CSN Login
Members Online: 10

Anxiety

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

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....

"T"

 

 

 

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3094
Joined: May 2012

T,

I have read some of the threads you mentioned (portland2?) and find their determination and the OCF participant’s answers interesting.  I don’t know how to help someone who is determined to blame their ailment on cancer, no matter what the tests reveal.  Why would anyone want to join this club? 

After a controversial (new) thread last summer, I decided to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and leave mental health to someone else.  That is not to say that a blatant untruth or demeaning remark doesn’t deserve an appropriate response.  I just don’t have the time or the insight to participate in every thread.

Reading between the lines,

Matt

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

So sometimes no response or answer is the answer?  I found a forum that deals with panic disorders (health anxiety being one of the most active boards) and have done some reading of the forum posts and it's mind boggling. 

"T"

CivilMatt's picture
CivilMatt
Posts: 3094
Joined: May 2012

T,

For me “no response” may be the preferred alternative.  It happens all the time in the H&N forum and in life.  Sometimes I can only offer an ear to listen or an “I am sorry” to a situation.  Neither of which possess healing qualities, but let’s someone know they are not alone (at least virtually).  There is no guaranteed cure for cancer, but the compassionate responses I’ve received from the H&N forum sometimes cure the cancer or side effects blues.

Sometimes not figuring out someone is figuring them out.

Matt

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8104
Joined: Sep 2009

Or I should say maybe that I can't....

The things that we see in posts even suggest that..., point in reference.

Not to call anyone specifically out, but a few months ago there was a person here that insisted they had oral cancer... I didn't matter what we said to try and ease their mind, they were insistant. Most importantly they had had several professionals past, present and a few beyond the initial post telling them there was nothing showing up.

Even the I haven't seen them posting for awhile...

I honestly believe they never figured out that it wasn't cancer.

My mother tends to be one of those people.... She will read about some disease or ailment, usually fairly uncommon... Before you know it, she had the symptoms...

That's one of the peeves I have with MD Oz... Don't take me wrong, I like the guy and his show. But I swear, if you took everything he suggests and for all of the possibilities on his show, you'd be a walking mess..., not to mention broke.

While he gives good knowledge and advice, I wonder just how many people watch his show and feel "I have that"...

JG

Ron Silver
Posts: 78
Joined: Apr 2013

We are in no mans land with respect to the subject at hand.  Is it reasonable to now abstain from alcohol including mouthwashes that contain alcohol?   Is it reasonable to not smoke after a lifetime of smoking?  Is it reasonable to no longer drink any soda after consuming three or four cans a day for many years?

 

Just because one is paranoid doesn't mean someone is not out to get them.  Cancer is out there, it is out to get me, it is always in the shadows waiting to rear its ugly head.  Every pain every ache triggers the "is it cancer" thought.  I submit that for all of us it is sane and reasonable to live our lives constantly aware of the boogy man (cancer).  

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8104
Joined: Sep 2009

The person I was referencing above, might have been out of context as they found our forum, without ever being Dx for cancer...., or anything actually. As have several others..., mainly by way of as T syas, Dr. Google... looking for diseases that match the symptoms they think they have.

As for "Every pain every ache triggers the "is it cancer" thought.  I submit that for all of us it is sane and reasonable to live our lives constantly aware of the boogy man (cancer). "

I was pretty much like that for the first few years post Tx... But I think I've evolved or maybe just become more comfortable as I'm now four years post Tx and (knock on wood)... all has been clean and clear.

Aware, definitely, I just think I'm past the point of being constantly paranoid...

I can breathe easy during an ailment.... for the first week maybe, LOL.... It doesn't consume me like it once id though.

JG 

Ron Silver
Posts: 78
Joined: Apr 2013

I hope to have my "constantly aware" diminish over time as it appears it has for you.  I have this inner battle over what is reasonable behavior.  Does my situation warrant becoming a cancer diet eating, exercising, alcohol, coffee, caffine, sugar,  and nicotine abstaining health nut (the type I ridiculed before my encounter with Mr. C).  Do I need now to sell my guns, buy a Prius, and vote for Obama?  14 weeks post treatment leads me to contemplate doing just about anything to avoid another encounter with Mr. C.  Funny how our priorities change. 

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8104
Joined: Sep 2009

What was once big, now not so much...

The things, prople, etc..., that once were neglected, or shown little importance, now are huge...

As mentioned, I think (personally), you can't live your life in a bubble... Like T, that's not living..., yes, be aware, I think you can probably do most anything, eat, drink, etc... But be conservative, definitely not over indulge...

I'm not a smoker, not have ever been..., so to me and with all the evidense showing disease I don't see why anyone would indulge. But that's easy as I'm not a smoker, LOL... Why do some people smoke their entire life and not get lung cancer...

