Health Anxiety (Also known as Hypochondria) is not fun at all. It’s not a joke, it’s not an excuse. It is a real thing that in truth is hard to deal with and doesn’t get nearly enough coverage.
“Oh stop being such a hypochondriac” . That phrase has been around forever hasn’t it? When you’re a kid and you’re crying because you fell over, that’s the response you’d be met with, at least in my case.
What is Health Anxiety?
As a kid you then think in your head that the term must be meant for people who worry about nothing, people who make up injuries or something like that. That’s a bad perception to have. So what exactly is Hypochondria?
It’s someone with Anxiety, who frequently over analyses their own health. They might Google for answers, frantically ask others to judge their health for them, make GP appointments that they don’t need and more. It’s basically an irrational fear of having something wrong with your health.
You’re having a panic attack and your heart is racing? You’ll probably convince yourself you’re actually having a heart attack. Got a headache? Nope, definitely a tumour and your head is going to explode, because you were on Google for 3 hours and it said so.
Don’t Use Google
One thing to mention here though, is please do not Google anything about health. It’s not helpful, it doesn’t know everything and you’ll likely only feel worse if you do. The same symptoms for cancer can match up with something as simple as a cold.
Instead, try a national non-emergency helpline. In the UK we have 111, whose job it is to assist in non-emergencies that would otherwise take up the valuable time of a doctor or ambulance crew.
Finding Out I Had Anxiety
As mentioned before, I was always under the assumption Hypochondria was a made up thing. That was until I was around 16-17. Yes, it took that long for someone to actually explain it to me. Mental Health wasn’t widely spoken about back then.
It took for me to one day go to the GP practice nearby, and speak to a doctor who sat me down and as she genuinely put it, “cut the bulls**t”. Her approach was apparently to talk to me like one of her own kids (who also struggled with it) and not a doctor.
This not only helped me understand and calm down, but the lack of professional terminology meant I couldn’t really over process her words. I took them at face value.
She explained that a lot of it was just in my head, that I get anxious and that it’s okay to feel like that. I was told that Health Anxiety was a real thing and she suggested looking into CBT or counselling. Which I didn’t do for a while, but eventually did.
How bad can health anxiety be though? Surely it’s not that bad some might say?
My Own Experiences
I’ve fallen into a few bad habits over the years because of it. One of the big ones was over obsessing over my knees, which I wrote about on The Knee Thing.
I learned from the same aforementioned doctor (I think, my memory of that time isn’t amazing), that I’d had about 19 different doctors appointments that year. I had no idea and it’s crazy to think of. I probably only needed maybe one or two of those and I’m rather ashamed of the fact.
Another notable one was in part due to the stress of my prior relationship. My now ex-girlfriend and I had an incredibly unhealthy relationship, one that absolutely needed to end.
This left me in a world of hurt all the time. Constant headaches from stress and anxiety, tooth grinding which resulted in further headaches and more. I thought my head was going to literally pop, all of the time. This led to me going to bed around 7pm and taking medication that I absolutely didn’t need. Which is an apt transition point.
Problems With Medication
I was also falling into bad habits with medication. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a full blown addiction, I’d taken the proper amount at the proper times and I didn’t mix and match meds. However, I looked back at one point and realised I’d gone through like 36 different types of medicine in the space of 3 months or so.
One of them had just been ‘banned’ apparently, which I didn’t know and kept taking for a while longer. Their side effect was stomach bleeding and ulcers. Not a nice side effect, but luckily I didn’t get it.
I eventually stopped and this put me on a brief path of being adamant I’d never use any painkillers again. That lasted not very long at all, until I was anxious again and taking paracetamol that I didn’t need.
In total, this has happened with meds about 4 times in my adult life. It’s now been a few years and I’m doing okay, only taking them when absolutely necessary. Still wild though what I was doing. Had I become fully addicted, I have no doubts I’d probably be dead.
As said at the start, it’s no joke. I’ve had a banging headache the entire time I’ve been writing this, trying not to stress about the fact I have hayfever and my sinuses are congested, but of course my head is going to explode right? Because that’s completely logical.
At times it can feel like it’s ruining your life, but you have to push through it. I try and handle it the same way I handle my normal anxiety. I stop myself, rethink and refocus.
Heads don’t just suddenly explode, if I was going to die it would likely be a lot more excruciating than anything I’ve ever felt so far. It’s all in my head and I just need to forget about it.
Just like that, it’s gone. CBT is definitely something good to try. If this all sounds like you and you need help, speak to a doctor about CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). It’s wonderful what it can do for you.
Remember that you aren’t alone and having anxiety is completely normal. You can get through it though. Whoever you are reading this, whether it’s Health Anxiety or regular Anxiety, you can do it. I believe in you, I truly do.
Post by Michael Sallabank