This is a reprint from another blog of mine that is now inactive. But I thought it was appropriate since it's often awkward to have these conversations with yourself and at times with your doctor. I never discussed this with my mother growing up, nor did she teach me to be a hypochondriac. Hope you enjoy and perhaps some of you can relate.
Just what is a closet hypochondriac? Those of you that can relate to the title alone know exactly what I’m talking about. To me, a closet hypochondriac is someone whose logic tends to overrule his or her irrational fears so that no doctor would ever label them a hypochondriac. I hope that others that are in the closet about this can rest assured that they aren’t alone and hopefully embrace it from a humorous perspective.
Those of you that can’t relate may now be asking yourselves, just what inner struggles could they possibly have? Well it’s simple, every time something new comes up that causes us to worry, which we logically know is irrational worry, nonetheless we worry. We then struggle with whether or not to go to the doctor. If we go to the doctor, they are going to tell us nothing is wrong, and we fear worse that we will be laughed at once we leave or labeled a hypochondriac in our chart. AHHHH!!! Not that!!! That’s where our logic kicks in and we choose not to go to the doctor. But after we’ve made that choice, we can’t stop worrying that something really IS wrong and this is the one time we really SHOULD have it checked out by a doctor, because if we wait TOO long, it will be TOO late and there will be nothing they can do. This is our internal struggle.
For me, my terminal disease of choice is cancer. If I see a bump on my hand that wasn’t there before, that I don’t know how it got there, it’s probably cancer. Or I’m going to worry that it is until it goes away. I’ve struggled with various back pain most of my life in one area. But I know how to treat and prevent pain on that side of my back. However, if I have pain on the other side of my back that logically I know feels like I strained a muscle, and it just needs time and perhaps ice and heat, I still worry that it’s cancer. Every time I get a new freckle somewhere on my body, I worry it’s cancer. I often have random bruises pop up on my body that I can’t pinpoint how they got there, so I worry I could have cancer. Even though I have a terrible depth perception problem which causes me to run into doorways, walls, or anything else in my way simply because I misjudge the distance they are from my body. Logically I know this is probably how one of these unknown bruises came about so I don’t bother going to the doctor freaking out. But I still wonder in the back of my mind sometimes until it goes away and I forget about it.
I thought I read somewhere once that the two most common diseases feared by hypochondriacs are cancer and MS. I’m sure there are other diseases feared out there. Please feel free to share your closet hypochondriacal disease of choice with the rest of us. It’s great therapy to get it off your chest. We won’t judge you. We might laugh in sympathy. But your choice to control yourself is highly respected. Humor is a great way to deal with a neurosis like this.
You know what the problem is, the Internet. Every time I get some new “symptom,” I have to go to the Internet and look it up. Cancer is always the first thing that pops up. Which is probably why cancer is the disease of choice. Everything is a potential symptom for cancer. What are we supposed to do about that? If we live long enough, won’t we all get cancer? Of course if I’m 90 and diagnosed with it, that’s ok. I just don’t want to be diagnosed with untreatable, terminal cancer at 30.
You see, what we should all fear are sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea (what a terrible name), herpes, AIDS, and the dreaded “warts.” All terrible diseases, but medical science has come so far that you don’t really need to worry about them nearly as much as you did 10 or 15 years ago or more, because there are cures, or effective treatments. You should fear the stigma attached with having to tell your potential spouse that you had syphilis or gonorrhea. You should be ashamed. That’s what we should all fear, not cancer. But cancer, while it’s not always a death sentence, is still killing people every day at all ages. It’s so unpredictable from person to person. And there are so many different kinds of cancer.
Thus the inner struggle continues. As long as logic always wins out to dictate when we do and don’t go to the doctor, we’ll all be ok. Just have a sense of humor about the fact that you’re a closet hypochondriac like me. There’s no shame in it.