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Avatar universal

Could my hypochondria be OCD?

Ever since I was a child I've been highly anxious about getting serious diseases.  I was born with a ventricular septal defect (very small and asymptomatic but I have to premedicate for dental work) and I had a younger sister who died of a similar but much more severe defect at 4 months of age, when I was about 3 years old.  I only have very vague memories of her presence but perhaps this spurred my later anxiety.  

Ever since my youth any symptom always made me fear cancer or some other dire disease. It got worse as I got older.  When I was 33 I came down with mysterious symptoms that apparently were chronic fatigue syndrome (sore throat, headache, fatigue) which lasted for about 3 years.  I decided in my darker moments that it might really be AIDS and lived in fear of having AIDS for about 10 years until I finally became pregnant by accident at age 42 and decided to bite the bullet and be tested for AIDS.  The pregnancy didn't work out but at least I finally found out I didn't have AIDS. You'd think that would make me happy, right?  No, of course not, because now I had nothing specific to concentrate on anymore so any disease is now fair game.  I could have cancer, liver disease, you name it!  

I worried about endometrial cancer for about a year because I had irregular bleeding (it was a polyp when I finally had a hysteroscopy for it).  I thought I had melanoma and had two perfectly good moles removed before I finally went to another dermatologist who was able to reassure me before I was covered with scars. Now I have a persistent pain in my stomach and am afraid it's stomach cancer (I go for an endoscopy next week).  There was a hot spell of weather a couple of weeks ago and my ankles swelled and I was sure it was either heart disease, kidney disease or lymphoma.  It went away but not before I called the doctor to ask about it.  He said it was the weather.  

I'm kind of facetious about this but in reality it is a serious problem for me because I'm constantly having these panic attacks when I notice a new symptom (right now I'm worried about a red bump on my ear that hurts).  And I'm sick of running to doctors.  I was wondering, would it be a good idea to go on an SSRI drug and see if it lowers my anxiety level about this stuff?  What is the best drug for OCD?  I want to be careful about my health and not ignore symptoms but I'm tired of being in a constant state of high anxiety.  My husband thinks I'm nuts.  

Please let me know anything you can about this.  By the way, my father is depressive and my half-niece (on my dad's side) is bipolar.  Also both grandpraents on my father's side were depressive, and one died in a mental hospital and the other committed suicide.  Thanks for any help you can give me.
12 Responses
Avatar universal
You describe what appears to be hypochondriasis, that is a preoccupation with the fear or belief of having a serious disease, despite adequate medical reassurance, resulting in significant distress, and personal/social impairment.

Hypochondriasis is quite different from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which is characterized by obsessions (recurrent and intrusive thoughts) or compulsions (recurring, conscious patterns of behavior, such as counting or checking).

I recommend that you seek psychiatric evaluation to help clarify your diagnosis. Group psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for hypochondriasis; medications will only alleviate hypochondriacal symptoms if there is an underlying anxiety or depressive disorder. OCD is usually treatable with a combination of behavioral therapy and medications such as the Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) e.g. Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
Avatar universal
I was exactly the same way.  If it wasn't one disease it was another.   As soon as I would stop obsessing about having something, I would start with something else.  I then went on Paxil and I've totally changed.  I no longer worry about illness anymore.  

I wouldn't ignore something serious, but I don't worry about stupid things, such as....if I got a headache, I'd wonder if I had a brain tumor.  

I really feel like a different person.
Avatar universal
That is me to a T. I am a 32 year old male who has had bouts with Hypochondria, of course I am gay and sexually active, thought not promisciuos and always safe.  Anyway, I have lived in fear of Aids for a while. But when i get my tests back , I am relieved for a while, then It turns into a different disease or impairment that I am afraid I might have or might get!!!! WHat am I avoiding by having these obsessive thoughts of disease and death????
Avatar universal
I'm the same.  And it is AIDS that scares me too.

Though it hasn't always been AIDS.  He has been diabetes, cancer, leukemia.  What ever I want.

Once I have the test and it comes back normal I am fine, but it always comes back.

I have finally made my first (second actually), appointment with a good therapist.  I can't wait to go.  I am actually scared of what it might bring out.

I would love to just take a pill to stop the panic and anxiety until I learn techniques to help me stop it naturally.

What are some of your experiences?
Avatar universal
Following an 18 month period of chronic headaches I have become totally terrified of serious illness. Partly due to the fact  was living in Germany but only spoke English it took years to finally realise my headaches were almost certainly caused by stress and associated muscle tension in my head and neck with some spheniodal sinitus thrown in to confuse me. However during that time I had numerous scans, read lots of books and started to learn all sorts of nasty stuff about what can go wrong. A year later I had a mysterous groin pain, and a few differential diagnosis, this kicked of a sequence of symptoms, fears and treatments that have touched on every sinister descease I can imagine over a period of 3 years. I now have major problems, I suffer constant pain and have most of the symtoms of Fibromyalgie. I also have heart palpatations and major attacks of chest pain that mimic heart attacks. I have been rushed off to hospital numerous times (just in case) including a helicopter trip. This was after I have even spent 5 months as an impatient being treated for heart neurosis, which I certaily have and can't shake off. My advice is get treatment as soon as possible before the fear and anxiety start to cause real physical symptoms, and it becomes a real viscious circle. I take Alprazopam and it has helped, but I think I was given this 3 years too late and all I am doing is standing still. If offered do anything to halt the fear and anxiety before it goes any further. Once you have real pain like I do, it will cause depression, it will cause more fear and will cause anxiety. Accept you have a problem and look for help. Good Luck.
Avatar universal
hello, i have been suffering from this since i was 11. I am now 31 years old and am still plagued by it. Other people will not take it seriously or think its kind of funny but they dont understand. Its deeply rooted in the fear of death, I feel. i have had every disease you can imagine; cancer, aids, neurological-muscular (ie MS, ALS). I have major deppression/bipolar with a schizotypol affect. I am on Paxil, Seroquel, which is wonderful, and Willbutrin. Doing pretty good with as I just started doing something about it just recently. I havent felt like this since I was about 15!  Before taking this stuff, I was totally delusional, paronoid, having panic attacks, heavily depressed, suicidal, mixed with periods of being completely estatic, happy, thinking that the way i was before was so far away and then BAM, delusional again, paronoid, completely believing i was dying. I still think about the diseases esp the really life threatning ones, but tI dont believe it anymore, and I can quickly put them aside or dismiss them.
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