- Health as first priority.
- Symptom vigilance.
- Illness preparedness.
- Always informed.
- Infection avoidance.
These days, there are a growing number of articles out there offering help to those of us that suffer from hypochondria as we navigate the pandemic and what should be our worst nightmare.
Tips on how to tame our beast are out in abundance.
Well meaning advice on how to relinquish control over the unknown, separate fact from fiction and replace fear with optimism fill our fear-fueled search results.
With hypochondria affecting approximately 2 to 5 percent of the population; our preoccupation with the fear of developing or having a serious illness is firmly entrenched in the disorder zone.
The Illness Anxiety Disorder zone to be exact.
BUT. What if having illness anxiety disorder is a good thing right now?
What if this terrible affliction has finally become something useful?
What if our hypochondria is now a super-power and this pandemic is the marathon that we have been training for all our lives??
Could it be that our irrational fear of illness may actually help us get through the current state of things?
1. Health is Number One
Health and government officials everywhere are imploring people to be aware and conscious and prioritize their health and the health of others.
When someone has illness anxiety, they automatically value their health and possibly the health of their loved ones above all else. ALL else.
We constantly worry about falling ill with a serious disease and a lot of the time, believe we have one.
We are always thinking about our health.
“They’ve been fearful of dying from contamination for a long time. For these people, it’s not so much of a transition from peacetime to wartime. They’ve already gone to wartime,” he says, the war being against germs, doorknobs, disease, the unknown. “They already have hyper-vigilant mechanisms.”Dr. Andrew Rosen. Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, Delray Beach, Fla.
Us illness anxiety sufferers can cope better than those not used to noticing and avoiding obviously or potentially sick people.
We don’t have to be told to take precautions or be reminded of the consequences of some horrible disease.
We already do and we already know.
2. No Symptom Left Behind
How many times have you heard or read about the symptoms of Covid-19 and the official pleas to not ignore these signs? Many, many times, I’m sure.
For us, symptoms are never ignored or go unnoticed.
We get ourselves checked out and when we don’t believe it when we’re told that we’re fine, we seek more reassurance.
From the first throat tickle to the prickly stirrings of a fever starting, we are on it.
I’m willing to bet that most people (myself included) instantly memorized Covid-19 symptoms and because they are so general, we then searched for secondary signs on Google.
Many of us, I’m sure, were the first to self-isolate or request testing.
You don’t have to ask us twice.
We are model citizens in this unprecedented time.
3. A Good Hypochondriac is Always (Over) Prepared
Without hoarding supplies, it makes good sense to be prepared for any illness let alone a pandemic.
I don’t know about you, but at any given time my vitamin cupboard is stocked.
I also have Tylenol, Advil and Buckley’s for anything hardcore that might pop up. We are also fortunate to always have fresh if not frozen produce on hand.
Immune boosting, virus fighting vitamins and supplements are already part of my family’s everyday routine and that has remained unchanged with the pandemic.
While everyone else races onto Amazon trying to secure some Ester-C, I can sit back and give thanks for our shiny bottles of health protecting goodness.
We have a digital thermometer in good repair, despite it being almost 18 years old, a heating pad, ice packs, hand soap and lots of Kleenex.
Oh, and a homemade mask for each of us.
Aside from the masks, all the other supplies were already in the house.
4. Hypochondriacs Keep up With Medical News
Keeping up to date with illness news is second nature for me. I don’t even think about it. I just do it.
Despite warnings against hypochondriacs giving Dr. Google too much airtime, I actually enjoy searching for new treatments for my ailment d’jour.
It gives me an odd sense of excitement and hope.
While doing research for this post, for example, I came across a golden tidbit in an article called; Hypochondria: The Impossible Illness by the sportswriter Jeff Pearlman.
After skillfully and descriptively lamenting the reality of living with this type of anxiety, Pearlman mentions the work of Dr. Brian Fallon.
Director of the Center for Neuroinflammatory Disorders and Biobehavioral Medicine and director of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University, Dr. Fallon feels that;
“As we learn more about the relationship between the brain, the immune system, and the endocrine system,” says Fallon, “a new view will emerge of patients with multiple unexplained symptoms.”
He cites irregular immune response and the over-production of cytokines as a possible and over-looked culprit behind on-going and unexplained symptoms (hypochondria).
Like I said, golden tidbit.
Now, in the age of Covid-19, the steady barrage of medical updates must be pretty grating for your average person.
Number of cases, number of deaths, number of masks, number of ventilators. All the numbers, 24/7.
On the other hand, those of us with illness anxiety, are used to this sort of assault on the nerves.
Consuming endless amounts of disturbing medical information on a daily if not hourly basis?
Not a problem.
Bring it on.
We may be freaked out, but we will always know the latest and the greatest news around the world of illness.
5. Hypochondriacs Often Avoid People and Places That Might Make Them Sick.
Pre-pandemic, I always tried to avoid germy places and if I did go somewhere (anywhere really) I was scanning for coughers, sneezers, throat clearers, face touchers and little noses with green snot.
Pretty typical behaviour for someone with illness anxiety.
The past three years have been particularly challenging for me in this regard. My son is still a toddler, so of course we’ve been going to toddler centric (germy) places.
On edge from the moment we arrive until the moment we leave, I find it exhausting and stressful directing him away from the kids who seem sick (who should have been at home), making sure his hands were disinfected and trying to hide my angst from him so he could enjoy himself.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit relieved when Covid-19 very first hit and going to the germy places was no longer an option.
Of course, now with all the rules in place restricting our movement, I would do anything to have life go back to normal, even brave kinder gym class.
Suffice it to say that we probably aren’t seeing many people with illness anxiety breaking the social distancing rules, lollygagging through the grocery store or attending large gatherings in public places – even if we were allowed.
Let’s See Ourselves in a Different Light, at Least For Now.
I love this quote from Jeff Pearlman.
“Despite official recognition in the DSM, those with hypochondriasis are often treated with the respect and seriousness of a Scott Baio film festival.”
It’s true. We aren’t the most popular people at times.
Our unending need to research, check and seek reassurance can aggravate the most patient in our circles, perhaps even as much as we aggravate ourselves.
We are all going through the wringer right now.
Even for the sunniest among us, the stress and anxiety of this pandemic must be seeping in, saturating the walls, poking holes in the bed spread and settling in our very bones.
For those of us who already fear illness and death, by all accounts, this should be a total nightmare.
But as seasoned veterans of the war on germs and disease, I think this is our time to shine and offer a (gloved) hand to all the hypochondria newbies out there.