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Dealing With Health Anxiety/Hypochondria

Professional Hypochondriac, expert in googling symptoms, etc.

Anxiety is diverse. Anxiety can shape-shift & conform to your own personal fears. Anxiety sucks a**.

Every morning (assuming I’m not waking up at 1pm) I hear Alexa in the background “Reminder: take my pill”.

I ignore it, as usual.

Just a daily reminder of the self doom that will soon take over my already suffocating thoughts. Let’s just get to the point here, anxiety sucks. I’m 25 years old and the smallest sensation will send me over the edge into a full blown panic. Why am I having acid reflux after drinking half a bottle of wine and destroying two spoon fulls of Nutella like I’m a hoover vacuum? I tell myself, I must be having a heart attack.

No ma’am, you have anxiety.

I am most definitely NOT a professional when it comes to dealing with anxiety, but I am a professional hypochondriac. So I’ve put together a list of tips that have helped me when it comes to handling the happiness sucking demon itself.

1. For the love of all things precious in this world, DON’T GOOGLE YOUR SYMPTOMS!

Just don’t. Save yourself the trouble, because chances are you’re going to assume the worst anyways. We’re all guilty of falling into the never-ending google black hole. I’ve done it more than I’d like to admit, and I sure as hell know if you’re reading this, you’re right there with me. You better bet that my ass was packing my emergency room overnight bag when I clicked on WebMD and saw that my heartburn was actually in fact a pulmonary embolism. And you KNOW I slap my Apple Watch on to take ECG’s multiple times a day. You DO NOT want to know what happens when it come out inconclusive.

Write down your symptoms instead and if they continue, consult a medical professional.

2. Avoid Caffeine as much as possible.

…. I know. You may be asking, how am I supposed to skip my morning coffee when I was up until 5 am googling my symptoms? Well in that case, let me guide you back to step one for you to read one more time. After that, come back and I’ll explain.

I’m right there with you. Caramel macchiato, venti Starbucks double shot with soy milk, and the always refreshing iced green tea latte!!!!! How am I supposed to give up my deliciously over-priced caffeine!? It’s not going to be easy my friend, but you’ll thank yourself later. Let me start by saying that coffee/caffeine does not cause anxiety. Caffeine heightens anxiety symptoms in those prone to anxiety. If you’re like me and your panic attacks slaps you across the face when you’re least expecting it, we don’t want anything to worsen what’s about to happen. Now, this alone will not cure your anxiety, so don’t quit cold turkey and expect to feel like you were re-born overnight. Honestly, I still enjoy a cup here and then…. or maybe multiple times a week (oops) but knowing my body isn’t relying solely on that precious cup is a blessing in itself.

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3. Accept that you have anxiety.

The most helpful coping skill (besides my beloved Lexapro) that has unexpectedly changed my way of processing my anxiety, is to accept that I have anxiety in the first place! Especially when it comes to my health anxiety, I need to remind myself almost daily that what I’m experiencing is most likely associated with my normal symptoms, and my bodies natural "fight or flight” response. I’m not a pro at this. 9 out of 10 times my first thought is still to grab my handy dandy phone and call up my ex Google and see what she has to say. You know that cliche saying “the first step to recovery is too first except that you have a problem?” Yeah, that shits real. Accept that this is not your fault and this is a very normal struggle for so many of us. The term “anxiety” is thrown around like a rag doll these days, so often that we forget it’s a real disease. You don’t have to ignore it or be ashamed.

4. Explore Self Soothing Tactics and Find One that Fits your Personal needs.

When my health anxiety first started to run rampage on my life, it always started the same. It didn’t matter where I was, what I was doing, or who I was with. I’d get a cold wave across my body, my heart would start racing (which would lead to me becoming severely dizzy), and I’d assume I was going to pass out (or die). Without fail, I’d go through that daily. Thousands of dollars and multiple ER, ENT, and general practitioner visits later, I realized what was happening to me. Or should I say, I accepted it. This very well could have ended after the first ER visit, but I did not believe the doctor, or the doctor after that, or the next one, or the next, or the next, and so on. I had all the resources available to me but I couldn’t understand how something that you cannot physically see on an MRI, a CAT scan, blood testes, etc. could reck havoc on my body. Guys, our mind is so powerful! We can give ourselves physical symptoms just from overthinking, reading, or seeing.

Finding a self-soothing tactic can help you through those uncomfortable moments. For me, finding my pulse either on my neck or wrist, and counting my heart beats one by one, helps me tremendously. For one, it reminds me that I am alive and my heart is beating continuously. Secondly, I can feel it start to fall and return to a slower, more calm rate. Something about physically feeling my heart rate slow brings me peace, I suppose. Which is weird right? Isn’t my original fear that would my heart would stop entirely? Thats right my friend, anxiety is sh*t and doesn’t make sense. Period.

5. Research, research, and some more research.

This is where you can return to google! The internet is filled with information that is just waiting to be injected into our brains. Youtube was- and still is my bff when I was researching for tips and coping skills. Even if you’re like me and just want to find someone who is experiencing the same symptoms as you are, learn about anxiety. Knowledge is power my friends! I had no clue what “Health Anxiety” was, or that it was a type of anxiety to begin with. I’ve watched Dr. Tracey Marks video “How to Deal With Health Anxiety and Hypochondria” more times than I can count. She talks about what Health Anxiety and Hypochondria look like, and how to handle it. She leaves a self-talk script in the description to repeat when you’re experiencing symptoms.

6. Get Yourself on a Regular Sleep Schedule

I still to this day struggle with this daily. I find myself stuck in the same unhealthy sleep schedule majority of the time. You know, the one where you stay up all night and sleep in until 3 the next day. Yeah, that one. But what you don’t realize, is that you’re screwing yourself and your mental health. It’s all fun and games until I feel my body lacking energy, which in turn causes me to assume I have an autoimmune disease that is slowly sucking the energy out like a mosquito. You think I’m joking but.. unfortunately, no. I read an article once that said lack of sleep is linked to activating regions of your brain that causes excessive worrying, and I believe it.

Just hit that exit button the next time Netflix asks you if you’re still watching. Close your eyes and listen to calming music, or a relaxing youtube video. Michael Sealy’s video “Sleep Hypnosis for Anxiety Reduction and Reversal” is one of my favorites.

7. Don’t Blame the People Around You for Not Understanding

I’m guilty as charged, your Honor. I’m short-tempered as it is, but when I’m in the middle of a full blown panic attack and my fiancée lovingly tells me to “calm down” … if you know, you know. I often have to remind myself that what I’m feeling is not what he feels. My fiancée, like many other’s, had very little knowledge of any kind of mental illness prior to our relationship, and that’s okay. We’re learning together. I find myself explaining symptoms to him more often than not. While asking him if I should be worried about said symptoms, I simultaneously expect him to have the knowledge of a person who has spent the last 8 years in med school. Bottom line is, be patient with the ones close to you if they’re not responding to your anxiety in the way you want them to. Heck, chances are you didn’t respond to your own anxiety the right way the first time!

Well, I’m going end this here. I may end up coming back to this blog to add some more, but seven is my lucky number, and after all I do have anxiety, and I enjoy luck on my side. I hope these tips will help someone who is struggling with anxiety, and provide some helpful information for those who are just trying to learn.

PSA: Always consult a medical professional if you’re experiencing unusual and/or persistent symptoms.

© 2021 Molly Imrie

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