Doctors Blame Strange Symptoms on Anxiety; Dysautonomia Diagnosis Spurs Patient to Start Petition

June 18, 2014

I became sick shortly after my 15th birthday.

I had visual disturbances, severe headaches, balance problems, seizure-like episodes, and many other symptoms. Originally it was thought I had head trauma, but a negative CT scan proved I hadn’t. I was sent to a pediatric neurologist, who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. After that, doctors didn’t listen to me, hurried my mum and I out of the room, and told me there was nothing that could be done. I spent spent several months trying to convince the doctors to actually investigate my symptoms, but I was told that it was all psychosomatic and would go away with time. I went to a psychiatrist, who told us that I didn’t have either depression or anxiety.

I went back to the doctors with this, and eventually I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy/complex regional pain syndrome, chronic migraines, and dysautonomia. I am also undergoing testing for a variety of other things, including ehlers danlos syndrome and mast cell activation disorder.

After looking at the treatment I had received and then speaking to some other girls my age and older, it became apparent there was a gender difference in how pain and symptomatology was treated. I did some research and found out women weren’t even included in clinical trials until the 1990’s! There is also a huge discrepancy in how males and females are treated, with women being more likely to die in hospital and less likely to be recommended for life saving surgeries. Based on the treatment I received and the research I did I started a petition for the American Medical Association to change the way pain treatment is taught in medical school to include a gender neutral stance on the diagnosis and treatment of pain. You can find it here.

Thank you so much for reading.

About Savannah Orth

I was born in Madison Wisconsin, and my family moved to Southern California when I was 18 months old. We adopted my brother from Guatemala in 2006, the same year I started swimming competitively. I swam up until last September, when I got sick. Currently I have a diagnosis of chronic migraines, RSD/CRPS, and dysautonomia. I am undergoing testing for ehlers danlos syndrome, mast cell activation disorder, and a whole host of other things. I love making jewelry, reading fantasy and science fiction (especially Harry Potter), and listening to music. Learn more at

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