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Health Anxiety & OCD – My Story
My problems just snuck up on me. I didn’t know what was happening until it was too late, and I was deep in the midst of a sleep destroying, brain controlling, all consuming anxiety.
I developed an overwhelming health anxiety, with a dash of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, just to make things nice and straightforward. I would spend the days checking and rechecking all parts of my body – Was this mole different? Was there a lump under my arm? Was my arm swollen? Why was there a pain in my side? I would spend the nights sitting up, stressing further, resisting the urge to get up and check all over again, and getting oh so mightily frustrated at my sudden total inability to sleep.
It was a vicious circle as well – no sleep over an increased period of time, led to me becoming not just tired but exhausted, and physically things genuinely began to cause issues, as my body became worn down – leading in turn to further obsessing, and questioning why these things were happening and what they meant. It must be terrible. I must be dying.
It extended to checking other things to what, quite frankly, became a ridiculous extent – I would be convinced I would have to check the door was locked, the switches were off on the wall, that the cooker was off – not once or twice but lots – seven was my favorite number. It was not because I was worried and anxious about the direct logical consequences, rather my brain had decided to link it to my health as well. Do this routine to keep yourself safe is essentially what it bubbled down to.
For me it was a perfect storm of several things that had led to this – I had recently come off some painkillers I had been taking regularly. The second lockdown as a result of the pandemic had me isolated – I worked alone, I lived alone, I often think of this as odd as I never really noticed it as an issue at the time. The sheer volume of health related information in all aspects of life, particularly the media also contributed, I believe, to the state I ended up in.
Thankfully I had a good group of family and friends around me, combined with counselling and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and some medication appears to have returned me to my normal self. I think combinations of help over the period of recovery is important. The counselling and relaxation helped steady the ship initially, as did the medication – but then for me, moving on to the CBT to begin to address the actual behavioral issues that were making things worse for me.
I have learned from past experiences not to do the typical male thing and ignore what was going on and hope it would just go away. I went through some things a decade previously and did exactly that and it simply delayed my recovery then. This time I knew what I had to do. I had to suck up my male pride and ask for help – and do that thing we men love not to do – talk.
Talking is so important – sometimes I would just be rambling my irrational thoughts to my friends just to break them down. Talking to family to gain their understanding and support. Talking to counsellors who can be an invaluable source of help. Just keep talking. Trust in the process of recovery – do not get too frustrated (like I did!) when it does not work straight away, and you will get there!