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My Hypochondria - Part 1 - Presumed Origins

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I used to think of hypochondria as something that people developed because they had too much time on their hands, were too imaginative, or just craved attention. Then I developed a full blown serious case of this disorder.

It was hard to admit that’s what I had, and it is still hard because like any mental disorder, it carries a certain stigma.

It’s hard to say when I developed symptoms and when all its ramifications began to pop up; it wasn’t overnight. I have gone back a little in my personal history to try to figure out how it could have begun, although I think it is difficult to pinpoint the origins.

I have had three breast biopsies (surgeries), needle biopsies of the breasts, ultrasounds, and mammograms- which were all routine, with the exception of one that was diagnostic. This was all due to cysts, etc. and not something I really want to go into because that is beside the point. All the results of all these tests were benign.

The point, however, is that all of those procedures would leave me extremely anxious, and sometimes the anxiety was almost unbearable. I think the groundwork for the hypochondria was being set.

Now all of those procedures could have happened over another part of the body, resulting in the same type of anxiety. What I am trying to say is that hypochondriacs usually concentrate their worries on particular parts of the body. In my case it is the breasts, but it can sometimes shift to other areas.

The groundwork for my hypochondria was put in place several years ago. It may or may not have been due to all those procedures, but I kind of think it did.

Now other women may go through the exact same thing I did, and feel perfectly fine. We are all different. Fortunately, the anxiety only manifested itself when I had to see a doctor. My heart rate would go up in the waiting room, I would get sweaty palms, and would only really calm down when I began talking to the doctor. If the anxiety only showed itself at those moments, then that was something I could live with.

I didn’t think I needed a shrink then, but things changed.

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So does anyone know what to do about it? All of this is all too familiar. My problem is that is not just one part of my body but all of it. My head, heart, knees, skin, and muscles. I have been like this since I was a small child. I am the type of person to research EVERYTHING and pick it apart. I learned about sharks and the ocean as a child ( about 7 or 8 y/o ) and I cannot allow myself to go into the water even up to my ankles. And I wont let my children either. I have to leave the beach and let someone else watch them or I have panic attacks. I have a lot of panic attacks about all kinds of things.I have so many unreasonable fears and have been on so many different medications but nothing has helped. I want to feel better ( "normal" whatever that is ). The strangest thing of all is that I hid this from everyone in my life until about 6 years ago ( I am 37 ). My parents have no idea but they never paid much attention anyway. My second husband and my kids are the only ones that know any of this. I am ashamed. I want to fix it but need advice...got any??

June 29, 2011 - 11:31am
EmpowHER Guest

Wow, reading this I felt such a sense of familiarity. I think you are absolutely right. I think that hypochondria beigins to manifest itself when a personal health issue has arised (whether it be serious, or not) and people deal with it differently. I'm not sure what causes us to deal with issues in such a way (filled with anxiety) but I can say that hypochondria seems to really manifest itself with me when I am stressed to the MAX (i.e: University, work, exams, etc..) and that's when I begin to focus a large amount of attention on a particular part of my body that for some reason I feel is unhealthy. For example if I get a headache in a certain part of my head and not another I automatically attriubute it to a brain tumor or something outrageous like that and then I begin to have panic attacks! It is a never ending cycle that I seem to sometimes be able to break, and sometimes I can't. Also, I believe that if you are the type of person that likes to research things and pick things apart, that it may also set off the hypochondriatic tendancies. I know for a fact that being in University for what will be 3 years in a Psychology program has definitely set roots in when my hypochondria first started. Being exposed to the brain and how it functions (Biopsychology) and having to know different parts of the brain and the things that can go wrong within it just placed an internal fear in me that "perhaps that could happen to me?" I'm not sure, these are of course just theories but I am glad you shared this and I am glad I came upon it (thanks stumbleupon). And thank you!

May 23, 2010 - 12:43pm

When I was actually having the procedure (unless I was under anesthesia in which case I didn't know what was going on) I felt calm. Go figure. I was extremely anxious prior to having them, and later when I had to wait for the results.Yes, indeed, OCD and hypochondria are shape shifters - they will latch on and not let go.

February 20, 2010 - 4:12pm

OCD and hypochondria are shape shifters! They can latch onto whatever is at hand, and use our history to make it seem almost "logical." I had a mole on my leg as a 5 year old that I would prod at and it would scab up, and I felt absolutely no anxiety about it, but my mother started worrying it was cancerous and took me to the doctor who removed it which was very scary for a small child, and from then on, I was hypervigilant about any aberration in my skin, especially moles. But my disorder goes beyond my history when I see the compulsing that accompanies the fears--I think someone without OCD would maybe feel fearful, but wouldn't keep checking moles, and asking for reassurance, which then creates a desire for more reassurance. I'm sorry you had to go through all those procedures--medical testing usually makes my OCD really active.

February 20, 2010 - 1:08pm
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