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Anxiety-ridden hypochondriac here...any chance you could settle my nerves?

  • 23-11-2022 11:17am
    Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    Hey all!

    I've always suffered from low level anxiety, don't we all? But, upon turning 30, my hypochondria skyrocketed.

    I assume this was in line with some kind of sudden realisation that I was a mortal. That's not to say I was swanning about thinking that I'd live forever, but I certainly hadn't given the eventualities of life much thought.

    Throughout the next decade, I began to experience niggling little pains, which led me to GP after GP, test after test, and dead end after dead end.

    I've gone to physio's, neurologists, urologists and countless other ologists; consultants/specialists, etc.; had X-ray's, CT's, MRI's, and ultrasounds. I've had scopes down (and up), the worst of which was a number of cystoscopies - for all the lads reading, thread carefully if you Google that one - and at the end of it all? Nothing.

    Years later, I look back and realise that everything I experienced was as a result of anxiety. I had a pain. I'd worry about the pain. The pain which was in nothing would manifest into a physical ailment, and become something, whilst also still being very much nothing.And then, covid. Since landing in our lives, I have gone full metal germaphobe.

    Over recent months, I have convinced myself that I have all things horrible that can befall a person. Some highlights from my flights of anxious fancy, outside normal diseases, have been tetanus & rabies, as well as ending up in A&E with heart palpatations, which I think may have been my first true panic attack. Currently, I'm battling with the idea that I have somehow introduced a brain-eating amoeba into my system, but more on that later.

    Since the influx of this spate of anxiety episodes, I have begun counselling. It's taken a few years to build up the courage, but so far, mostly, so good. The sessions, although quite valuable and freeing, in that I do sense genuine progress being made, are also dredging up a lot, and this rise to the surface of long-buried trauma, is making things feel a lot worse initially, before what I'm hoping, will be a "better" me.

    Coupled with the counselling, I have also started into anti-anxiety medication. I had prescribed them a few years back, but foolishly(?) read the side-effects docket inside the box, and neglected to start into the course. These tablets are similar to therapy in that I believe, they can have adverse effects on anxiety, before an improvement is experienced. I'm about 10 days in, and going by last nights episode, they've yet to take hold.

    The way in which my anxiety now develops is akin to Dr.Stange in Infinity Wars. An incident occurs, a brief calm follows, and then I explode in a whirlwind of thought; experiencing 14 million different outcomes. Regardless if presented with a clear, sensible reality, I will continue to search out an outcome that will allow me to devolve into a spiral of catastrophy. Once latched, my mind, usually fairly terrible at focusing, becomes a catastophising super-computer.

    You might think it strange for me to say, considering everything in this post, but I am someone who feels very privileged to be able to say that I truly love life. Days like yesterday though, can be so incredibly, unnecessarily exhausting.

    Cut to last night.

    I popped into town on the bike. At some point along the way, on my way home, a fly (I assume), slammed straight into my face, and up my nose. A one-in-a-million shot. Skywalker would have been proud. I expect the impact killed the little fecker, but his parting gift, remnants of his former self, strewn about my nose, felt like they'd made their way up into my brain. I know, I know. It was really up in there.

    I stopped, and cleared as much as I could, but upon getting home, could still sense something lingering in the balcony seats.

    I cleared my nose again and again, but nothing seemed to be lodging it. This was around the moment I can remember my mind spiralling.

    I made my way to the kitchen tap and began splashing water up my nostrils, but was getting no purchase for the efforts, so I cupped small amounts of water, and snorted it all the way back. It worked. I cleared whatever it was I could feel back there, and that was that.

    But, it wasn't.

    The memory of how I cleaned out my sinuses was one of a quite frantic nature. The anxiety had taken hold, but it had also aided in clearing it out. Upon cleansing, I showered, and tried to settle my mind, but then a thought began to grow in my head, a memory of a Neti Pot, and a brain-eating amoeba.

    Cut to, hours and hours of catastrophising last night, descending into the bottomless rabbit hole that is Google, concluding with much certainty that I have now introduced bateria of some sort into my nasal cavity, enough that it will travel to my brain and wipe me out.

    A few things I've tried to introduce with some sanity to my thought process here:

    • I checked the local water quality, and apparently all is good (to drink, at least)
    • Irish water is chlorinated, which apparently kills off a fair bit of bacteria
    • As far as I can tell, this neuron-nommer is generally not found this side of the Atlantic (but can be)

    If you've gotten this far, bravo (and thank you)!

