Hello everyone. I will tell you all why I am here and give a brief introduction to who I am. My name is Tyler, and I am a university student in physics and mathematics. I love both subjects and have a very deep passion for it. I love studying all different fields, and have very big goals and dreams for myself. However, I fear that these goals and dreams may be silenced by my ever increasing anxiety and hypochondria.
I would have small, relatively tame bouts of hypochondria earlier in life. They would last for about a week or so and then go away for a very long period, ranging from months to years between returns. Recently, however, my hypochondria has spiraled out of control. Here is a chronicle of my thought process with the rollercoaster ride of diseases I have thought that I had:
1. "I have a bad cold!"
This was in early October, and I really did have a bad cold! Stuffiness, congestion, coughing. It was pretty miserable and made my schoolwork miserable.
2. "I have a really concerning cough..."
The nasal congestion went away and I was left with a dry cough that lingered for over a month. At this point I am starting to get really concerned about what to do. This is by the middle of November
3. "I have lung cancer"
Of course, this cycle of hypochondria started by Googling symptoms, a big no-no for hypochondriacs. When I Googled for things that could cause dry coughs, I came up with lung cancer. Even though I am 21 years old, a non-smoker, and run frequently, I thought I had lung cancer! In retrospect this fear was so ridiculous that I can't even remember my panicked rationalizations for it!
4. "I have lymph node cancer! (lymphoma)"
I soon realized (after about 3 or 4 days of terror) that hypothesizing lung cancer was stupid, and I thought that I was finished with yet another small bout of hypochondria, and that one would probably occur about 8 months from now that lasted the same amount of time. But I was very wrong about that. I made the mistake of going onto a thread in Reddit entitled "Cancer survivors of Reddit, how did you first know that something was wrong?" and posted lightheartedly about how I was a hypochondriac and this thread was not a comfortable read, and mentioned my dry cough. Then some JERK responded back saying 'Don't take it lightly I had a dry cough for a week and it turned out to be my cancerous lymph nodes pressing down on my lungs.' So, using hypochondriac logic, I now officially "had" lymph node cancer. This lead me to get checked up at my campus. I got a chest x-ray and everything turned out clear. Wow, 50 dollars down the drain on my hypochondria, which I now realized was an obsessive-compulsive thing. I was very relieved after my test to see that my chest cavity was clear of anything malicious, but at the same time I was nervous about my nervousness: how much will my hypochondria cost me in unnecessary medical bills?
5. "I have liver cancer!"
Boy, this was a fun one. So I had my appointment on a Wednesday, the 4th of December this year. So on the next day, that Thursday, I had pretty itchy skin. Now, I live in a really cold climate, and my skin gets dry and itchy. For the entire 5th of December I was convinced that I had liver cancer because I had itchy skin all over my body with no rashes. I couldn't stop thinking about the horror story my father had told during a Super Bowl party: one of his acquaintances had itchy skin all over his body with no rashes (kind of like me!), and when he went in for a routine check-up, they found out he had Stage IV liver cancer. He died 3 months later. I sat in my classrooms petrified all day long. Luckily, I got the frontal lobe of my brain to pull through and put "itchy skin due to extreme cold weather and the fact that you sleep with a fan on in your room during aforementioned cold weather". So I switched out my shower body wash with a different one that had a skin moisturizer, and wala! Itchy skin gone.
6. "I have brain cancer!"
