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Thread: Health Anxiety is relentless

  1. #1
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    Health Anxiety is relentless

    Iím female, 53 and suffered with HA on and off since I was a child.

    Iím on medication, had cbt, counselling and various other help and yet it still has a hold on my life. I know itís not a separate entity, that only I can manage it, but I just need to write on here as it helps to get it down in black and white. I used to get acute bouts of HA, but over the last few years, itís become much more chronic, bouncing from one thing to the other. Despite people saying to me (each time I have a new health concern) that it was ok before and that it will be this time, I see it more as the opposite - the fact itís been ok before means that this time itíll be bad. I think to me, itís a case of getting away with it so many times before that when we look at it statistically, the odds are getting less in my favour that itíll be ok.

    I was worried about a chronic cough a while back and after a normal chest X-ray, I felt better. Then I feel something else and off I go to get checked. The cycle is non-stop. Iíve recently been promoted to Head of school and am thinking thereís no way I am going to be capable of doing the job; the dark thoughts and what ifs fill my head.

    Just after Christmas I noticed that when I look up, the front, right side of my lower neck protrudes more than the left. I panicked and eventually saw my doctor who examined my neck and said she could feel what I meant, but that she just thought it was the anatomy of my neck and nothing worrying. Since then I have had periods where I can stop myself checking but then this week I started again. The creeping urge that something is wrong and if I donít check it I will miss it etc. All the while I know that I should not be checking, that it will make it worse, that the cycle will just go round and round and the desperation for certainty and reassurance will never be met. Iíve been checking my neck for the last few hours and got my husband to check too. The dread that itís cancer rushes through me, then I have to check again.

    Donít check. Donít Google. Such simple answers. But itís not is it; not to the HA sufferer; if it were, then I imagine sites like this would have a lot less posts like mine. Years ago I could rely on the fact that I was Ďyoungí but since turning 50 I find itís fuelled my fears ten fold - suddenly Iím in the age group that makes many of my fears more likely (to me anyway) and every pain, bump, sensation is evidence. Iíve lost any idea of what is Ďnormalí checking. Sometimes, going to the loo, fills me with anxiety because we are told to check. Just before the monthly boob check, (assuming Iíve managed to go a month) Iím anxious. I never used to check my neck, groin, armpits for lumps, but now I do. What is normal? What if I miss something if I let it go just this once. What if I agree to stop checking like the therapists advise and the one time I do, I miss something. I know Iím hyper-vigilant and that everything I do increases my fears, but then I canít ignore it, just in case.

    Just wanted to get thoughts in type.

    Sarah

  2. #2
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    Jul 2013
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Quote Originally Posted by flatterycat View Post
    Iím female, 53 and suffered with HA on and off since I was a child.

    Iím on medication, had cbt, counselling and various other help and yet it still has a hold on my life. I know itís not a separate entity, that only I can manage it, but I just need to write on here as it helps to get it down in black and white. I used to get acute bouts of HA, but over the last few years, itís become much more chronic, bouncing from one thing to the other. Despite people saying to me (each time I have a new health concern) that it was ok before and that it will be this time, I see it more as the opposite - the fact itís been ok before means that this time itíll be bad. I think to me, itís a case of getting away with it so many times before that when we look at it statistically, the odds are getting less in my favour that itíll be ok.

    I was worried about a chronic cough a while back and after a normal chest X-ray, I felt better. Then I feel something else and off I go to get checked. The cycle is non-stop. Iíve recently been promoted to Head of school and am thinking thereís no way I am going to be capable of doing the job; the dark thoughts and what ifs fill my head.

    Just after Christmas I noticed that when I look up, the front, right side of my lower neck protrudes more than the left. I panicked and eventually saw my doctor who examined my neck and said she could feel what I meant, but that she just thought it was the anatomy of my neck and nothing worrying. Since then I have had periods where I can stop myself checking but then this week I started again. The creeping urge that something is wrong and if I donít check it I will miss it etc. All the while I know that I should not be checking, that it will make it worse, that the cycle will just go round and round and the desperation for certainty and reassurance will never be met. Iíve been checking my neck for the last few hours and got my husband to check too. The dread that itís cancer rushes through me, then I have to check again.

