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Anesthesiology/Can general anesthesia cause panic attacks/anxiety?



This has been a question that has bothered me for years.  I am 17 years old and have had a rough battle with panic attacks and anxiety for 9 years.  I am doing much much better now though, and rarely have full blown panic attacks now as I know how to control it.  

But anyways, that's beyond the point. I have had surgery 5 times in my life, all of which having to do with ENT(tubes in my ears 5 times, with one of these times getting my tonsils and adenoids out too). The fourth time that I had surgery, I just had tubes put in my ears. It was my first time having surgery at this particular hospital.. But the thing that freaked me out right before I zonked out with the anesthesia was that I felt extremely cold, and like I was sort of in a mirage, like I wasn't really there. When I woke up from surgery, I remember immediately sitting up for no apparent reason, and it was very strange.  

That night after I got home I experienced a panic attack, and I associated it with that strange feeling right before falling asleep from that anesthesia.  

So I guess what I've always been curious about is it the actual general anesthesia that could have caused me to get my anxiety and panic attacks?  Or could it have just been because It was a "traumatic" experience in my childhood and that caused me to get scared more often?

Like I said, I've always wondered, and any information you would be able to supply with would be awesome!

Thank you so much!

Michelle McKenney

Anesthesia cannot cause panic attacks and so was not the cause of your original attacks. I can't explain why you had the one incident you describe (without seeing the anesthetic record) and perhaps the negative experience triggered a panic attack but the anesthetic itself was not responsible.

Ronald Levy, MD
Professor of Anesthesiology


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Ronald Levy, M.D.


Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. I am a board certified anesthesiologist who can answer all questions related to any type of Anesthesia with the exception of Pain Management.

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