    I have two questions:

    • What do you reckon are the odds I've introduced something nefarious into my system?
    • Does anyone else out there experience anxiety in the same way? Surely, I'm not alone.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,860 ✭✭✭Pissy Missy

    Truly glad you've seeked help via counselling and are giving the meds a go, something nefarious has not entered your system, all you need to do is look at the evidence, you are catastrophising and thinking the worst. Even if it was the worst thing that could happen (it's hasn't happened), it'll present itself so theres no point in worrying til then, for now just focus on other things like have you started your Christmas list? Booked yourself a summer holiday? As humans, approx. 80% of our thoughts are negative and 90% are repetitive so this doesn't help. But we only give thoughts power when we attach meaning to them. For now, hope you can let go of that little fly (pun intended) and have a reasonably happy hump day

  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    If nothing else, your username has brightened up my morning!

    I guess it can be difficult to see through the blur that comes with catastrophising. It feels like my mind thrives off of it, at times, which is bothersome.

    This stat "80% of our thoughts are negative and 90% of our thoughts are repetitive", has given me huge solace. Great to know I'm not alone.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to reply 😊

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,860 ✭✭✭Pissy Missy

    😂Well I'm glad to hear it

    It may be a control thing, it's hard to know, a person previously responded saying CBT may be helpful but I believe you stated counselling has brought up previously buried trauma and as CBT is great, it's also mainly present focused and receiving integrative therapy may be useful for your case, so perhaps stay with your therapist for now but if you don't feel it's working, there's always other practitioners.

    You are definitely not alone, one in four of us will experience a mental health condition and since covid has began, anxiety has gone way up. I've definitely developed a bit of a germ phobia from it, can't be without my sanitiser and mask now, I might be without the mask next year though.

    Not at all, here anytime 😊

  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    Wow, Faith - can't believe you picked up on something I cottoned-on to recently.

    Upon reflection of the last ten years, I realised that my spirals would cease once I sat in front of a medical health professional, who would invariably tell me that all was ok. No matter how many times family or friends would tell me the same thing, I would still seek out the reassurance of strangers, albeit medical professional strangers.

    I guess the above need for validation is highlighted in your second point; fully aware that medical professionals don't lurk on the Boards, and at no point would I seek medical advice here either, but I think the reason I reached out today was two-fold, I was hoping to find out I wasn't alone, and perhaps the voices of strangers might see fit to alleviate my anxieties for long enough, that I wouldn't find myself threading the common path that leads to me sitting in my GPs office once again, putting her kids through college, one €65 payment at a time.

    An old GP told me years ago that self-diagnosis through "Dr. Google" would equate to a larger portion of folks crossing their threshold within 10 years, than those who actually had ailments that required attention. He was indirectly advising me of my health anxiety at the time, but I clearly wasn't in a place to hear him.

    My counsellor hasn't touched on CBT, and I hadn't heard of same. Will research now, and discuss in my next session.

    Thank you for the direct, level-headed, and ultimately calming response.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 28,034 ✭✭✭✭Wanderer78

    cbt is the way to go in regards anxiety, its the preferred method of therapy for disorders such as my own, asd, in which anxiety plays a major role, best of luck with the therapy

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,880 Mod ✭✭✭✭shesty

    Two points.

    Item 1 - STAY OFF GOOGLE.

    I have put that in capitals, for the simple reason that if ever I learned something during my first pregnancy - that was it. When it comes to health, there is nothing sane on Google. Everything - everything - is life ending, cancer causing, immediate death. Yes you could seek out the sane medical articles, but unless you are of a very strong analytic mind, it's unlikely. Te fact that you are googling a symptom that you feel means that already your mind is in heightened anxiety. You will fixate on the worse case scenario, inevitably.

    You're not alone in this by the way, and two years of covid has driven the sanest people I know to new heights of medical anxiety.

    Item 2 - as an over-thinker myself, CBT is useful. Circular overthinking heightens anxiety. It's an absolute spiral. As Faith says, you keep seeking reassurance - over and over and over. You have to learn to stop that thought process, and let it go.

    I read an article a while back (which I now can't find) which really resonated with me. It was about overthinking and basically said there are two types - the "useless" type where you circle constantly around and around and around your perceived problem, but don't go anywhere. You feel like you're problem solving but you're not really - you're just wasting huge amounts of time, energy and driving your anxiety levels even higher, obsessing about something. Googling incessantly would actually feed into this. The other type is where you overthink and then make a move basically - it helps you to make a decision (I fall into this category a lot - but once the decision is made, it's done and I move on instantly)

    In the absence of my original article, I found the article below which may explain things clearer, although a bit simplified

    I have been through a similar process years ago - not health related, something else - and I did break out of it. And it took a therapist for a few sessions, and CBT. And it helps, so much.

    But stay off google.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    Thank you for this.

    As for the anxiety types, I was the former, but have developed into the latter. Not progress by any means, as the decisions I now move to make, are borne out of anxiety drivers, and not decisions made with clear thought.