In case you haven't noticed by the sub-title, this is starting to become a problem. That Friday, the 6th of December, the day my skin stopped being itchy because I used a skin moisturizer, was the day I looked in the mirror and told myself that my anxiety was a mental disability. Now that my symptoms were alleviated, I started to look for other ones: I looked for how good my balance was. I have a 10 minute walk to campus, and a 10 minute walk back, as well as walking on campus. During each walk I would notice every little tiny variation in the way that I moved. Any little bump worried me, which made me more attune to them, which made any subsequent small variations in the movement of my head seem like large sways or deviations. I became so nervous that I actually became dizzy. This caused my semester to come crashing to it's end. The last homeworks that I turned in for every class on the week of the 13th (before our finals week) were very lax because it was incredibly hard to focus on them. I was focused on how the movements of my head felt. The sad thing was that I knew that this was all in my head, that it was all anxiety, hypochondria, and an obsessive compulsion to find NEW symptoms to examine and then scrutinize those. For the very first time, I understood what it was like to actually *have* a mental problem and felt a sudden rush of empathy for those with OCD, anxiety, and depression. Up until now, I knew on an abstract level that these conditions were caused by happenings in the brain that were genuinely difficult to reverse with pure will alone, but I still thought on an emotional level "Why don't people with OCD just stop doing their compulsion if it's clearly so stupid? Why don't people with extreme and irrational anxiety just stop being nervous? Why don't depressed people just stop being down?" I never realized how swallowed your mind becomes, how suppressed your reason becomes when you have it. It was only when I had nights of terror that I developed a new level of empathy for those with mental imbalances.
7. (Current) "I have MS or ALS"
Being a lurker here, I see that this is a very common one. I have had twitches (overwhelmingly likely to be BFS), some for periods that were better, some for periods that got worse. I got over my brain cancer anxiety around the time that finals week (this past week) started. However, it was replaced by a new fear: a flaring up of my BFS. It was a classic case of looking up twitching symptoms and seeing the incredibly, preposterously unlikely ALS crop up. I am not nearly as terrified of MS after I compared it's typical prognosis to ALS. ALS is one of the kings of medical terror inducing. In between finals (which I did surprisingly well on, given my constant state of terror) I would test myself with near constancy, and there were few periods where I wasn't monitoring some part of my body and giving it a "test". Each little twitch that occurs (especially in my arms, legs, or hands) is absolutely terrifying to me. I constantly do little tests, I constantly monitor each part of the body that has recently twitched. I constantly monitor the dexterity of my hands. Even right now as I am typing (I am a pretty fast typer and so use it as a test) any little screw up or muscle-hesitation in my fingers is taken by me to corroborate my hypothesis that I have ALS, even though I am not clinically weak at all, have no problem eating (save for water "going down the wrong tube" yesterday, which I of course took as evidence that my swallowing muscles were being worn away by ALS even though I devoured 5 or 6 large meals and 3 or 4 snacks since without incident).
So why am I here? I created this account some time ago during when all this was happening, wondering if I would ever actually come to use it. I set it up for convenience, but then the "brain cancer" segment of this bout started to subside, so I felt like I didn't need an account for support and that maybe, just maybe, everything was starting to get better. Tonight, however, something happened that was the final straw, that told me that I needed to talk to people in this community.
My extended family and I went to see the new "The Hobbit" film in theaters and have pizza at their house. This should have been my time to just relax, chill out, and have fun after a long and difficult semester of physics and mathematics. But it wasn't. During the entire film I monitored my hands to see if they would twitch or not. The film was good, but I was extremely distracted by it. The feeling in my hands was at the forefront of my consciousness. Every once in a rare while (every half hour or 45 minutes) I would feel a completely normal twitch in one of my thumbs or fingers, and I would quietly, secretly lose my mind in my seat. After the movie I realized the situation that my mind was in, and decided to make a battle plan to end my anxiety, one part of which includes being on these forums to discuss things in a reassuring and upbeat way.
My three part battle plan
1. Don't ever research any medical information, ever, not once, for two whole weeks, starting on December 22nd. I am disallowing myself from looking up any symptoms whatsoever, at all. I believe that this is the catalyst for this whole spurt and the catalyst for each stage. I need to let each stage die without looking for more stuff. I believe that if I give myself two whole weeks, I will cease to look anything up entirely, there will be substantially less hypochondria fuel for any subsequent imaginary/anxiety induced or amplified symptoms, and eventually (within a month perhaps) this bout will be done for a long time.
2. Post on this forum as a place to get reassurance, feedback, as well as to give your own feedback and be a good person. I intend to keep the account permanently even if this bout subsides entirely for months, as it may come back again any time and it would be a nice outlet to have.
3. Whenever I get scared, something which will be inevitable, have a general outlook telling myself 1. It is okay to be scared and the fear will pass. 2. It is okay to have the symptoms you are having, don't panic. and 3. if you don't fuel it, your bout of anxiety will eventually finish.