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Old 06-07-2006, 10:06 AM   #1
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How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

First off, I admit that I'm a hypochondriac. Not as bad as some, but definitely not average in terms of how much time and energy I devote to worrying about my health. In the past, I've thought I had brain cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, testicular cancer, bone cancer, etc. Right now I'm worried that I have MS. I am so worried that I cannot concentrate on anything else...school, work, friends, etc. I've seen three GPs- the first two said that I'm just stressed out, the third gave me a referral to a neurologist. My appointment with the neurologist is in 2 months...I don't think I'll be able to hold out that long without going nuts!

What got me started on the whole MS thing was a feeling of lightheadedness. I was working on school work on the computer (very stressed out) and I started to feel a little lightheaded. When I got up out of my chair, I felt slightly dizzy. Worried that I was having a stroke, I went on the internet and looked up my lightheadedness and dizziness. I found some info on strokes, and I also found some info on MS. I started worrying like hell about the possibility that I have MS and within days, all these MS symptoms cropped up. Sensitivity to cold, fatigue, weak limbs, tingling, tight muscles, etc. Some of these symptoms have since gone away, only to be replaced by other MS symptoms. What freaks me out is that MS can show up that quickly...it's not something that builds up over a period of months. Therefore, it's not entirely unrealistic that I am in fact having a first MS attack.

Anyways, here's my main question...how can a person create actual physical sensations just by being anxious? My limbs tingle, my eyes, calves and legs twitch, I get a burning type sensation in my back...all of these are symptoms of MS. I just find it impossible to believe that anxiety is creating these symptoms. After all, I've been anxious before in my life without getting these specific symptoms. I would really like to believe that I'm just being a hypochondriac, I just can't force the thought of MS out of my head. Thanks for any opinions or advice.

 
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Old 06-07-2006, 10:55 AM   #2
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

You absolutely can! I know that I do....my constant worry causes me all kinds of physical symptoms.

There's many of us on this forum that experience health anxiety. I think at one time or another we've all thought we have MS. I thought so last year when I had the tingles all over. Then one day I observed my breathing pattern and realized how I was hyperventilating. I taught myself to focus on breathing correctly, with my stomach rising rather than my chest. After a few days of working on that, it went away. I still get the tingles once in awhile when I'm really anxious, but I don't let it get to me any more.

Try your best to avoid surfing the web to confirm your worst fears. It doesn't do you any good. I know it's hard, but I'm breaking myself of it. 99% of the time what we worry about doesn't happen and surfing the health web sites just causes you more worry.

Keep your appointment just to ease your fears and be sure, but I bet your tingles are from anxiety. We all get lightheaded, dizzy, and shaky too. It's all part of this roller coaster we're on with anxiety.

Take care,

Pesky Rabbit

 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:07 AM   #3
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

I agree. I have HUGE health anxiety and I can create almost any symptom by reading about it. I, too, need to stay off the net and stop looking for things that aren't really there with me. It's hard, but try not to. We hypochondriacs tend to pick up on the worst case scenarios all the time anyway and don't see the logical facts.

 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:16 AM   #4
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

Yeah, and do you do this too where it's always the worst case scenerio? It's never just a bump, it's cancer...or whatever. Why can't we just say, oh that's just a bump, a bruise, some pain, whatever and just move on. Why do we have to focus on it and ruminate and worry all day long to the point where we can't even focus on anything else? I know sometimes when I tell my husband my worries out loud, even I think they sound unfounded, but I still can't dismiss them. Are you guys like that too?

 
Old 06-07-2006, 11:43 AM   #5
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

Unfortunately, yes. I'm in counseling for it. A little ache is always something huge. Something that I've been told is completely benign makes me question the doctor's knowledge.....it goes on and on. I don't know how I got this way. I never used to worry about my health.

 
Old 06-07-2006, 02:02 PM   #6
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

I ask myself that same question EVERY DAY!!!!!!!!!! I worry that i have a blockage in my heart. I have jaw pain, dizziness, a feeling like i cant get a good breath, left arm pains, pain in my back. Im convienced that its my heart even though ive been told 100 times my heart is fine by several diff doctors and had every test you can have besides the cardic cath. If i read about symptoms i get them. I also cant believe that i can make myself feel this way just by worrying but my counselor and doctors all say i can. I am taking ativan as needed, when i start worrying alot i take it and it usually helps calm me down before i throw myself into a panic attack and end up at the ER. My symptom this week is my breathing its really bothering me and im trying to tell myself not to let it worry me and usually it goes away but always comes back. The only time i look forward to anymore is going to bed cause its the only time i dont feel bad and dont worry about my heart.

