Being a Hypochondriac

I’ve known for a while that I have bouts of hypochondria. I think it traces back to when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12, when my primary care doctor sent me to a dermatologist because he didn’t like the look of one of my moles, and he just wanted me to get it checked out by a specialist, just in case.

I don’t remember the whole time between the two appointments, but I do remember one specific day. I was at the fair, I think, with my mom and sister. There may have been someone else with us, but I can’t remember now. I just remember that I couldn’t stop worrying about that mole.

I could see where my doctor had a small amount of concern. It wasn’t circular. Instead, it was shaped almost like a lumpy cross. I prayed and prayed that it was nothing. That I’d be OK. And I found it so ironic that my “Jesus mole,” as I had deemed it, was the one that caused me such worry.

That mole turned out to be fine. But I never forgot how worried I was. And I never forgot how the doctor told me I was at a higher risk for melanoma because of all my moles. And I never forgot that the doctor told me I had a large mole on my back that I should watch: As long as it didn’t change, it should be OK.

Fast forward to two years ago, when my hypochondria hit an all-time low. (High? It was intense, is all I know.)

I looked at that mole every day. But not just once a day. I looked at it almost incessantly. I would look at it again just one minute after I looked at it, telling myself I hadn’t looked well enough and needed a second look. I cried. I got to the point where I had a breakdown at least once a day, because “I didn’t know if it was changing.” I found a second mole to worry about.

I finally got put on an antidepressant to control my anxiety. The hypochondria was bad, but I also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks due to other causes.

That helped, but it’s not completely gone. Here are a few examples of what being a hypochondriac is, in my experience, over the last 12 years.

Being a hypochondriac is: Worrying that you’re pregnant when your period is late, even when you’ve never had sex, which would make it impossible.

Being a hypochondriac is: Learning someone you know once had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and determining that bump on your shoulder — which you thought was a cystic acne bump — is the same thing.

Being a hypochondriac is: Determining a spot on your leg is definitely squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma.

Being a hypochondriac is: Learning you have a mouse in your apartment and immediately researching the bubonic plague, its symptoms for humans and dogs, and how many cases in the US are reported per year to learn your chances…just in case.

Being a hypochondriac is: Worrying that a bump you feel in your shin is bone cancer before remembering you ran your shin into a car earlier that day when helping a friend pack.

Being a hypochondriac is: Having digestion issues and determining it’s colon cancer.

Anyone else living with hypochondriac struggles?

(Just to update, mostly so no one comments and freaks me out about how I may actually have something wrong with me: I’m seeing a derm for the back mole (which has not changed), leg spot and shoulder bump later this month. My primary doctor wasn’t concerned about any of them, but I want to get the mole removed anyone just because of its location, and I figure it wouldn’t hurt to ask about everything else. Oh, and my digestion issues only lasted a few weeks.)