    Thank you too, for the Headspace link. I was using it quite regularly through Alexa, but the facility has recently been removed.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    Latching on to this "Not completely but much more manageable".

    If anything, it's good to know I can't fully eradicate it, but to get to a state where I can drown out the incessant noise, would be bliss.

    I don't expect overnight results by any means, but I figure broaching, and facing it, is a good first step.

    Thank you.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    Thanks very much for +1'ing the CBT. Seems to be the general concensus.

  • Registered Users Posts: 21,331 ✭✭✭✭Tell me how

    Plus one for the 'STAY OFF GOOGLE' message. There should be a plugin that nervous people can apply that would block draconian messages that are only going to make them feel worse when what they were looking for was some calming information.

    And I've heard positive things about CBT so hopefully you'll find a good practitioner to work on it with you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33 SJ23

    I believe there are apps that block drunk people from posting/texting/calling - there may be a corner of the market there for you 😁

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,108 ✭✭✭AyeGer

    Hypochondria is often the butt of jokes but it can be very distressing. I wish you luck OP in getting it sorted. I’d have full confidence you will get there.

  • Registered Users Posts: 27 Cali1978

    Hi there, I have had a couple of episodes of this in my life-it’s so hard! I was convinced I had a particular illness and tests confirming I didn’t only worked for a while. Googling symptoms and other people’s experiences etc provided me with a comfort almost. I felt it was going to give me enough reassurance and I liked the constant scrolling. I would have physical symptoms like palpitations and loss of appetite.

    In the end I saw an excellent psychologist who explained that I didn’t like being unable to control things going on in my life. So because I couldn’t control a troublesome issue, I could control the health anxiety instead. If I worried about that then I wouldn’t have to worry about the real life issues. So once I learned that it definitely helped. As she said if the health stuff crops up, stop and ask myself what’s going on in my life I can’t control? It may not be relevant to you OP but just my experience! Best of luck I fully remember the anxiety and spiralling but it will get better!

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭Colonel_McCoy

    OP I could have written the above post myself

    1. Stay off Dr Google, it will only cause spiraling\catastrophic thinking.
    2. Stay on the meds
    3. Seek counselling with CBT
    4. Practice mindfulness. Check out Declutter the mind on youtube and Wim Hoff breathing techniques
    5. Exercising can help, I find walks in woods uplifting and a swim in the sea

  • OP it sounds like you have taken some positive first steps. If you are already attending counseling and dealing with possible traumas and the like. I would add another vote for exploring CBT here too. If only there was a magic bullet like in the movie KPax where Kevin Spacey instantly cured a hypochondriac by nearly murdering him with a pillow. Magically the character realized that he actually could die at any moment and so spending life worried about getting sick and dying was a waste and every moment worrying about what is ultimately inevitable was a moment wasted and lost.

    I seem to recommend a lot of podcasts around these Personal Issues threads. But the Blindboy podcast has dealt often with CBT and panic attacks and similar disorders. At one point he was so bad he was terrified of his own shadow killing him. And as insane as that sounds it really is just another manifestation of anxiety disorder. So you could do worse than go through his podcasts on the topic. But if you wish to learn about CBT you could do worse than listen to him - but definitely also explore it with your existing counselors.

    Similarly the podcast #13 the Two Norries did with Rebekah Donnelly might be interesting to you. She discussed how a repressed trauma led her to have long term symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Which involved unexplained pains around her body as well as fatigue and sleep issues. Having dealt with and confronted that trauma she was apparently entirely cured of it.

    The book "The body keeps the score" might be very interesting to you. It goes into the idea of how traumas can affect us later in life in many ways including ways similar to your situation. And it has a healthy outlook on what a "trauma" even is. Typically we think of them as huge events like rape or war or assault or being in serious accidents and the like. But actually a trauma is anything that overwhelms you in a moment such that it changes how you go through the rest of your life. And this can be anything at all even things someone else might scoff at saying "Sure thats nothing, get over it".

    What is the rest of your life like other than this? In general? Along with a book called "The Comfort Crisis" I have heard a lot of claims from many quarters that our level of comfort in life currently is leading to a lot of the mental health issues we see. In "the Art of manliness" podcast only this month the author of the book discusses this so you could check this out. But everyone from Rogan and Jokko and Hubermann and more have done podcasts discussing how controlled adversity, doing things that make us uncomfortable or challanged or even yes anxious in a positive way - can have positive effects.