 
Old 06-07-2006, 02:41 PM   #7
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

I had to chuckle when i read all your post, but really it is not a laughing matter.I am the exact same way..everything has always got to be the worst it can be. I continuously worry about my health also.Confused32, I understand when you say it is a relief to go to bed, because then you don't have to worry about your health. For the longest time i thought i had ALS, worried about it constantly. The more i worried about it the more my muscles would twitch. I am wondering if counseling would be helpful.. I sure don't want to pass this on to my kids, but i think 2 of my daughters have a tendency to be the same way..

 
Old 06-07-2006, 08:39 PM   #8
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

As sad as this is...I don't think that I want to have kids because I don't want to pass down my OCD genes. OCD ruined my teenage years and at 23, I'm still rebuilding my life, making up for all that lost time.

About my question. I guess what I really meant to ask is how health anxiety can create symptoms apart from those associated with autonomic nervous system activation. When a person is very anxious, their autonomic nervous system kicks into high gear. Pulse quickens, BP increases, body temp rises, breathing may become fast and shallow, muscles tense up, etc. But what about those symptoms that are not in any way caused by ANS activation? For example, the sensation of pain would not normally increase when a person is very anxious, and yet a hypochondriac can make themselves feel pain in very specific places (e.g. they get stabbing head pains when they worry about brain cancer). There must be something apart from general ANS activation at work in the hypochondriac. It's as if we can direct our bodies to produce very specific symptoms on demand...just by reading about those same symptoms.

Another thing that doesn't make sense to me is that my vitals aren't totally out of whack when I experience my symptoms, which would indicate that my symptoms are not directly related to ANS activation. Today my blood pressure and heart rate were only somewhat elevated and yet I felt the MS symptoms all day long.

I would just like to be able to understand how it is possible, from a scientific point of view, for hypochondriacs to create a huge variety of symptoms, many of which are not directly related to the fight-or-flight response.

For now, I guess I just need to keep going with school and work until I see the neurologist. I've seen 4 doctors in the past 2 weeks and frankly, there's no one left to see!

 
Old 06-14-2006, 03:21 AM   #9
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

I'm also in counseling for this same thing. Even when 2-5 doctors all say "go home, you're fine..." I start questioning that they are ALL incompetent and wrong. Then I remember some dumb little co-symptom that I didn't tell them about, and that's another reason to be re-seen. It's quite crazy, but it's very real to worry ALL day and EVERY day, and have it eat away at our precious time.

Cancer is my big fear too. The sad part is that the time we waste worrying probably robs us of more life than if we actually HAD the darned disease we are SURE we have...

 
Old 06-14-2006, 07:55 AM   #10
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

Yes stress and anxiety can make our bodies react almost any way you can imagine.......im serious! I have had all your symptoms and some other really scarey ones which I was like you thinking NOWAY anxiety and stress could cause that! Even after numerous doctors told me it could and many negative test results.If I were you ,and I know its hell,id try and stay calm have that test done and go from there.Just to let ya know im one of those people who has passed out several times from stress/anxiety.....I mean out cold for a few minutes comming to feeling absolutely horrible.......every specialist,GP,therapist ive seen all said the same thing "stress/anxiety."
I can also tell you I am fine and healthy just a bit nutty

good luck with that test and try and relax

 
Old 06-14-2006, 09:20 AM   #11
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Re: How can a hypochondriac create actual physical sensations?

Isn't life interesting ? Reading all the posts it's like ME writing all of them..I will write down ALL my symptoms to give to my Dr. then before I get to the office I read them over and think "oh my god", this is pathetic..so I will go and shorten my list of symptoms to her, then go home and think Oh I should have mentioned this or that !!!

Battling with myself NOT to go see her so often as I know she is SO sick of me..Just keep trying to encourage myself and be strong...

 
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