I am a health anxiety sufferer. Health anxiety is a form of anxiety where sufferers are preoccupied with the idea that they are ill, or will become ill. It is often grouped under the OCD spectrum due to the obsessive tendencies that can accompany the illness. My obsessive tendencies include excessive hand washing, checking dates on food, not eating foods that are known to cause illness and avoiding illness in any form, be that physically avoiding illness or even avoiding television shows such as Casualty. Health anxiety is not limited to these symptoms, however, this is how I experience this illness, other people have different experiences of it.
I've always been pretty health conscious and always hated getting ill, however, back in October last year, this got worse. It started when I got a minor infection and was prescribed antibiotics for it. I thought "Ok great I'll be fixed in no time". However, this was not the case. I started to feel horrible. It started with tiredness and achy muscles which quickly turned into constant nausea, vomiting and complete loss of appetite. I saw a doctor about my symptoms who told me that it was nothing to worry about, just a bad reaction to the medicine. Eventually, the infection had gone, so I came off the medicine expecting my health to get better immediately but things went from bad to worse.
Over the next few weeks, I started to get really anxious and panic attacks became common. Every time I read about illness, saw illness on television or even thought about illness, I would panic. I'd wake up in a state of panic that would last all day and throughout the day I'd get panic attacks. I couldn't go to university and missed lots lectures because of it. My appetite had gone and I felt constantly weak and tired. I didn't know what was going on and thought something was seriously wrong with me. I didn't actually realise these physical symptoms were part of the health anxiety. I remember having one panic attack where I was hyperventilating so much that my arms went numb and tingly and I genuinely thought I was dying. I thought I was having a heart attack. I actually asked my Dad to call an ambulance and I was hysterical. I realised later that it was health anxiety, but at the time I didn't think I'd make it through the night.
At this point you might be thinking "Wow what a drama queen". Trust me, I've heard all this before. However, this is a very real and serious illness. Health anxiety is horrible. It is debilitating. It has stopped me doing so many things through fear of injury or getting ill. Back at the end of last year it completely run my life. I'd wash my hands constantly and went through so much hand sanitizer. I had even washed my hands with bleach due to being so scared of germs which resulted in horrible chemical burns.
Thankfully, there has been a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I saw a doctor who prescribed me medication, and also saw a counsellor. There was a point where I couldn't even get on public transport. Now, thanks to the help I received, I can use public transport with no issue. I no longer lay awake at night worrying about illnesses that I don't have. I no longer feel anxious when I see Casualty on the television. I finally feel more like my old self. I do still get bad days, as with most mental illness, however, I am a million miles from where I was before.
For any fellow health anxiety sufferers, please do not give up. You can get better. You will get better.
You can read more about my mental health, as well as body and sex positive posts on my blog.