Aug 14, 2013 - 12:15 pm
I thought I'd bring this topic up for discussion.
Recently, on another OC forum, there have been several posters asking about symptoms of OC and expressing fear concerning cancer. This is totally natural and understandable. We all went through a period of worry and anxiety when we were in the diagnostic stages of our cancer. We see that occasionally on this forum as well.
However, when anxiety reaches a level of fiction, it takes on another form. Hypochondria or health anxiety is a mental illness that affects more people than we realize. It can be and is debilitating to many people.
The definition is: A state in which a person continuously worries about their health, even when they are not ill.
My understanding of health anxiety is that there are possibly symptoms, sometimes unexplained that affect an individual to the point that they end up blowing their symptoms out of proportion and beyond the state of average common sense and realism.
While there is a chance that a person really does suffer from a disease, chances are it's not what they fear it is. Defying logic, the individual convinces themselves that they are affected with a certain disease (most often deadly) and seeks confirmation from the medical field.
Personally, for me, I find it difficult to wrap my mind around this. But then I find it difficult to truly understand mental illness in general. Having suffered from some mild depression after my heart surgery, I do have an understanding of that malady but beyond the basic dysfunction it caused, I was not severely affected. Severe depression, OCD, bi-polar etc. are illnesses I've seen in others but not experienced myself. Even at that I struggle to truly grasp it.
Suffice it to say, we all experienced a period of darkness upon our diagnosis and subsequent self diagnosis from Dr. Google. Most often than not however, our common sense takes over and we learn to deal with our illness in a way that is positive and constructive. Yes, we always have that "boogie man" (as Donfoo called it) in the back of our minds, but I would venture to say that most here cope rather well with it. Yes, we have anxiety when being tested and sometimes an ache or pain sends us down the negativity path but our common sense and often times a doctor's "all clear" takes care of it. There are times however, when we cannot pull ourselves out of the path and that's when we need to recognize the symptoms.
For someone suffering from severe health anxiety, no amount of logic or negative test results alleviate the anxiety and panic that occurs. It's something we as survivors should be aware of as it can affect us too.
So it brings up the question. How do we recognize and deal with it ourselves and how do we recognize and deal with someone who has it? Obviously, seeking help from a mental health professional that's familiar with health anxiety as well as psychotropic drugs can help treat it but beyond that, what can we do to help ourselves and more importantly, help others?
The floor is open....