It may sound flip to say it, but it’s true: about a dozen years ago, I went through a bad health period – I had a severe case of hypochondria.
OK, so that’s not actually bad health, right? Um, no, wrong. It’s bad mental health, and it translated into bad physical health for me too, from the stress and depression and possibly from results of my inappropriate responses to my mistaken beliefs about my health.
I wouldn’t say that hypochondria was itself the underlying disease and cause of my troubles. Rather, it was a symptom or manifestation – one that produced further symptoms. I was lonely, in some ways isolated, uncertain about my future. I needed something to grab onto. And it’s really something how that shock of dread of coming to think you have some terrible, life-altering disease can feel like something real to grab onto, like a life-validating (if, or because, life-threatening) struggle. That jolt of adrenaline and fear, that weight of loss, perhaps paradoxically gave me some sense of meaning.
It started with a flu. It was a real flu. Influenza isn’t really a suitable fantasy for hypochondria because it has a limited course. Hypochondria demands something life-altering. [Read more →]