    Donít check. Donít Google. Such simple answers. But itís not is it; not to the HA sufferer; if it were, then I imagine sites like this would have a lot less posts like mine. Years ago I could rely on the fact that I was Ďyoungí but since turning 50 I find itís fuelled my fears ten fold - suddenly Iím in the age group that makes many of my fears more likely (to me anyway) and every pain, bump, sensation is evidence. Iíve lost any idea of what is Ďnormalí checking. Sometimes, going to the loo, fills me with anxiety because we are told to check. Just before the monthly boob check, (assuming Iíve managed to go a month) Iím anxious. I never used to check my neck, groin, armpits for lumps, but now I do. What is normal? What if I miss something if I let it go just this once. What if I agree to stop checking like the therapists advise and the one time I do, I miss something. I know Iím hyper-vigilant and that everything I do increases my fears, but then I canít ignore it, just in case.

    Just wanted to get thoughts in type.

    Sarah
    Hi - I am almost 54 years old and like you suffered a health anxiety for ever it seems well I can certainly remember being 12/13 and in a class in school and couldnít get my breath and there it started - I have now been in a downward spiral since about November last year sparked by a fall out with my eldest child (who incidentally still wonít speak or return any messages) but I was also completely terrified of catching covid and just knew I would be one of those who didnít end well Ö.. well I got covid on 1 February after all that time working in a school and from there my anxiety has snowballed badly - I am still left with a cough and congestion in throat and sinus after 14 weeks and so convinced along with their breathing issues it is lung cancer ÖÖ. Added to that I have a larger lymph node one side which has been like it for at least 9 plus years - honestly there are other things which I then obsess about and I could have been writing all day about the list I am worried about Ö.. so I understand how you feel 😢😢 I did have breast cancer 14 years ago and had chemo and radiotherapy and surgery - all good but just feel scared right now ÖÖ now have rare type of lupus - I write this feeling I must sound completely crazy but just donít know how I am holiding things together right now - it is getting tough as donít sleep as stress and then cough (I think half the time I donít even need to cough!!!)

  3. #3
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Quote Originally Posted by shazbog View Post
    Hi - I am almost 54 years old and like you suffered a health anxiety for ever it seems well I can certainly remember being 12/13 and in a class in school and couldnít get my breath and there it started - I have now been in a downward spiral since about November last year sparked by a fall out with my eldest child (who incidentally still wonít speak or return any messages) but I was also completely terrified of catching covid and just knew I would be one of those who didnít end well Ö.. well I got covid on 1 February after all that time working in a school and from there my anxiety has snowballed badly - I am still left with a cough and congestion in throat and sinus after 14 weeks and so convinced along with their breathing issues it is lung cancer ÖÖ. Added to that I have a larger lymph node one side which has been like it for at least 9 plus years - honestly there are other things which I then obsess about and I could have been writing all day about the list I am worried about Ö.. so I understand how you feel 😢😢 I did have breast cancer 14 years ago and had chemo and radiotherapy and surgery - all good but just feel scared right now ÖÖ now have rare type of lupus - I write this feeling I must sound completely crazy but just donít know how I am holiding things together right now - it is getting tough as donít sleep as stress and then cough (I think half the time I donít even need to cough!!!)
    Iím sorry you are struggling too. I too have a vivid memory of the first time I started worrying about my health! My cough went on for months which. I was so worried. After the clear chest x-ray I havenít noticed my cough as much! At least you know that something youíve had 9 years isnít going to cause any worry. I donít really know what a lymph node feels like. I canít feel a lump, but can feel an area thatís definitely thicker/protrudes more than the other side. I hope you start to feel less anxious soon.

  4. #4
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Congratultions on the Headship, Sarah but I should imagine that the added responsibility really ramps up your HA because you can't afford to be ill as so many people rely on you? Hence the compulsive checking "just in case" you miss anything? I'm 63 and the mum of 2 autistic adults who rely on me to keep well and not grow/look old because I am not allowed to die!

  5. #5
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Quote Originally Posted by flatterycat View Post

    Donít check. Donít Google. Such simple answers. But itís not is it; not to the HA sufferer; if it were, then I imagine sites like this would have a lot less posts like mine.
    Don't Google for sure.

