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Fear of Illness
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Fear of Illness
Whenever I get the slightest twinge of something, I am sure it is
a death sentence or a chronic disease. I have had panic attacks
many times in the past and improved them with cognitive
therapy... but this is a whole other problem. Right now I have
some arthritic feelings that could be viral or could be
rheumatoid arthritis. I find it impossible not to obsess and be
terrified that I am going to go from healthy 37 year old mom to a
wheel chair. Given that life may actually throw an illness my
direction at some point, I need to not live in terror all of the
time and accept it if something does happen.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be great.
Seek out a cognitive behavioral therapist. They focus on helping
you understand and move past anxiety. Anxiety and panic attacks
are very treatable if you are motivated. It takes hard work, but
the more you force yourself to confront the smaller the problem
gets (and vice versa--anxieties can get out of hand quickly--you
do need to be vigilant with anxiety issues).
I am suffering from the exact same thing. When I have a headache
I think of a brain tumor and when I have digestive problems I
think of crohns or colitits. It's just crazy to live that way.
It's a form of anxiety, hypochondria to be exact. I would advice
you to never look up diseases on the internet or any physical
symptoms. I did this for a while and you can't belive how anxious
I got. I am curious what others have to say since I can't talk
with friends about that. Everybody I know seems so relaxed and
can't understand what I am going through. I am considering taking
some antidepressents to see if it calms my anxiety. There is a
websit called www.anxietyzone.com .You should take a look at
that. There seems to be few of us with this problem but you are
You can learn to manage your panic attacks (and other states) by
working with a good somatically-oriented therapist. It doesn't
matter what your concern of the moment is; by working with
yourself in a particular way, you can calm down enough to
rationally assess your situation and seek appropriate care if and
as needed. I highly recommend Martha Knobler, an MFT who has
trained for 30+ years with Stanley Keleman, the founder of
Formative Psychology. Her office is in N. Berkeley (Gourmet
Ghetto area); number is 510.849.0222. You'll be glad you called!
Fear of illness/panic,
Take this with a big grain of salt as I don't mean to be ms. amateur
psychiatrist, but you might have a bit of ocd. i say this because I
myself have OCD and my sister and mom do as well. They have very
similar symptoms as you do and have dealt with it through medication
and cognitive therapy. I have had different ocd symptoms but have
also dealt with ocd very well through the same therapy/med combo.
What i find great about your post is that you see that you are having
a problem and that is so often half the battle, whether it ends up
being ocd or not. Perhaps you can contact your former therapist who
helped you with your panic episodes. What you are experiencing is
probably much more common than you know so remember you are definitely
not alone and i am sure you will get through this and be stronger than
Your post has stuck with me, and want to respond. It's true,
that catastrophe is possible for each and every one of us. That
just the way of the world. Most of the time, we don't seem to
notice that but sometimes that truth breaks through. Fear of
illness is normal, I think. What's not normal, or what's not
helpful, is allowing that fear and panic to rule over you.
Somehow, you've got to break free of that panic.
If you saw your toddler doing something that was not helpful or
that might actually be hurtful to himself or others, getting mad,
yelling at him, blaming him, or calling him stupid would not be
very effective for long and would probably cause its own kind of
damage in the long run. More effective is redirection, showing
the toddler things that he can do that are safe and helpful.
Try to treat yourself with the same loving kindness. Don't get
angry or depressed with yourself; find a way to redirect your
mind. Listen to music, draw a picture, clean out the fridge, go
for a run. But redirect your mind away from the fear and towards
something you know is good for you.
When I was waiting for biopsy results and was very fearful,
someone I admire advised me to allow myself ten minutes a day to
sit down and imagine all the most horrible, terrible, awful
things that could happen. Run with them. Imagine the worst of
the worst. Let it out, give the fear an outlet. Then when the
ten minutes were up, get up and do something physical, like go
for a walk, run, swim.
You could try that too. You might also think about getting help
from a doctor or therapist to help with the anxiety. Rule out
any real medical worry, then talk about the anxiety. There are
lots of ways doctors and therapists can help.
take good care.
Two recommends - the Anxiety and Phobia workbook. Also the
Center for Cognitive Therapy on College. They both helped me
and most insurances cover the Therapy.
I can totally relate. In my case, we had two scary health
situations in my family (that ultimately ended up ok) at the
same time. That really kicked in anxiety for me, and I feel
exactly the same way you do. Every little thing I think is
something major. Most of the time things are nothing-and you can
actually CAUSE benign symptom (headaches, etc.) by being
stressed and anxious, but yes, I have that thought that, well,
I'm not specially protected and something certainly COULD
happen. I don't have good suggestions for you but hope to hear
good ones from others.
I had to respond to this because I was in a similar situation after I
had my kids. I had some complications during my pregnancy and after
the second one, in particular, I could not shake the feeling of doom,
that I was near death at every turn. It got worse and worse. I was
barely sleeping. I'd wake up in a panic. But, I thought I was being
rational. I was not a depressed person (in what I thought depression
was). Finally, after my doctor kept recommending anti-depressents
(when my youngest was over 1), I decided to go on the drugs. It was so
radically life changing and fog clearing. I was able to move on and
start enjoying life again and my family. the weird thing is because I
assumed I was being rational before, i didn't realize how I was slowly
checking out. Not reallly present with the kids or my husband. I also
realized I had started drinking more and trying to channel my anxiety
into the desire to be a party girl again. I'm not saying you're at
this point or will get to this point, but I'd recommend therapy and a
consult with your doctor. I think having kids, the stress of it can
make you behave differently. Good luck. Life's to short to worry about
I have this too, and I know how hard it is. You said that you
think this is a ''whole different problem'' than your previous
panic attacks, but I disagree. Panic attacks are related to
specific phobias and to generalized anxiety disorder, and both
are readily treated by cognitive behavioral therapy. I've had
them all at different periods of my life.
My most recent fear was that my husband was falling deathly ill,
so I was constantly checking on his well-being, and fearing that
I'd be totally unable to deal with it if he did get very sick and
I had a few months of therapy at the San Francisco - East Bay
Center for Cognitive Therapy (it's in the archives). It helped
me so much. About five years have passed, and I need to go back
for a tune-up, though, because since I went to therapy we've had
a son, and now I'm absolutely terrified every time he shows a bit
of illness. It's an ongoing process.
Weirdly, I'm most scared by the IDEA of illness. Once someone is
actually sick, I can deal with it. It's the undiagnosed
potential for disaster that triggers my anxiety. You might find
the same applies to you.
Seriously, get some more CBT. There's no reason to live in fear.
this page was last updated: May 27, 2009
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