    Their theory: If you have a brain that is hyper-vigilant to the point of excess looking for trouble and doom and catastrophe - so that it is finding it in things that are not even real (such as hypochondria and other anxiety disorders) then giving it very real things to focus on - preferably things you can confront and then resolve - allows the brain to go "Oh I found the bad thing - dealt with it - so thats alright then!". For Rogan for example its doing ice baths and working out to the point of agony in the gym. But we can each find our own. The basis for their theory is we evolved over 1000s of years to be ready for very real threats and adversity. But in modern day society we are cocooned in relative safety and comfort. But our bodies and DNA do not know this. So they are on constant high alert for what is never coming. And since they are not finding it the high alert gets exacerbated. And this just cycles out of control in many of us leading to anxiety and panic attacks and more. So the theory is you find ways to give the body what it is convinced is there any way - in controlled and positive ways - allowing it to feel like it has resolved the issue and can relax.

    I find the same. Running 20k as often as I can and doing Jujitsu and avoiding too many creature comforts and making myself occasionally outright uncomfortable in controlled ways has long since buried my anxieties. I know if I ever returned to a life of total creature comforts just sitting on the couch with a TV (I do not own a TV) or ordering in food or avoiding physical conflicts and challanges - my anxieties and depressions and other issues would simply explode again. I have been on top of them for over a decade. But I am under no illusion they are gone. They would return in a heart beat if I let them. But I stay on top of them in much the same was as someone who says "I am an alcoholic and I have not had a drink in 15 years". At first it seems ludicrous they would call themselves an alcoholic. Until you realize what it is they mean - that they still have that sickness inside them and it could relapse at any moment and they have to constantly stay on top of it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1 Carmelali1

    Wow, Naya your post already helped me on so many levels. I can totally relate to that "danger, alert" oh now its ok I ve done something about it throw back to when we were really in physical danger.

    I think it plays a part in constantly looking for reassurance. What helped me was 1) I became terrified of googling anything as for 3 years I had every symptom of MS purely caused by anxiety. When doc told me nothing was wrong with me after mris, cat scans etc, and all symptoms I was describing were anxiety that he had heard it all before I couldnt get over how Googling was making me so sick. I realised The anxiety was worse than if i actually had the disease so from that moment on Googling was out and most of my symptoms stopped. I continued to be anxious about my health every now n then but nothing in comparison to the dread & life ending thoughts I'd been having before. No Googling.

    2) dont want to sound all Woo woo here but I also read that book by Eckhart Tolle and it just seemed to make so much sense, it hit the spot. I think you have to be ready to read it though. OP Sj23, you sound so emotionally intelligent I think you would appreciate it. It basically points out in a disarming way how we can be completely completely controlled by our minds, where our random crazy thought processes dictate how we feel from day to day as opposed to us calmly using our thinking mind as a tool for life. Thinking is only a part of us, the part that processes, it is not us and we shouldnt give it so much power. Some people take a very spiritual view of his work but for me it was science too, our thinking, worrying minds are often like the tail wagging the dog and if we don't put manners on it in very easy , yet effective ways, we ll become ill, agitated and low in our moods and negative in our demeanour. Especially if ones mind has tendency like mine has to catastrophise, running madly into negative 'what if' scenarios. The book is called The Power of Now. Eckhart Tolle. I hope you get better & let us know how you are coping. Xxx

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,277 ✭✭✭santana75

    You may have gotten to this in counselling already, but I think the big question you have to ask yourself is what is all this about? The fear of having some sort of disease or being infected by something..........whats behind that fear? I've seen this before and at its core it seems to be about the fear of suffering or even death. Constantly worrying over your health, I mean what do you get from all of that? Its a complete waste of time. Theres a line in the Bible: "If you try to save your life you'll lose it but those who care nothing for their life in this world will live". I may have the exact words wrong but the gist of it is if you are preoccupied with protecting yourself, fearful over being harmed in some way, then in fact this will have the opposite effect of what you might intend, you're efforts to keep yourself safe from harm will end up suffocating you to the point where you'll never actually live. But if you let it all go and stop trying to protect yourself, you'll find life, real life. Look at people who are successful, they all threw caution to the wind and didnt have any regard for their own safety. This morning I watched a video of Tom Cruise throw himself from a plane and while he was falling he was talking to the camera, he seemed to have not a care in the world, even though he was falling from the sky. You have a choice, you can continue to spend your energy worrying and trying to keep yourself safe or you can let all of that nonsense go and see what happens. It is a choice, when the fear of something bad happening raises its head, all you do is refuse to engage, dont go down the rabbit hole. The people I know who have the best lives are the people who dont try to protect themselves and the most miserable people, the ones who live small, restrictive, fearful lives are the ones who are constantly running to the GP and are always on some sort of medication. I mean whats the point of it all really, this worrying and trying to protect yourself? It goes no place and all it does is waste your time and energy. That energy you spend worrying about your health, you could easily use that energy for something useful.