Each of us are individual, bring our own baggage, and I guess just the luck of the draw...

I have a co-worker..., a smoker..

He asked about my throat cancer, and the fact I never smoked... His reply..., "well damn, I better keep smoking", LOL...

JG

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

I submit that being aware and having a certain amount of caution and fear is healthy (you wouldn't blatantly pick up a snake without knowing if it was poisonous would you? and no... I don't fear snakes ~lol~) but living in constant fear is not living. 

"T"

Ron Silver
Posts: 78
Joined: Apr 2013

Being aware is not necessarily being fearful.  Then there is "hypervigilance" which can be just as crippling as fear. 

TracyLynn72's picture
TracyLynn72
Posts: 747
Joined: May 2013

Is an extreme hypochondriac.  I'm not being funny, it's terrible.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and was relieved.  Yes, I know how sick that sounds.  She was so "glad" to finally have a diagnosis (after being tested for everything under the sun) that once her tumor was removed and she had only 15 rads, she didn't know what to do with herself.  She insists that she has cancer still and that it just hasn't been found yet.  She was like this before cancer and I think will always be like this. It's very sad and extrememly frustrating to me.  She lives on pain meds (docs will prescribe them at will for her) because her "cancer" hurts.  The oncologist can't find any reason whatsoever for pain. She has been given a clean bill of health, but instead of enjoying it, she constantly looks for something wrong.  I truly think this is why I don't do pain meds.  I avoid them at all costs just to not follow in her footsteps, so to speak.  She has told everyone how tough MY cancer experience was on HER.  It's a sad state for her and one that causes me to lose my patience with her often. 

TracyLynn72's picture
TracyLynn72
Posts: 747
Joined: May 2013

that I don't sound mean or unsympathetic.  I love my mom, but it's so hard to deal with someone who is so negative all the time.  It's difficult to discuss health issues (that aren't there) every time you speak to them.  She insists that "cancer isn't done with her yet" which makes me sick to hear.  I got the all clear and I'm thanking God for my life.  We are so opposite about things! 

donfoo's picture
donfoo
Posts: 1332
Joined: Dec 2012

The power of one's mind over body is amazing and demonstrated in many seemingly super human or unnatural acts. Self fulfilling prophecies are yet another example where one's beliefs, will, conscious and unconscious actions, and internal body functions control and make the body do things that don't normally occur. Folks like your Mom really give me pause and wonder if one's mind is so set to some belief so strongly, in this case, cancer, that the body does actually subconsciously generates more stress hormones and other sorts of internal chemical interactions that actually stimulate the growth of cancer cells or convert otherwise healthy ones into cancer.

The flip side of the coin is those who have cancer sometimes seemingly find a way to stop or kill it in unconvential ways. Same as above in reverse - will one to good health.

Lastly, there is the power of prayer and grace of God. Whether he directly makes you well or your belief system makes this happen is yet another way one's mind is able to maybe produce good outcomes. Maybe in the future as we learn more about brain science, some of this phenomenom will be proven out. don

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8104
Joined: Sep 2009

LOL..., you're saying things that I have... I can hear a PEG scolding coming on.... Mind over Matter..oooppps , I mean body..., how dare you..., LOL.

JG

TracyLynn72's picture
TracyLynn72
Posts: 747
Joined: May 2013

she has "talked herself into" certain illnesses before.  She will hear that someone has a bad head cold, and before the end of the day, she has so-called symptoms.  I don't believe that the stuffy nose is completely real, she can make herself sound stopped up.  She will start cold medicine and go to bed without any true symptom.  After a couple of days, she is better until she hears about someone else that has something going on.  She will swear she has a stomach virus but takes laxatives to make her "go".  THAT is not a stomach virus.  It's very depressing and I don't talk about it often, but this thread made me realize how bad off she really is.  I've tried to talk to her about it and it does no good.  It is completely in her mind, and yes....the mind is very, very powerful.  She always asks me how can I be so positive and it's my faith in God that keeps me up.  

phrannie51's picture
phrannie51
Posts: 3853
Joined: Mar 2012

me being me....I had to go to OCF and see what was going on over there.....Smile Couldn't stop myself...

The boogie man is always in the back of my brain, and the closer I get to a scan the more he manufactures symptoms to keep anxiety at a barely managable level.  The time between scans, the boogie man only gets a blip here and there, unless I'm having one of those nights where "the committee" meets in my head to keep me awake for hours while they discuss it (rare).  I remind myself that in the 5 months before I was diagnosed, I KNEW something was amiss....just not what...and throat cancer wasn't in the list of my potential possiblities.

