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Health Check: how do you know if you’re obsessed with your health?

Health Check: how do you know if you’re obsessed with your health?

An Australian population survey found illness anxiety affects 5.7% of Australians at some point in their lives. Given the uncertainty of living with CLL, I expect the percentage of us that are unhealthily obsessed with our health is considerably higher. Jill Newby, Lecturer and NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow, UNSW Australia sheds some light on this relatively common condition;

- Explaining what it is

- How you know if you have it

- Notes that illness anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes

- Explains how cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT can help

As the author says; 'The illnesses people fear are vast and varied. While the creative ways the mind interprets what is going on the body can be fascinating, it’s also troubling how debilitating this condition can be.'

So if you find yourself struggling to get on with your life following a CLL diagnosis, seek professional help.


2 Replies

Interesting discussion and article Neil particularly as it relates to us with confirmed blood cancers. Many 'severe illness anxious' people (formally called hypochondriacs) have the fear of cancer as their predominant and irrational concern. I used to work with them in a previous life and they can be sad, blighted individuals. As the 'emperor of maladies', cancer seems to scare people the most. How does this translate to people whose fears have been confirmed? How anxious are we allowed to be with an unpredictable, incurable cancer known to attract other cancers? Could it even be described as slightly delusional not to suffer health anxiety in our situation?

The article cites these elements as the criteria for health anxiety being viewed as a problem:

1. Is it lasting too long, occurring too often and difficult to control?

2. Is it out of proportion to the actual danger or seriousness of the physical symptoms?

3. Is it distressing or affecting your quality of life, well-being and relationships?

I can certainly see the validity of this in otherwise reasonably healthy people who are forever imagining ever ache, pain, rash and infection as a perceived sinister risk but in my situation, I've got to view them as self preservation! That may sound slightly flippant but it's not intended to. I can certainly see the difference between all consuming, irrational and debilitating fear and preoccupation with my CLL and its manifestations but I'd contend it's different to a highly anxious, healthy person seeking out erroneous, confirmatory explanations on google. So how to balance the fear with rationality in CLL? Can we even afford to be too complacent with a cancer that can be unpredictable, flip quickly and infiltrate areas that even baffles the medics?

I'd certainly echo Neil's advice to seek professional help and support if the knowledge of your CLL is causing severe distress and massively affecting day to day life. This is very different to severe health anxiety however in which an otherwise healthy person becomes preoccupied with every perceived malfunction and attributes sinister pathology to it and attempts to confirm the suspicion with the misleading help of Dr. Google.

I think I'm allowed to do that to some extent. The horse really has bolted for me and a little bit of paranoia might serve me well. But only a little bit and never on weekends!

As the article acknowledges;

'In fact, it can be helpful to be concerned about your health.'

With CLL, that surely must be our mantra! Knowledge is power.




Well said, Newdawn.

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