Hypochondriac and CLL - not a good combination

Hypochondriac and CLL - not a good combination

In addition to living with the uncertainty of a chronic, yet incurable condition that suppresses our immunity, thereby increasing our susceptibility to infections, CLL can cause many and varied changes to how our body functions. And this is in addition to the regular changes in our health as we live and age. So spare a thought for those of us with hypochondriasis (or, since the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, somatic symptom disorder).

"The number one enemy of someone with the disorder is Dr Google (“cyberchondria”). Indeed, the only thing more catastrophically creative than a hypochondriac’s mind is Google’s 2.42 million webpages on the causes of cancer. Every possible symptom can be linked to every possible diagnosis, by at least one disreputable source or another."

In this informative and helpful article, Peter McEvoy, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, counters the unproductive beliefs of hypochondriacs and provides some useful tips on how to manage health anxiety to help all of us enjoy our lives, rather than worrying unnecessarily about our health:



Photo: Sunset at Marino Rocks, South Australia

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5 Replies

  • After 16 years of blood draws every 3 months I have developed Aichmophobia... don't start pointing fingers either...!!! :-)

  • Thank heavens then that acupuncture is out of the question, seriously though Chris, how do you cope? Bubnjay

  • This is off topic - I just have to say how much I enjoy your beautiful photos. Please keep 'em coming! (The content is always interesting too, although a lot of it goes over my head).

    I have spent 13 years in blissful ignorance (W&W) of the troubles others are going through, and the posts here have really widened my understanding.

  • Deeply thought provoking article Neil, thanks.

    However, I wonder if being something of a practising hypochondriac is something of a prerequisite to long term survival when you have CLL?

    The article explores the over anxious response to every ache, beat and painful sensation people may experience and their exaggerated reaction to it therein. However, that uncertainty is in the context of something we don't have.... A healthy immune system.

    Is hypochondria only applicable to the otherwise healthy with certainty of a normal physiological response to daily trauma, infection and errant sensation? How many days would a CLL'er disregard a painful lump in the throat in the belief that Mr. Worry Pants was simply in overdrive and soon the immune response would kick in to kick it out?

    It poses some fascinating questions because so often on this site members will ask, 'how long should I leave this symptom?'

    And the overwhelming response is, 'you need it checking out with your doc!' And soon...

    CLL perhaps creates a kind of hypochondria and calls it 'active watchfulness'. An over zealous surveillance that might be viewed as paranoid in the otherwise healthy without confirmed malignancy.

    Professor McCoy says in his article, 'And, be willing to sit with uncertainty about your health.' Really? Maybe he should have made the distinction between those with unpredictable cancer diagnoses and those with irrational fears. We need to quantify but not magnify.

    (And I'm not discounting those for whom hypochondria and Munchausen's is a definable medical condition in itself. And a deeply distressing condition too in which the mental health can become compromised.)

    So when I get an enduring or indeed fleeting sensation that keep recurring, whilst I might turn into a bit of a cyberchondriac in terms of seeking advice, I actually have to suspect that there's some validity in my fears. Because I'm no longer living in the preserve of the certain. The days of assuming I'm just overreacting are no longer valid. Or are they? Dr. Google can have his uses too for the balanced mind.

    But, the flip side to this is the hypochondria that can develop in response to loved ones. I can handle the uncertainty in myself but it's created an irrational fear for those I care about. I wonder if others on here experience that?

    But perhaps it's entirely understandable when I've been dx with 2 separate cancers in the space of 18 months against some pretty overwhelming statistical possibility (even by Dr. Google's reckoning.)

    We now inhabit 'cancerland' and it's pretty scary territory!

    So I'd contend we are in a state of 'heightened watchfulness' and somehow that has to be managed with balance and without crippling worry.

    But it's much easier to do when the odds are already stacked in your favour.

    But not everything we experience is CLL related. Or is it?

    It's the million dollar question that means we should always be listened to in terms of health concerns because nobody can be absolutely sure. The net certainly can't diagnose in the face of our deeply complex and unpredictable condition that's for sure. Use it to check the spelling then take it to your physician is my advice! It's also the advice of Dr. Google incidentally! :-)

    Sorry for length of reply...hope you all have a worry free day.


  • Good points Newdawn and you've summarised it well..."So I'd contend we are in a state of 'heightened watchfulness' and somehow that has to be managed with balance and without crippling worry.". We certainly need to remain vigilant, remaining in a state of alertness for any changes while trying not to get too alarmed. Hopefully we have supportive doctors and specialists that understand our concerns when we raise them and can sensitively dismiss those that aren't warranted while supporting prompt intervention when needed.

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