OCD's Jerk-Face Cousin
February 9, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Life with hypochondria, as described by an anonymous and humorous buzzfeed user.
posted by airing nerdy laundry (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
OCD's Jerk-Face Cousin

WTF does that mean?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:29 AM on February 9, 2016

I interpreted it to mean that hypochondria has some features similar to OCD and that hypochondria is a jerk.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 11:32 AM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]

This is quite a heavy deal and I think it's called 'Health Anxiety' now. My mother is a sufferer and has had a healthy tooth pulled out (after a long battle with the dentist), multiple stomach scans/barium meals etc, a phantom stroke (3 nights in hospital), two weeks in isolation hospital, hands seized with no apparent cause, and god knows what else, all of which with no physiological cause, and all episodes must never be spoken about once concluded. She's now 70 and to be honest it has blighted her whole life. Any links/resources/thoughts appreciated!
posted by colie at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

OCD is a jerk-face, too. Anxiety disorders are a big unhappy jerk-face family.

It all started in third grade when my school sent home an informational flyer on Reye’s syndrome.

Reye's syndrome terrified me at that age; it didn't help that there were dire warnings on every aspirin bottle, and it especially didn't help that my parents preferred aspirin over Tylenol or Advil. I think I found it particularly scary because no one really knew what caused it, but it was connected to a thing that we had in our house, and it specifically affected kids.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:57 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

The worst part of this is that if her account is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt the author), her worries were at least partially vindicated. She lost an ovary because doctors didn't take her seriously!

That's a nightmare for anyone, but when your life is consumed by "what if I have this undetected illness," and then it turns out that you DID have a problem, any of the other worries seem that much more plausible.
posted by explosion at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

I was consumed by hypochondria from as early as I could remember until my first year of medical school. Every lump was cancer. Every abdominal pain was appendicitis. Every rash was Lyme disease.

And while most of my colleagues were learning about new diseases and becoming more worried about their own health, I was learning the important lesson that bad things typically don't go away and if I just waited two weeks, 99% of aches, pains, bumps, rashes, numb spots, headaches, and everything else would just go away without ever knowing the cause.
posted by Fritzle at 12:09 PM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

She lost an ovary because doctors didn't take her seriously!

Because the fear seems to be more about death and loss of control than either pain or disability, I think people suffering from health anxiety can be quite relieved when they do have a diagnosed, known, non-lethal condition that enables them to access non-judgmental care and finally have a treatment schedule that takes their mind off worrying about the next unknown body horror.
posted by colie at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

That's a nightmare for anyone, but when your life is consumed by "what if I have this undetected illness," and then it turns out that you DID have a problem, any of the other worries seem that much more plausible.

I can't speak to hypochondria, but an interesting feature of OCD is that despite constant worries that not performing rituals correctly (among other things) will trigger catastrophic bad things like family members dying, car accidents, etc. (this is of course an oversimplification of OCD), people with OCD tend to react very rationally when these catastrophic events actually occur for real.
posted by Gymnopedist at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have a tense version of this. I am a mild hypochondriac but with a full blown hypochondriac father so I tend to always think I am dying of something but because of my father's behavior I won't go to the doctor unless a limb actually falls off, blood is leaking out or a bone is broken.

I'm heading into the age of all kinds of mandatory screening protocols so I expect this detente to completely fall apart in a year or two.
posted by srboisvert at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been a hypochondriac since I was a kid. I tend to be the sort who doesn't visit the doctor twice a week, because (a) I'm rationally aware that 99% of things just go away without ever knowing the cause, and (b) I just don't want to know, because I know that any suspected major illness will just shut me down into an anxiety-fuelled, sick-feeling state of being unable to get out of bed. I can remember the time, in my early 30s, when the fact the one side of the underneath of my tongue doesn't look exactly like the other side convinced me that I had cancer. Every cough that lasted more than two weeks was also cancer. But worst by far was the cycle of palpitations and heart-attack-fear, because that one is a perfect cycle, where the fear itself produces a rapid pulse and palpitations, which then reinforce the fear. Not to mention the shortness of breath that anxiety causes, which of course is bound to be cancer in the mind of the hypochondriac.

Probably the most reassuring thing - 'reassuring' isn't the best word, but it'll have to do - was when my father died of bowel cancer in his late 70s, and I found out that his mother died from the same disease in her 70s. So at least now I have a specific and reasonable thing to hang my fears on, plus a time-frame where I can make sure that I start going for regular checkups in my 50s.
posted by pipeski at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

(Also, visit the /r/askdocs subreddit. It can be surprisingly helpful. I answer questions related to ENT when I have a minute or two and I've saved some people trips to the doc and made some others go who wouldn't have gone otherwise. It's particularly useful if you feel like you've gotten incomplete information from your doctor and you want elaboration on a particular topic.)
posted by Fritzle at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Health anxiety is a helluva thing. I should know, I've been battling various degrees of it for thirty years. I have a niece who's much the same way and a nephew who's recently had anxiety disorders of his own, so I get to be the relative who can relate to that and give them advice for managing it.


