I can’t talk about this book without talking about myself. I don’t have a light case or dabble in it… I am fully immersed into a life of health anxiety. It isn’t just a struggle for me… it is an anvil hanging from prison chains around my neck.
My doctor calls it hypochondria. I think she’s wrong. I don’t manufacture disease to suit symptoms. I am the opposite. I have symptoms and find out what disease they belong to… and believe me when I say… cancer is *always* among the possibilities.
I am a catastrophisor (I know that’s not a real word but I don’t know how else to say it). My otherwise optimistic self never sees the possibilities for good (or normal) in a bodily symptom. Never. And I always go to the “worst case scenario”.
One of the best examples of what it’s like is seen in the movie Hannah and Her Sisters. Go watch it. I’ll wait: The scene about Hypochondria
How do you feel as you watch it? I’ll tell you how I feel. Horrified. It’s exactly what happens to me. It’s comical, except it’s not. Not when it’s happening to you.
Overcoming Health Anxiety by Katherine MB Owens, PhD and Martin M. Antony, PhD is about just what you think it is… overcoming health anxiety.
I like the book. It’s a slim volume with lots of information and exercises. While the focus is on health anxiety, it is also helpful for all types of anxiety. Consider this page:
These same questions could be used to determine:
- Is your headache actually a brain tumor?
- Is staying in a crowded store unhealthy or unsafe?
- Is being alone in the dark dangerous?
- Is everyone on your flight going to fall from the sky and die?
People with anxiety – er, people like me – suffer. A lot.
However, health anxiety is in a league of its own, I think. I have come to believe that the worst part is how embarrassing, humiliating and demoralizing it is.
For me, the first thing people around me do is laugh – cuz it is funny, kind of, at first. Watch that video again if you need proof.
Then they begin to get annoyed.
A cycle of fear can be triggered by health tests (and often is!) or just come out of the blue. Either way, there are some tell-tale signs, like how I ask people who love me — namely my husband — if I’m dying. Oh, about half-a-dozen times a day. Or more.
My husband is a very patient man. But as my therapist told me, I should not rely on him to “bring me down”. It’s not fair. I’ll tell you why. I remember once, I asked him to look at a spot on my face. “Is it cancer?” I asked. “No,” he said, “it looks like dry skin.” Which, of course, it did. Turns out, I had to have it burned off because it wasn’t just dry skin. It is to my shame to admit that at first, I was a little miffed at him. He told me it wasn’t cancer and I believed him.
You do realize he’s not a doctor. Like, the man can’t win.
So, you can see why books like this one are so important!
Also, and this is wonderful, it talks about the difference between hypochondria and health anxiety. Take that, evil doctor o’ mine! Bwa ha ha!
I will tell you that this book, along with another I’ll talk about soon, have helped me immensely. I’m much more in control that ever before. Personal power is very important to overcome this kind of anxiety. It’s gained from books like this.