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10 Symptoms of Dysautonomia – as Told by Memes

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Dysautonomia, or dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), isn’t the easiest illness to explain. Not only are there multiple conditions that fall under the dysautonomia umbrella (including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, neurocardiogenic syncope, inappropriate sinus tachycardia and multiple system atrophy), but there are a number of misconceptions about what it’s like to live with dysautonomia.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for all of your body’s automatic functions, such as heart rate, breathing, temperature regulation and digestion. So when it malfunctions, it can have major consequences throughout your body, affecting multiple organs and systems. Well-intentioned friends and family may try to relate when you tell them about your symptoms, saying things like, “Oh, I sometimes get a little dizzy if I stand up quickly, too,” but these kinds of statements miss the mark, and the lack of true understanding can quickly become frustrating and lonely.

That’s why we rounded up some memes that may help you explain several of the symptoms you experience – and perhaps even make you laugh in the process. Because sometimes, laughing at the ridiculous symptoms so many of those with dysautonomia experience can truly help you cope. See if you relate to the memes below, and share with your loved ones who don’t understand what it’s like to have autonomic dysfunction.

1. Tachycardia/Bradycardia

Since the autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, dysautonomia can cause both tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate) and bradycardia (abnormally low heart rate). Depending on the type of dysautonomia you have, you may experience one more commonly than the other, or fluctuate between the two extremes.

my heart laying down, rolling over and standing up, just trying to live my life
via littlekinesthesia Tumblr
man labeled "my dysautonomia" looking at a butterfly labeled "any change in posture" and asking, "Is this me dying?"
via u/theboylilikoi Reddit

2. Blood Pooling

Blood pooling can happen in the extremities due to issues with blood flow and circulation in those with dysautonomia. A healthy ANS typically adjusts heart rate and muscle tightness to help pump blood back up from the feet and legs, since gravity naturally pulls it down. But in those with dysautonomia, these mechanisms may not work properly, which can cause blood to pool. Many of those with the condition may wear compression stockings to help improve blood flow and prevent pooling.

I see you're going out without compression socks... I too like to live dangerously
via @chronically_recovering_athlete Instagram

3. Lightheadedness/Dizziness

Inability to regulate heart rate and blood pressure can cause dizziness when moving, standing or changing positions. Many of those with dysautonomia may experience orthostatic intolerance, causing them to feel extremely lightheaded while standing.

that feeling you get when you get up too fast: alice in wonderland
via @_dysautonomiahumor Instagram
standing up when you have pots: mr. krabs with the world spinning around him
via unpopulargirls Tumblr

4. Fatigue

Chronic fatigue is a common symptom across many chronic conditions. Those with dysautonomia may experience extreme fatigue and exhaustion that often cannot be relieved by simply “taking a nap” or “getting some rest.”

folks with chronic fatigue be like: we've had one night's sleep, yes, but how about a second night's sleep
via artekka Tumblr
sometimes it takes me all day to get nothing done
via @fibro_spoonie_ Instagram

5. Inability to Regulate Temperature

Since temperature regulation is a function of the ANS, those with dysautonomia may struggle with overheating and not being able to cool themselves down, or being freezing (especially in the extremities) and unable to warm themselves up.

I wonder what it's like to not massively overheat every time it's above 65°f: gif of man yelling "it's too hot, it's too bloody hot, it's ruining everything, tell it to stop!'
via made-of-more-bees Tumblr
when your body can't regulate its temperature correctly so it responds to change with making half of itself freezing and the other half on fire fun times
via starburned Tumblr

6. Fainting (Syncope)

While poor blood flow and circulation can often lead to lightheadedness and dizziness, the effects may sometimes be severe enough to cause the individual to faint, or lose consciousness. This may often happen when those with dysautonomia stand up, or remain on their feet for too long, as gravity pulls blood down and away from the brain without the ANS being able to pump enough back upward.

fainting in public and subsequently comforting everyone in the surrounding area
via spoonie-humour Tumblr
I don't always get up quickly, but when I do, I faint
via @stripedspoons Instagram

7. Brain Fog

Another common symptom among those with chronic illness is brain fog, or cognitive dysfunction. This may make thinking, remembering, concentrating and decision-making difficult for those with dysautonomia.

Trying to keep up my end of a conversation during brain fog... Michael Scott saying, "sometimes I'll start a sentence and I don't even know where it's going"
via spoonies4ever Tumblr
brain fog: I think I got it, but just in case, tell me the entire thing again, I wasn't listening
via spooniestrong Tumblr

8. Poor Circulation

Issues with heart rate and blood pressure can make it difficult for the body to properly circulate blood, especially in the extremities. Decreased blood flow can cause the hands or feet to become cold, painful or numb.

when your hands are always freezing because of poor circulation so your family uses them as ice packs… i'm not even kidding... image of elsa holding up frozen hands
via dysautonomia-survival-guide Tumblr
comic of a man lying on the floor sweating but wearing socks and mittens. he's saying, "this is bullshit. I could be sweating my ass off and my hands and feet would still be frozen"
via @superpalecomics Instagram

9. Digestive Issues

The ANS controls the functioning of the digestive system, which means dysautonomia can cause gastrointestinal issues such as dysmotility (such as gastroparesis), nausea, diarrhea, constipation or incontinence.

when you calculate how long it will take to digest what you just ordered
via @_dysautonomiahumor Instagram
stomach, if you could not send shooting pain through me every 20 minutes that would be great
via @hergastroparesis Instagram

10. Low/High Blood Pressure

Although the autonomic nervous system is supposed to keep blood pressure steady, the different types of dysautonomia can cause it to suddenly spike or drop. This can lead to a number of symptoms or complications, such as fainting.

Heard this on tv the other day. EMT: his BP is 90/60! And dropping. Guy: passed out and hooked up to oxygen and IV Me: hahahahahahaha. This is ridiculous. That's what happens every time I stand up.
via caroline-margaret Tumblr
when my blood pressure starts acting up... give me a pillow, give me some snacks, because i'm not going anywhere
via thischroniclife Tumblr
Originally published: October 15, 2018
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