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Hello all. My name is Noah. I am a health researcher who has dealt with mental illness on and off for a few years now. I'm reaching out to talk about an odd form of obsession that I've been stuck on lately. Wondering if anyone has had a similar experience.

Not long ago, I was someone who was relatively unconcerned with what I was putting into my body. I was twenty years old and never lived with any sort of fear of hurting myself. However, during the summer I meet up with some new friends and, on several occasions, smoked way too much marijuana. Like I had a crazy, negative experience both times that I still remember vividly. Worse yet, I was drinking so much coffee because of a stressful job and so I was anxious all the time. In a few instances, I literally made myself sick. It was a super unhealthy lifestyle and I regret it totally.

Unfortunately, it seemed to have had a lasting effect on my psyche. I stopped drinking coffee at the end of the summer altogether because every time I did, I got this weird sense that I was dying. I felt so paranoid and anxious, mentally scanning my whole body, feeling breathless, and scared lifeless. But it turned out that coffee wasn't the only trigger. Even minor drugs, ordinary things like tums or sleep aids, just started to freak me out. I took every little body signal as a sign of catastrophe.  And I couldn't shake this mode of perception for months.

For a while I thought this was like a one in a million experience -- like what the hell had I done to myself. However, in talking to a few friends, I found that they also had these really strange, extreme fears that made no sense. A paper-thin twenty-something told me he thought he was going to have a heart attack. A perfectly healthy nineteen year old told me he thought he had cancer. While these were obviously illogical comments, I could empathize with them. 

Now I'm wondering if others have had a similar problem? I have no intent to try and normalize it (it sucks). Mostly just wondering if it is really that rare.

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Independent Health Researcher: patreon.com/noahlf

Your experience is valuable, and makes you wise.

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I had issues with hypochondria or health anxiety too. Honestly, it’s cured now, but I still have other anxiety issues. Perhaps I can give you some advice in that area though. Other than, if you did not know the technical term of this — hypochondria — perhaps it’s time to research it. Yes, most people do not have this kind of anxiety, but there’s likely more people with it than you think. A more extreme kind of hypochondria may manifest in one of the subtypes of OCD, if you would like to look at that. Considering a pandemic is raging on, hypochondria is becoming more common, based on the articles by psychiatrists on Psychology Today. People don’t just think about possibly getting coronavirus, they start worrying about other diseases too. I think people are just more exposed to the possibility of their death, and it’s hard to deny after all that is happening.

In health anxiety, there is a deeper part of this anxiety than just getting an illness. It has more to do with the fear of death, and not just that, but it often has more to do with dying a meaningless life. I somehow managed to get out of it by using my fear not to constantly research every disease, but to focus on active ways to make myself healthy. A lot of therapies seem to focus on changing your thinking, but a lot of long term ease is in focusing on solutions around the fear rather than repeating worries over and over. I know it’s hard to stop looking actively around symptoms, and I don’t expect you doing it all at once, but it really seems to help. 

Now about the fear of death and dying with regrets, I just . . . instead of making that a bad thing, I made it into something good. How? Fear can be a good thing, when it’s powered into action rather than avoiding solutions. It’s when we fear not taking action and its consequences more than the fear of failure, can a lot of people progress. And believe me, often doing nothing is all the more risky. 

Life somehow becomes more meaningful when you realize how little time everyone has. That’s why you have to make the most of it. People die on their death bed with more regrets of what they never tried to do, rather than what they have done. If you fail, hey, perhaps you can try again. As long as you’re alive, there is always another chance.

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