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Thread: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

  1. #1
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    Jul 2016
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    How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    I'm sure this question has been asked before but how do we know what's real and what's anxiety?
    Every time I try to challenge a thought it always comes back to the same thing - what if this one is real? I know the things I've worried about in the past turned out to be nothing ( or nothing very bad anyway), but what if this is really the first symptom of something serious?


    I've had HA for years now so I can't remember what it's like to be normal. How long do you have a symptom or how bad do you let it get before deciding that it might now be worth a trip to the doctor?


    I've worried about so many issues over the years, the last thing I want now is to ignore something that I shouldn't ignore.


    Are symptoms to us HA sufferers completely blown out of proportion? For example, if we see a drop of blood somewhere it sends us into a panic. Would a non HA person take no notice of it and only get a bit concerned if it happens repeatedly and in rather large amounts. Do we notice and spot things that non HA people wouldn't even see?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
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    1,524

    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    I think the key bit here is 'hypervigilance'. We actively go looking for problems too; I've had HA pretty much all my life so I have no idea what 'normal' is. The big hurdle would indeed be "how do I know this is for real this time?" - a comment made by a young nurse to me whilst I was in hospital recently, who herself suffers from HA.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    72

    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    I struggle with this a lot lately.

    As I get older (early 40s now), I know that the likelihood of certain disease increases. And that for some of those diseases, early detection and treatment can lead to a cure. For years I have downplayed certain symptoms as anxiety and, based on the fact that I am still here, I was right - they were just anxiety or some random pain/tingle - not ALS, MS, cancer, etc. So in effect, this strategy of dismissing my "irrational" thoughts about disease has worked.

    But what happens when there is a real problem? I would be harming myself by dismissing a symptom as anxiety when it is really an initial alert of something serious going on. Sometimes our doctors are (unwittingly) complicit in this. I often tell my doctors that I am health anxiety prone when discussing a certain symptom. I think that gives them an easy out. They say, "oh, that must be it." What if their hunch was really to order more testing just to be sure, but I talked them out of it?

    Last year after going through a bunch of scans and testing and finding possible incidental tumors, etc., I decided that I would only seek medical attention for the "serious stuff" if I had a significant symptom that just could not be ignored or dismissed as anxiety. I will give you a perfect example:

    I am currently worrying about a brain tumor or head/neck cancer. Why? Because I am experiencing random, mild twinge headaches on top of my head and at the base of my skull/neck. The headache is so mild sometimes I am not sure if I actually have a headache. I am choosing to dismiss this as anxiety for the following reasons: (i) I have no focal signs or other neurological symptoms; (ii) the headaches can be easily explained as tension headaches/muscle strain; (iii) I had a brain MRI last year w/ no tumor; (iv) the likelihood of cancer is very low; (v) I've experienced these exact symptoms before according to my headache journal; and (vi) I am currently very stressed due to work deadlines [perhaps explains the symptoms].

    Now, if I had a seizure or balance problems or other serious neurological symptoms, I would head to the ER. So far, none of that.

    Maybe that's the best strategy? Dismiss the trivial symptoms and address the serious ones? I am not sure, but I definitely understand your concern.

  4. #4
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    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrokenGirl View Post
    I'm sure this question has been asked before but how do we know what's real and what's anxiety?
    Every time I try to challenge a thought it always comes back to the same thing - what if this one is real? I know the things I've worried about in the past turned out to be nothing ( or nothing very bad anyway), but what if this is really the first symptom of something serious?
    My experience is that none of my 'What If' thoughts re disease have ever come true. The one time I was in actual danger (internal bleeding during pregnancy) it was blindingly obvious there was a serious problem. There was no 'what if' about it, and also I wasn't scared as was always the case with my HA thoughts because it was real - it was happening - and I was completely calm.

    Do we notice and spot things that non HA people wouldn't even see?
    Yes, because we are hyper-focused on ourselves and anything health related. A drop of blood on the floor is panic attack fodder for HAer's for sure.

    We also 'see' things that are not actually there, as in moles which 'look' different, but actually aren't..

    My policy is to see a GP if a symptom is new and doesn't bugger off in about 3 weeks because it's common sense. Ignoring symptoms is worse than over-reacting to them - and for obvious reasons.
    __________________
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    292

    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    Hi

    I am dealing with this problem right now

    Itís 11.58am on a Monday morning and Iím in a panic state and I donít know why

    Iíve had a awful weekend with this and Iíve had it all before but when I have chest discomfort then in my head this is it! This is the impending heart attack Iíve been waiting for for 12 years since my mam died the same way

    What if this time itís not a fibromyalgia flare up? What if the pain my fibromyalgia causes me hasnít set off my HA this time? What if itís real?

    Even though Iíve had it for a good 2 weeks bad and I logically know if my heart was in trouble I would have had a heart attack by now as soon as my back and chest muscles start tightening it goes straight back to fear and panic Iím finding it increasingly difficult to talk myself out of it and calm myself down

    I tried to talk to my doctor this morning she has nothing till Thursday my first thought? If Iím here on Thursday 😬

    What I have noticed this time is that I feel so low and unhappy I look forward to nothing so I donít know whatís happening there Iíve always avoided depression medication purely because it makes you feel worse before it makes you feel better but I donít know how long I can do that this time

    I have to go work this afternoon and tomorrow and I canít face it but Iím scared to have any time off because Iím facing redundancy it might go against me when they look at who they are going to redeploy

    I always feel worse when backed in a corner and makes me panic more the thought of another panic attack at work last time was embarrassing and bad enough donít know what to do

    Anyway sorry to ramble on letís hope we all find the strength to get through this

    Best wishes

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    21,625

    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    One simple answer is posting about the worst case scenario on a HA forum and seeking reassurance.

    Positive thoughts
    __________________
    "Eat. Drink. Enjoy the work you do. Be thankful for the blessings God gives you in this life. Live, love and seek out the things that bring your heart joy. The rest is meaningless... Like chasing the wind." King Solomon

    The best help is the help you give yourself! http://cbt4panic.org/

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
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    745

    Re: How do we know if a symptom is real or just our HA mind in overdrive?

    I get what you are all saying. If I'm posting on an anxiety forum then it's more than likely anxiety. And like you said NoraB, when there was something serious wrong with you, you just knew it.
    And so far my worst case scenarios haven't come true. But that's the thing with HA, non of that reassures me in my current worry. All i seem to have atm to get me through is reassurance. I know it's not the answer, and I certainly don't want to live like this but meds aren't working so far and i was supposed to start therapy last Friday but they rang and cancelled it. Am waiting for them to contact me again now for another appointment.
    Today's worry is about my 19 year old son. I was talking to him a while ago and noticed a red mark in his eye. On the white part of the eye. And it's just instant panic, jumping to the worst conclusion, what if it's eye cancer? It has me nearly in tears thinking about it.
    I'm starting to feel like a complete failure because of this. All i can think about now is his eye and the only way I'll calm down is if I get reassurance or the mark goes away :(

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