    Re checking, I'd say that women of a certain age need to be checking themselves on a regular basis. As do men. This can be done once a month during a bath or shower. The emphasis being on the once a month. It should be a case of awareness, rather than obsession. To me, either extreme is unhealthy. As in checking too often or not checking at all..

    ] Years ago I could rely on the fact that I was Ďyoungí but since turning 50 I find itís fuelled my fears ten fold - suddenly Iím in the age group that makes many of my fears more likely (to me anyway) and every pain, bump, sensation is evidence. Iíve lost any idea of what is Ďnormalí checking. Sometimes, going to the loo, fills me with anxiety because we are told to check. Just before the monthly boob check, (assuming Iíve managed to go a month) Iím anxious. I never used to check my neck, groin, armpits for lumps, but now I do. What is normal? What if I miss something if I let it go just this once. What if I agree to stop checking like the therapists advise and the one time I do, I miss something. I know Iím hyper-vigilant and that everything I do increases my fears, but then I canít ignore it, just in case.
    Being hyper-vigilant means that you will almost certainly misinterpret normal bodily functions and sensations which feeds directly into your imagination that something is wrong with you. You also must understand that your fifty year old body (while still being amazing) is going to be a lot different to your younger body. More bumps. Less collagen. Different hormonal set-up entirely.

    That said, I don't know whose body I am currently inhabiting but it aint mine.

    Re the loo, a courtesy glance as you toss in the loo roll is sufficient. Should anything be amiss in the ol' colon - then it would be obvious and constant. And this still doesn't equal things like cancer. There's no need to peer into the pan and scrutinise your crap. I had blood in the pan and on the loo roll earlier this year. It was obvious and it did warrant speaking to my GP because it was a first for me (despite having piles since I gave birth to my eldest in the 80s, thanks Son) but it was nothing more sinister than a fissure. So even when we do see claret in the pan, there's no need to lose our shit (scuse the pun) because 9/10 it will be something minor. And even when it's not minor, it doesn't mean cancer. HA always takes us to worst case scenario and it goes full-drama with it. My health imaginings made Grey's Anatomy look like Trumpton, but reality is generally less dramatic and to prove that point I've actually dozed off to 24 Hours in A&E. It was where a little old lady was debating between a cheese sandwich. Next thing? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..

    Anyway, I'm rambling. HA is awful, horrible - really mucks about with our lives but there is a way out, believe me..
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  6. #6
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Thank you Pulisa and Nora.

    Pulisa - I kind of fell into the Headship role having never wanted it before and find myself in a position I don’t know that I want. I will give it bloody good go though! It must be really tough being mum to two autistic children (even if they are adults!) and a lot of work trying to make sure you don’t grow old or look it

    Nora - Thanks for your advice. Monthly checks were something I used to do for my boobs, but never really felt the urge to check anything else. Even though I had HA then, it was different. Over the last few years the checking has slowly become part of my everyday life. I often think that if I am checking it will make it more likely that I catch anything early - of course I know that that’s true for boobs and poos, but the checking has grown to include my neck, eyes, collarbone, stomach… and I can’t just check once, I have to keep doing it again and again. That’s where I get stuck on what normal people check! I also suffer with OCD and although I am no doctor, I am convinced they are the same beast! The checking urges feel the same as urges I have to carry out certain random rituals, all of which I do under some misguided attempt to protect myself.

    Tomorrow I have blood tests booked - doctor ordered them after I asked for some - then I panicked even though it was me that brought them up! She said I didn’t need to have them done; it was only because I mentioned it! My HA brain could never have then said ‘ok I won’t bother’, so I booked in for them. My HA also says that the results will turn out to be abnormal and it will be because I pushed for them! Tempting fate again!

    Work was difficult today, but I managed to go through the motions despite the feelings of fear rushing through me and the churning stomach. I even managed to get my boss to check out my neck to see if she could feel the area where I feel it is enlarged/feels bigger than the other side! A new low!

    Thanks agin both of you xx

  7. #7
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Quote Originally Posted by flatterycat View Post
    I also suffer with OCD and although I am no doctor, I am convinced they are the same beast! The checking urges feel the same as urges I have to carry out certain random rituals, all of which I do under some misguided attempt to protect myself.
    Health anxiety falls under the umbrella of OCD. I have OCD too. However, I have also been able to successfully control my health anxiety..

