When Mel from Inside Melly’s Mind
developed a precoccupation with her health, she wasn’t sure what was going on. Here she talks about her experience of health anxiety and gives tips for getting support.
Back in 2010, I was just a regular student. My health was good. I had no worries, really.
Then one evening, I was on the bus home and started to feel unwell. I then had the sudden overwhelming sense of dread wash over me and had to really fight the urge to get up and run away screaming. I’ve since realised that what I experienced was an anxiety attack.
Later that evening, I still didn’t feel right. My temperature was all over the place, I felt weak, and my balance was terrible. After a trip to the doctor, he told me I had an acute ear infection and a viral infection. He prescribed me antibiotics and I was looking forward to feeling better.
A few days later, I had some sort of reaction to the antibiotics. They weren’t the ones that were listed. They were problems with cognition. My taste buds were affected. I felt emotional and had problems focusing. I called my surgery and they said it was probably nothing and to finish the course. Still wanting answers, I Googled the name of what I was taking and found that others had experienced the same.
From then, my infections cleared up but I still didn’t feel right. I constantly felt as though there was something wrong with me. I was consumed by every little thing my body did. Every twinge, every headache, every feeling of tiredness was something serious. Or at least it was, in my mind. On three occasions, I had anxiety attacks in public, convinced that I was going to drop dead, there and then. It was horrifying.
After a while, after some research, I realised that what I had been suffering with was most likely health anxiety. The definition of healthy anxiety is: ‘is a condition that consists of a preoccupation with having a serious illness or a fear of developing a serious illness despite medical reassurance.’ (Dr David Veale). The only issue I had was that I was so gripped with fear, at the thought of visiting my doctor, just in case he confirmed my worst fears. I was trapped in a vicious cycle. So in my head, I was a ticking time bomb and I lived under a huge cloud of dread, every single day.
Once I realised what I was suffering with, I felt much better. I gradually started to feel physically stronger and the feeling of unease began to lift. What I have now realised is that stress and anxiety can manifest themselves physically. So, although there was nothing actually wrong with my health, I was still experiencing physical symptoms. Your mind is very powerful.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from health anxiety, here are some tips that I think can help you
Speak to a medical professional
Try not to panic – it’s easier said than done but when you have an anxiety attack, it will pass, even though you feel like it won’t.
Get off Google – looking up your symptoms is possibly the worst thing that you can do.
Tell yourself “I am going to be okay.” Repeat those words out loud, it makes a huge difference.
Don’t be ashamed. Anxiety feels as real as any physical illness, even though you can’t see it. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you’re experiencing.
Now, I don’t live under that cloud of dread anymore. Being ill used to consume my every waking thought. I felt isolated and lonely and scared. My anxiety attacks have dissipated and if I feel one starting up, I know how to stave it off now. Fear is not real. I can’t say that it will be easy but I can tell you that you can get better. You can control your thoughts – even if you have to take them captive one by one.
??Mel blogs at Inside Melly’s Mind. You can find her on Twitter here!