The guy that Matt referred to....he definately doesn't have HNC, after all his testing....but because he is in significant pain, I'd venture to say something is wrong....just not the worst possible senerio....the big C.  I have noticed on OFC (more than here) that people tend to go there thinking they have HNC, but without ever going to a Dr. to check it out.  So many of them are in their 20's and early 30's....I always wonder what even made them think of HNC first run out the gate??

I haven't seen many of the folks here head for the Dr. terrified over the small things that plague us after treatment....of course there's always a niggler thought..."what if".....but waiting a bit seems to be the way most of us handle the boogie man.

p     

 

donfoo's picture
donfoo
Posts: 1332
Joined: Dec 2012

what can we do to help ourselves?

Other than just treating the symptom with a vial of pills, helping oneself get to the root of anxiety disorder is not a trivial matter. For us here, we need to look back over our lives and examine times when we have experienced various levels of anxiety and when and how it was put away or contained to some managed level. I suspect most of us here manage anxiety of the daily variety well and really only during major events do we experience anxiety to a degree where it effects our daily thinking. I suspect the anxiety subsides once the crises is past.

With cancer, I think of it differently as a cancer diagnosis puts us into a "chronic" lifetime state of having it return or setting off long term nasty side effects. Bundled with the diagnosis was a complimentary boogie man doll we hang in our closets, just there as a constant reminder.

The anxiety is never banashed completely as we all know that cancers are far greater for those who have previously been diagnosed and treated. Each of us must recognize this -  it is unique and different than the reasons for anxiety we have encountered in our past. Maybe the ways we managed anxiety before will not work in this case, maybe they will, maybe it'll require new tools to cope.

Each person needs to be aware we are dealing with anxiety due cancer, among other things, and need to manage it just like any other medical condition although there are likely different therapies offered by different practitioners.

more importantly, help others?

As you have pointed out, is can be very difficult for people to listen to what is being suggested. Equating it to "hard heads" that just don't want to listen or take advice is similar to the behaviour of the folks we come across from here occassionally.

Recently, I have seen the range of responses from members to some of these poor souls. First, there are earnest suggestions and offers of understanding to what appear valid concern over potential cancer. Soon enough though, it becomes apparent there is a history of constant lack of recognition to what is being told to them by medical professionals and those on the forums.

Once it becomes clear the person is really not accepting any of the information, what happens next. Responses on the forum vary from no response as pointed out by Matt to continual engagement with the poster with more responses and even questions to bait yet another response and continuation of the dialog.  No matter where on the range each of us falls, there comes a point when one must concede this person is a "hard head" then resign and disengage as there is zero hope of getting through in a rational and meaningful manner.

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

Helping ourselves can be difficult. Unless we can rationally recognize we are spiraling out of control, it's difficult to recognize. I know when I was having a severe reaction to the steroids, I had no idea what was going on. I wasn't myself and it was Marcia who really noticed something was wrong. When I finally described my symptoms to my chemo nurse, it was then they brought in the psych team and figured out what was going on. When you're delusional, it's hard to understand what's happening to yourself. So, hopefully those around us can see it and help. I knew something wasn't right after I had my heart attack and surgery but I couldn't really place it. When I spoke to my doctor, he asked a series of questions that help to diagnose depression which fortunately was pretty mild.

Helping others? If they're close to us then it goes back to the previous comment about recognizing the symptoms and acting as an advocate to help the person. In this forum and others the reality is quite different. We can say what we feel but ultimately and inevitably, when nothing seems to be getting through, it comes down to divorcing ourselves from the situation or just offering a word or two of encouragement and moving on. A person caught in the downward spiral of health anxiety hears and sees only what they want to and nothing can dissude them from that. 

"T"

 

 

 

 

 

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

I was reading about some of the things the mind can do when a person suffers from health anxiety. If it wasn't so sad, it would actually be comical.

Some examples of what the person thought was wrong and what was really going on....

I'm going blind! --- Dry eyes

West Nile Virus --- Stomach bug

Brain Cancer --- sinus congestion

Colon cancer because of red stools --- ate too many pistacios (that one made me ~lol~)

Woke up with my arm numb. Thought it was a heart attack --- arm fell asleep while sleeping

Thought I had a rare tropical disease because of bright yellow urine --- vitamin B tablets

When they say attitude is such a vital part of the cancer fight, they're spot on. Unfortunately, it can have the opposite effect on us.

