Health anxiety? You mean “WebMD syndrome”?

So I have been told I am a hypochondriac (hence, the name of the blog). It’s a very common form of anxiety that causes you to think you have every disease, health problem or condition there is. Of course, I come from a pretty tough family. Nothing bothers the older generations in my family. Me? I am constantly checking my pulse. Dillon often makes fun of me, and I laugh along, but it is somewhat of a bothersome habit. I find myself hiding my hand under my hair just to see if my heart is beating correctly. My doctor has tried to tell me multiple times that heart palpitations (where you feel your heart flutter/ beat oddly) can be caused by none other than anxiety. But I, being my normal nervous self, still get scared when I feel the slightest out-of-place heartbeat.

That’s not all! Even the smallest twinge in my body causes me to go full panic mode. I know I’m not the only one. Have you ever felt a small pain in your shoulder as if you slept in a twisted position? Or maybe just had indigestion that caused acid reflux? Not scary at all, right? Now, imagine someone with health anxiety having these symptoms. That small pain in your shoulder? Oh, that’s a symptom of a heart attack! Indigestion? Could I have cancer in my stomach? It’s rough to live like that.

So what does a hypochondriac do to avoid getting the right diagnosis from a licensed professional? Why, we check WebMD, of course!

Take it from someone who used to have this website as my homepage. I’m ashamed to say I still sometimes look up symptoms on google, but I do stay far away from WebMD. Instead, I look at other forums at what real people have to say about them. FYI: It still doesn’t help. But, we still do it, if only to find some sort of confirmation.

You may have heard to never look up your symptoms online. For one thing, it may not be accurate. For another thing, one symptom can be anything. If you have a minor ache, nine times out of ten it won’t be anything serious.

“But, Courtney, you just said you still look up your symptoms!”

Yes, reader, I know. I try not to, like I said, but for some people it’s a habit, like smoking. I do smoke, so I would know. And yes, smoking can cause health problems, so don’t do it! I think it’s pretty ironic, actually. I smoke, cause myself harm, and worry about my health. It’s like starting a fire and worry about it burning something. If you’re like me, though, it is so hard to quit. Especially with anxiety. It takes patience to kick something like that and patience is just something we don’t often have. But that’s a topic for another day!

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, WebMD. Now, I have no earthly idea why this site was created. I’m sure its creator meant well and just wanted to help people, but for hypochondriacs it’s a nightmare. It may seem easy enough. You don’t have to put pants on and drive all the way to the doctor and pay an outrageous amount for them to tell you you’re okay. WebMD is easy! But, it is not an accurate diagnosis! I may be repeating myself, here, but I can’t stress this enough!

So what can we do to at least try and stop doing this? Well, as I said in my first post, everyone is different. I will tell you what has kept me from searching Google multiple times, though.

A lot of times I’ll have a very small symptom, like maybe have a stomach pain (I have all kinds of stomach problems. Anywhere from acid reflux to IBS. *sigh*). When this happens, I refrain from checking the internet. What I do is set my mind to more logical thoughts. I ask myself: “Have I had this pain before?” “How bad is it hurting or bothering me?” “Is it interfering with my daily activities?” “What are the odds that it’s serious?” I pretty much am able to answer my own questions. “Yes, I have had this before and it didn’t last very long, anyway.” “I don’t have any other major symptoms, so maybe it’s just my body telling me I need to stop eating junk food.” When I can reassure myself that it is probably nothing major, then I can sit back and watch it. If it’s not getting worse or if it goes away shortly after, then I congratulate myself for avoiding Google! Yay!

I am not saying ignore it completely! If you think it is serious and have had a previous condition that requires medical attention, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!

If you’re like me and you tend to exaggerate and you have a minor ache or anything, then odds are it is nothing a Tylenol can’t fix. I’m also that person who is constantly seeking reassurance from just about anybody. I’ll ask for someone’s opinion about it and so far all I’ve gotten was an indifferent response. I have had a pain in my foot and asked Dillon if he thought I had a blood clot or something. He just facepalms and tells me I’m okay and that I worry too much (gotta love that man).

So what have we learned today? You don’t have to let your hypochondria take over your life. If I can improve, anyone can! I’m still not completely over it but I can tell I am slowly, but surely, getting a little better! Probably everything I’ve said can be found somewhere on the internet, but oh well, I’ll just confirm it for you!

If you know someone who suffers from health anxiety, don’t just tell them they’re okay and send them on their way! They want assurance and support more than anything! They want to be absolutely sure they aren’t suffering alone and that if there’s anything they need, they can count on you.

Now, where did I put my phone? My finger is starting to hurt. (Just kidding!)

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