hypochondria. part 1. what it is and how it is.

As a professional hypochondriac, I’ve come to two conclusions. First, how your problem becomes your identity. And second, how it forces you to look at life. I’ll do this in two posts because they’re different points.

Firstly. This is what people don’t understand about hypochondria. The problem is more complicated than just thinking you have some horrible disease. It’s also that you grow attached to your horrible disease. And slowly, it begins to teach you something about how you face your own life, if you choose to close your Google tab for just a minute and think.

This is how it was for me in the beginning. When you get your first symptom, you panic. You run immediately to the nearest computer and start googling. Now you’re in full-blown panic mode. If you’re like me, you’ll get really dizzy and nauseous. Your ears start buzzing and you have to go lie down before you throw up or faint. You’ll calm down for a bit, but you’ll cycle through this process numerous times.

There’s hundreds of definitions of the word “hypochondriac” out there, but I think this one suits me best:

Hypochondriac: A person who has hypochondriasis, a disorder characterized by a preoccupation with body functions and the interpretation of normal body sensations (such as sweating) or minor abnormalities (such as minor aches and pains) as portending problems of major medical moment. Reassurance by physicians and others only serves to increase the hypochondriac’s persistent anxiety about their health.

(Thank you to Medicine Net https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18717)

You know you’re a hypochondriac when you are disappointed by good test results. To the hypochondriac, it doesn’t mean that you can breathe a sigh of relief. It means that the test must have missed something and now the doctor is going to ignore any further persistence. It’s like being a little street urchin having the door slammed in your face, leaving you in the dark icy cold like Tiny Tim or something. My reasoning is, what if it’s a sign of something serious? What if I really have something horrible and the first sign was pinkie toe pain and I ignored it? Doctors always tell you, “Oh, it’s just one of those things.” But what if there is no such thing as “one of those things”?

People tell you to stop thinking about, it’s nothing, you’re crazy, stay off your computer, see a therapist, take some anti-anxiety drugs, get a job. Rationally, I know that in most cases it is nothing. But the fear is real and not always irrational. How many stories do we read about people who kept getting put off, only to learn months, perhaps years, later, that if the doctors had caught it early, it wouldn’t have been so bad?

For me, I eventually reached the point where I was convinced that I had what I thought I had. I resigned myself to it. And weirdly, I became attached to it.

It was like my constant companion. It went everywhere with me. Bizarrely, there were times when the thought of its not really being wrong with me was upsetting. Offensive, even, to suggest that I was imagining this all along, although if I were right it would be pretty detrimental to my health. Yet, it would be like losing a precious friend. At first I was terrified of having whatever I thought it was. And now the prospect of not having it is equally terrifying. Who will I be without it? 

See, I think that’s where the real issue begins to creep in. You identify so strongly with your problem that you don’t know anymore how to separate yourself from it. And what about all those wasted months worrying about it, googling it, talking about it, going to the doctors, taking tests? You almost feel compelled to justify this by actually being sick. So you need to ask yourself, why am I invested in this? How does this serve me? Why am I allowing this to take such a toll on my mental health?

But I discovered an interesting, possibly fruitful, aspect to this: ask yourself, if I really, really, believe something is truly wrong with me, how am I going to face it? And this will reveal quite a bit about how you cope with life.

Does anyone else suffer from this clinical need to google incessantly? And how does this affect your life?

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