Hypochondria: Let’s Stir the Pot a Bit More

This post was written by admin on June 4, 2009
Posted Under: Daily Panic Battles,General,Panic Attack Help for Caregivers/Support People

HypoHypochondriasis is defined by Webster’s as “morbid concern about one’s health especially when accompanied by delusions of physical disease”. One labeled a hypochondriac can be described as “always ailing” or sometimes as just plain annoying. The hypochondriac can also be a thorn in the side of his or her doctor(s). But what causes this puzzling and complex disorder? And why are those afflicted unable to be pacified by a clean bill of health from their doctors?

For many suffering with panic and anxiety disorder, acute attacks are often triggered by one or more physical symptoms that are interpreted as life-threatening.

Anxiety literally feels bad. There are physiological changes that occur affecting the functions of many different parts of the body. These changes are often mistaken for frightening health conditions and ailments. So the fear feeds the misinterpretation, and the misinterpretation can spark fear. This can be an anguished cycle to repeat, with the added hardship of a lack of sympathy, compassion or understanding from others.

The internet is a wonderful place, rich with all types if information and misinformation. Through websites like WebMD.com, hypochondria can be created and fed rather easily. We are armed with knowledge of what is good and bad for their health like never before, and while this is meant to equip us with the tools to take charge of their health and live better, it often becomes an avenue for distraction and obsession. This is because it’s not a far jump from learning which symptoms indicate a dangerous condition to actually feeling them. The mind is able to trick the body, especially the mind of someone constantly expecting harm.

A person living with panic and anxiety disorders can experience the terror of being one step away from death on a daily basis. Even the reassurance from a physician, as well as their own common sense, are no match for this powerful deception and the very real presence of physical symptoms. Much of the time the individual is not simply imagining, for instance, that they are short of breath. The airway feels constricted, though due to their own tension and erratic breathing rather than impending death.

It’s been well-established that a panic attack can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack, not only for the person experiencing one, but also for medical professionals treating them. In an acute attack like this, a proper diagnosis can be made that it is in fact not a heart attack and the patient sent on their way. But for the anxiety sufferer, the onset of a heart attack remains a real threat and those same symptoms will chronically plague them. So they might repeatedly seek medical attention, even if simply to “make sure” that there is nothing wrong with their heart. Before long, they are labeled a hypochondriac, and begin to feel that the doctor no longer takes them seriously.

Other examples of the torment these people live with include the feeling of and the belief that: the throat is closing, a headache is actually the onset of a stroke or the result of an inoperable brain tumor, that breathing will simply cease, an aneurysm will strike at any moment, and there are even cases of people being so certain that swallowing food will result in choking that they refuse to do so, causing significant weight loss. To the non-sufferer, it seems simple to just know these ideas are silly and stop believing them. But that’s where a malfunction in the brain sets apart these people from the rest of the population.

Fortunately, there are treatments for these conditions which offer hope to the person living in virtual bondage. Often a formula of various methods will be successful, and will not be the same for each case. There are a number of medications that can bring relief of symptoms, but experts stress that one method alone will not achieve success, and that the use of medication should be combined with therapy. Other treatment options include exercise, homeopathy and a host of media “programs” which can be purchased, though usually at a high cost.

These conditions are now widely accepted by the medical community as legitimate and requiring treatment. A good healthcare professional can recognize the behaviors associated with them and treat patients accordingly, rather than dismissing them once they’ve been cleared medically.

Which bring me to the point.  There are 2 types of Hypochndriacs; passive and active.

A passive hypochndriac is one that will refuse to go to the doctor with underlying fear that some serious or terminal will be found.  This introduces a new twist on the avvoidance behavior.  Sometimes, it these people that will eventually find themselves wishing that they had gone to the doctor sooner so that a condition may not have evolved into something more serious.

The active hypochrondriac is what has already been described.  At the first indication of a potential problem, this person will find a way the nearest doctor or emergency room,

My person experience is that instead of jumping from doctor to doctor, we should find a doctor and stick with that doctor to treat our panic and anxiety disorder.  Establish a relationship. Engage in conversation with the doctor and you will find that you can and will feel much better knowing that all is truly well.

As an illustration, about 6 years ago, I was heading to have lunch with some collegues.  As we approached the restaurant, I slipped into a high magnitude panic attack,  I called m wife telling her that this one felt differerent and I was absolutely sure it really was a heart attack; come quick.  Upon her arrival I was into a full blown panic attack.  I was pacing the parking lot in a frantic manner much like a caged tiger trying to get out.  We went to the emergency room.  My emergency room doctor was less than compassionate and quite condensending.  After all the initial intake process was over, he came in and told me it was a panic attack, but told me that he assumed that I wanted the full workup; lab test, XRAYS, 12 lead EKG, etc.  I was so shocked by this that the rage I felt at his condensending attitude actually snapped me out of the panic attack.

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