"T"

 

phrannie51's picture
phrannie51
Posts: 3853
Joined: Mar 2012

list of missed "self-diagnosis".....chemo/rads messed up my eyes....and there was a time....a small time.....that I got nervous that maybe the rads had made my retenas start detaching....but no....I got some drops at Walmart for dry eye, and voila.....problem solved Laughing

p

Ron Silver
Posts: 78
Joined: Apr 2013

A narrow band of my hair at the back of my head (collar line) fell out 5 weeks out of treatment.  Not during treatment-5 weeks post treatment.  What do I have?  My research indicates that I have developed

Degenerative mucinotic mural folliculitis

 

This disease normally only strikes cats.  I must be the first human victim, probably from some genetic mutation caused by the radiation.  I am going to make an appointment with my vet.

debbiejeanne's picture
debbiejeanne
Posts: 2590
Joined: Jan 2010

ron, this made me laugh out loud, thanks!

dj

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8104
Joined: Sep 2009

Oh..., LOL...

Sorry you have a reverse mohawk, kinda like an inverted mullet I guess you could say.. :)

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

Ok... I had to add these two because... well just because.

" I often experience pressure in my head whenever I hold a deep breath for a few seconds. Does anyone else experience these sensations in the same situation?" ---  Could it be because possibly you are holding your breath? Can't really tell if this was serious or a joke.

One more...

"Yesterday I had a headache most of the day which is fine, but when me and my partner were home watching TV, I got a really strong smell of burning! My partner couldn't smell it at all but I could! Now I'm thinking brain tumor... Obviously! Anyone else had this?" --- IDK...Possibly you left the popcorn in the microwave too long? Again, I can't tell if this was serious or a joke...it's so out there!

I do know this. I'll take a little bit of scanxiety over all the things I've read thus far! At least there's a legitimate reason for being anxious. 

"T"

katenorwood
Posts: 1863
Joined: May 2012

Sometimes these topics come out of left field.  But it is a good one !  Any.....dx that is life altering does alter our sychie....don't care how strong you think you might or might not be.   Wrapping our minds (souls) around thoughts that are a real possibility is a definate brain teaser !  I have met wonderful, caring, enlightening individuals on this site.  Some of whom we lost to this fricking disease.  But every single one I connected with went out with the spirit of fight....determination....but mainly dignity at the end of their journeys.  Yup....we all have our boogie men in the closet.....I say put on the boxing gloves and punch it in the nose a few times ! 

Listen with your hearts...be gentle....be understanding.....and be honest.  That's why we are all here !  PM'S are a good way of expressing ideas to each other if we feel there is a concern on mental health issues.  Anxiety....depression.....pstd are real disorders....and nothing to fear, there is help out there.  Just reach your hand out, there is a hand up here always !   Hugs sent !  Katie 

Hard12Find
Posts: 209
Joined: Sep 2012

I know you read my post about PTSD, and I think this falls into the same category, I am amazed at how my mind has suffered from the first mention of C. So even with one clean scan under my belt I can't seem to let it go, I always considered myself mentally strong, but cancer just pushed me over the edge, I get results of my 2nd scan tomorrow, and amazingly enough not stressing to bad with scanxiety...

Jim

fishmanpa's picture
fishmanpa
Posts: 1134
Joined: Jan 2013

Hi Jim,

I did and responded as well. The psyche is a very unique aspect of the human condition. We also see it in the animal world as well. A dog or cat that was abused having trust issues or a wild animal's reaction to certain stimuli from a bad experience. 

You're right. PTSD is a form of anxiety. Like I mentioned, I experienced it after my first heart attack and surgery. It all happened so fast too. I took ill on a Sunday and was under the knife by Friday. I'm home four days later with a 6+" scar on my chest. It all kind of hit me hard that first month. Like you, I was strong. fit and active. All of a sudden I was like an invalid. I was definitely shell shocked and suffering from some depression. Fortunately, like I said, I recognized something was wrong and sought help.

Then the 2nd heart attack last October, a month prior to being diagnosed. Facing my mortality so up close and personal three times in the last 6 years has given me a perspective and inner peace I hadn't possessed before. When cancer hit, I was more perturbed than anything else. What a PITA! It was like hadn't I had enough dealing with everything else? And now? Cancer is just one more thing to deal with along with cardio vascular disease. If it's not one thing it's another. I've resolved myself to the fact that something is gonna get me eventually. I can't keep dodging bullets forever you know? Hopefuly it will be later rather than sooner! ;)

I'm sure that has a lot to do with my attitude and how I'm dealing with everything. Not too much gets to me anymore. I shrug my shoulders and say "Oh well"... what do I have to do to get through this mess? So I live each day the best I can and don't worry about it. 

Perhaps you are beginning to gain a similar peace and attitude. The fact that you're not stressing too much is an indication of that. This is a good thing! 

All that being said... good luck tomorrow! Positive thoughts and prayers coming your way for a great result.

"T"

Subscribe with RSS
About Cancer Society

The content on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions.

Copyright 2000-2014 © Cancer Survivors Network