Hello, I’m Melissa. For nearly a decade, I was a hypochondriac. I interpreted every little twinge or ache in my body as something being dramatically wrong with my health.
In short, I constantly thought I was dying or otherwise suffering from some sort of dreadful disease. But, it didn’t stop there. Even minor, easily treatable things like a toothache or sore throat drove me into an anxious tailspin. I was not a germaphobe. I didn’t avoid shaking hands or touching surfaces in public spaces. I just always thought that those little bodily sensations were indicative of something awful.
In the summer of 2016, I finally decided to seek therapy for my hypochondria. I was just so tired of worrying all the time. I was so tired of spending hours and hours of my life Googling one little symptom I had experienced for no more than an instant. I was ready to get help.
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I had previously tried to help myself. I knew that I was being irrational. I knew that I was a hypochondriac. But somehow, it didn’t help lessen my worries about having a terrible ailment.
When I’d Google things like “how to stop being a hypochondriac,” or “help for hypochondriacs,” I’d learn things like:
- Try deep breathing when you’re feeling anxious.
- Understand that the body is “noisy” and that unusual sensations are normal and rarely mean anything serious.
- Try a new hobby to distract yourself from your worries.
- Tell yourself, perhaps out loud, that you’re being irrational.
- When you’re having anxious thoughts about your health, picture a giant stop sign in your brain and tell yourself to stop thinking about those irrational thoughts.
- See a mental health professional that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), since CBT has been shown to help hypochondriacs.
And well, here was my responses to those suggestions:
- Deep breathing? Well, sometimes breathing deep made my pain even worse, especially if I was experiencing an abdominal pain.
- Bodies are noisy and that’s normal? Well, maybe. But not for THIS sensation. That DEFINITELY means something serious. This isn’t just body “noise.”
- Try to distract myself? I actually did pretty well with this one. But, it’s not like the pain would magically go away while I was knitting. It was still always in my mind, no matter what else I was distracting myself with.
- Yes, thank you very much, I KNOW I’M BEING IRRATIONAL AND THAT’S NOT HELPFUL.
- Stop sign held up, okay. Thoughts resumed as soon as the stop sign went down. And, let’s be honest, they were continuing while the stop sign was up too.
- Seriously, WTF is CBT and why can’t I find any real world examples of what it involves for hypochondriacs? Everything I read about CBT says that it involves “exposure” to your fears. Well, I doubt a therapist can expose me to a blood clot or brain aneurysm!
I was pretty shocked that I couldn’t find a single blog by someone who had successfully overcome their health anxiety. Or, what CBT for health anxiety “looked like.” I didn’t want to put down the money for weekly therapy appointments if I didn’t have even an inkling of what it might involve, or whether I thought it would work.
What’s worse, when I did try to search for health anxiety OCD blogs or hypochondria-oriented sites, so many of them were “funny” Buzzfeed-type articles like “those 23 faces you make when you think you’re dying,” filled with gifs and images of animals making seemingly-weird faces.
After I finally sought therapy, I really couldn’t believe how much it helped me quiet those worrisome thoughts! It didn’t happen overnight, but within about two months, I was feeling dramatically better.
So, my goal for this blog is to show other folks that suffer from health anxiety that there are success stories out there! That therapy does help. That there are resources to help you get better and to take this awful weight of anxiety off your shoulders.