1) The odds are very good that, at your age, nothing is Seriously Wrong.

2) The odds are pretty good that if something is in fact Seriously Wrong, it will be obvious enough that no one around you will doubt that something is Seriously Wrong and they will help get you to the help you need.

3) However, see #1.

4) There are times when referring to #1 doesn't help. They call it 'anxiety' for a reason -- just because you understand that your fear is irrational doesn't make it vanish in a puff of logic, and as every hypochondriac tells themselves, they only have to be right _once_...

5) Time and experience help with #4. The first time you get a set of physical symptoms from anxiety it will scare the living shit out of you. The fifth time, it's more familiar, more understandable and more likely that you will recognize it as something that will, in fact, not kill you dead and that you can overcome.

6) Prescription drugs only help if you understand why you're taking them. An SSRI might help with symptoms; it does not eliminate cause. Otherwise it's like smashing your head with a mallet every morning and taking Advil for it; it's a smaller headache but it's still damaging.

7) When in doubt, refer to #1 and take deep and slow breaths and gather your thoughts.

8) If you are going to have a full-blown panic attack, there's no shame in that. Just use the experience later to reinforce #1, to point to when you're edgy to demonstrate that you are in fact Not Actually Dying.

9) If you are taking a prescription drug to help your anxiety, for the luvva pete take it when you're supposed to and don't miss doses and fucking don't just stop taking it on a whim, unless you like feeling like a lab animal inside a cathode ray tube.

10) If you do turn out to have incurable cancer of the soul and are in fact dying, kick me in the groin and yell I TOLD YOU SO. Until then, hang in there, and refer to #1.
posted by delfin at 1:31 PM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

people with OCD tend to react very rationally when these catastrophic events actually occur for real.

In my experience (I am a person with OCD, I am not your person with OCD, your OCD may vary, etc.) this is roughly accurate. I have yet to experience any of the things I specifically get intrusive thoughts about (knock on wood), but when something bad happens or when the possibility of something scary passes a certain might-actually-happen-for-real threshold, my brain sort of clicks over into a calmer, more rational crisis-management mode. It's like if something's actually happening, I no longer have to be afraid of it happening.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:05 PM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]

I feel I'm justifiably anxious. I, and people I care about (who have no history of anxiety of any kind) have gotten conflicting (or wrong) reports and erroneous advice more times than I can count or remember.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:25 PM on February 9, 2016

But that's - not even iatrophobia, more like "rational distrust of the health care system".
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2016

The function-in-a-crisis OCD superpower surprises me exactly zero. In fact it reminds me very much of drilling, in the practice-repetition sense. Shakespeare had Julius Caesar saying that a coward dies a thousand times before his death, so no surprise if he walks it off like a pro on the 1,001st take.
posted by Lou Stuells at 2:37 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Lou Stuells at 2:38 PM on February 9, 2016

That article neatly summed up my life for the past eight years or so. I've had problems with obsessive and negative thinking and anxiety generally since I was young and it has just spiralled out of control in new and horrible ways as I've got older.

I was fine until my mom died relatively quickly and unexpectedly and about two years later I had my first health anxiety-related breakdown and am currently going through my fourth one (started at Xmas, so no festivities, no New Year and no 50th birthday for me).

It's a peculiar kind of hell where your distorted and cyclical thinking powers and is powered by a whole bunch of symptoms that can't be anything other than sinister, when they're actually innocuous, if they're even real. I hate it and the rational part of me fights hard to maintain some sort of balance but the emotional and primitive parts always win out. It's hard to remember what's good about things sometimes when I'm in the real grip of an episode.

In terms of getting better, citalopram has helped in the past (waiting for a recently increased dose to start working), and having an endlessly patient partner means I don't get to feel like I'm being a burden too often. I'm even thinking about seeking some sort of therapy to try and help get things under control but the nasty little voice just whispers away that there's no point trying to get help as this time there's really going to be something wrong and I will just be fooling myself.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:19 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is one of the more frustrating conditions my spouse has refused to seek help for (or half the time even recognise). He was raised that the only time he got attention was when he was "sick" and the normal parental abandonment meant smothering control of all input and output of their body with frequent doctor visits for their clearly terminal disease and an escalation of the already ever-present anxiety.

This has meant I cannot get sick, ever. The few times I have had no choice but to take a few hours to lie down because the pain is too great my partner immediately lies beside me, moaning and pleading for water, food, the iPad etc; asking me to get up every few minutes, he is bedridden for days after I am up and about because "they caught it from me". I'm like, dude, my menstral cramps and plantar facistius (spelling, but whatever) are NOT communicatable. And don't even get me started on how my natural childbirth was so hard on his body that he needed two weeks in bed to recover while I looked after the toddlers and newborn...
posted by saucysault at 3:53 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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