am otherwise very healthy. Thanks.

    1. Hi Hester — try magnesium supplements. My symptoms got a lot better after taking magnesium for a week or so. I take a regular dose (500mg?) before bed every night. Prilosec can interfere with mag absorption.

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