What do you call someone who has a headache, googles all her symptoms on Web MD and convinces herself that she has a brain tumor? A hypochondriac.
I have a confession to make. I, Celeste Forrest, am a hypochondriac. A hypochondriac is someone who is abnormally anxious about their health. This health anxiety is medically referred to as “hypochondria.” If you’re still unfamiliar with the term, let me give you the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of hypochondria:
“unusual or excessive concern about your health; a tendency to fear or imagine that you have illnesses that you do not actually have.”
Now, as a hypochondriac, I have a few more confessions to make. You see, we hypochondriacs know that every time we feel “weird” or “sick” it’s really all in our head. Our so-called “symptoms” are made up; we’re not actually dying of some rare disease or an incurable virus. However, we can’t help but have these terribly annoying habits that never help our anxiety at all. Let me elaborate:
- Hypochondriacs always check their symptoms online. Why do we even do this to ourselves? This is the worst, worst, worst, worst, worst, worst worst thing we could ever do to ourselves. No matter what we have, whether it’s a simple headache or a stomachache, Web MD or Mayo Clinic will always suggest we are having a stroke or stomach cancer. First of all, hypochondria is a health related anxiety, and checking your symptoms about your current health condition only can exacerbate your anxiety even more. It’s a vicious cycle; you start off feeling sick, you google, “why do I feel light-headed?” or “is my appendix erupting?” and before long, you’re convinced you’re dying, and you start to feel even more anxious. The more anxiety you feel, the more anxiety-related symptoms occur, making you feel even more sick than you did before. So, moral of the story is, never google your symptoms. Not ever.
Plus, if you’re really sick, go to a doctor who knows what she’s talking about and can properly diagnose you, not the internet.
- Hypochondriacs are a living Paradox. Along those lines of going to see a doctor, let me tell you a secret about hypochondriacs. We like going to the doctor. We like going to the doctor a little too much. Why? Because, doctors give us the reassurance that we’re actually okay. The funny thing about hypochondriacs is that deep down inside, we know there is absolutely nothing wrong with us, yet for some reason, we need psychological reassurance from an outside source to convince us our anxious thoughts are not real. However, as much as we like visiting the doctor, there’s still a paradoxical fear that keeps us from going to them. Sometimes, we are afraid that if we do visit the doctor, he/she will find out that there is something seriously wrong with us, and we will need medical treatment. To know that that is a possibility, even a small possibility, often terrifies us to the point we never go, even if we really need to. On the opposite side of that spectrum, there are hypochondriacs that visit the doctors so often there is a possibility that medical staff will take their cases a lot less seriously, kind of like the boy who cried wolf. There’s a chance that if there ever is a serious problem, that problem will go undiagnosed until it’s too late. When it comes to hypochondria, it’s important to find that medium. Your visits to the doctor need to occur at a normal rate, not too much, not too little.
- Even if the whole world is telling them there is nothing wrong, hypochondriacs always seem to be in denial. This is the confession that is the hardest for most people who suffer from health anxiety to accept. Even if their friends say they’re okay, and their families agree there is nothing to worry about, and doctors are telling them they’re fine, and tests are coming back negative, and all the medical proof is there, hypochondriacs sometimes still feel like there is something wrong. This is where our sense of denial becomes a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. Often, if it ever were to come down to this, it’s always great to talk to an experienced counselor who can talk you through your phobias. There is nothing wrong with feeling sick every once in a while. There is something wrong when an irrational fear gets the best of you and starts to take over your life. There is nothing wrong with talking to someone about it, researching about it and finding professional help. Here at the SNU, I’ve found very supportive people at Renew Counseling that have talked to me about my anxieties, and this really helped!
Whether you’re a hypochondriac or not, don’t feel like you’re going crazy, because you’re not. There are people here that truly care about you and want to help you. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone, and they’ll tell you the truth: you’re going to be all right. However, for the record, just remember you heard it first from the confessions of a hypochondriac.