    Tomorrow I have blood tests booked - doctor ordered them after I asked for some - then I panicked even though it was me that brought them up!
    This is classic HA narrative. You requested blood tests but your HA is trying to twist this into something like, 'Yes, but the doc wouldn't have obliged unless he/she thinks there is a serious problem'.

    My HA brain could never have then said ‘ok I won’t bother’, so I booked in for them. My HA also says that the results will turn out to be abnormal and it will be because I pushed for them! Tempting fate again!
    How many abnormal blood results have you actually had? Aside pregnancy, there have been had two occasions where my bloods came back deficient in Vit D and Vit B12. Aside this, there's been no abnormalities but we have to expect issues as we age because that's the norm. Rarely will someone live to old age with no issues at all. The majority of us have to give our bodies some help as we age..

    It's common to feel very unwell with severe anxiety. And given your age I'd throw in hormonal imbalance too. This alone can cause women to experience anxiety (and develop HA) for the first time in their lives.

    Work was difficult today, but I managed to go through the motions despite the feelings of fear rushing through me and the churning stomach. I even managed to get my boss to check out my neck to see if she could feel the area where I feel it is enlarged/feels bigger than the other side! A new low!
    I totally understand the desperation and the urge to check right there and then, regardless of what people might think. This is how HA consumes us..

    You can control HA. It's not easy by any means, especially for people who have OCD but it's doable..

    The positive here(and it's a biggy) is that you managed to carry on working alongside those awful feelings and sensations. Maybe focus on this 'win' rather than what you consider to be your low?
    Last edited by NoraB; 17-05-22 at 08:35.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Yes I agree..Amazing that you could carry on with your very responsible job despite everything churning through your brain..

    Re the blood tests I would suggest that you don't ask for a print out of the results when they come in..Absolute dynamite with an HA mindset as you will focus on any minor discrepancy in the ranges which may be normal for you anyway. If the GP says they are "satisfactory" then they are.

    Don't beat yourself up for getting a colleague to have a feel of what you think you can feel..Sometimes the urge gets the better of us.

    Having the blood tests will make you feel "at risk" and you will be laying yourself open to the feared "bad news" but these are fears and not fact and getting a normal blood screen may well make you feel reassured that nothing sinister is going on in terms of lymphatic anomalies.

  9. #9
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    Quote Originally Posted by pulisa View Post

    Re the blood tests I would suggest that you don't ask for a print out of the results when they come in..Absolute dynamite with an HA mindset as you will focus on any minor discrepancy in the ranges which may be normal for you anyway. If the GP says they are "satisfactory" then they are.
    Absolutely!

    I melted my brain trying to decipher my blood test results. Don't go there. The doctor has done the time in med school, we haven't. They'll let us know when there is a problem.
    __________________
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  10. #10
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    Re: Health Anxiety is relentless

    FlatteryCat so much of your post is my story. I'm 52 with long-term HA that has been relentless the past few years jumping to one worry to another, sometimes hour to hour. I sabotage myself with HA whenever something good happens or I'm about to succeed at work by becoming fixated on some HA worry.

    Pulisa and Nora have helped me so much so please re-read their wise words when you're feeling down.

    I found that after 50 I had an initial spike in HA. Crossing that number felt like everything I'd feared for so long was now even more likely.

    However, this year I've been able to change the narrative and I honestly never thought that would be possible.

    I still get HA every day, worrying about this skin spot or that pain in my belly or dementia like memory blip, but when I feel myself starting to panic, I remind myself that whatever happens to me from this point forward is my story. That's the way it is supposed to be. There's no point fearing what might come. It just ruins today.

    The panic is still there, but it doesn't have as much power over me.

    I worried relentlessly about health issues all through my 30s and 40s and nothing happened. What a waste. I don't want live that way anymore.

    The other thing my therapist has helped me accept is that these HA thoughts are long standing and won't go away overnight. It will take time to retrain my brain, so there's no point getting down on myself or frustrated that my HA thoughts are still coming. Coping with them a bit better is a big win.

    I really wish you all the best. On bad days I find listening to the audiobook of Stop Worrying, Start Living by Dale Carnegie is very soothing. It's an old book, published in the 1930s, so some things he says are a bit on the nose, but overall I find it very helpful.

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