If You Think There's Nothing Wrong With You, You Probably Haven't Been Paying Attention


In this day and age, isn’t hypochondria just making good use of the information you’ve been supplied?

This morning on the Today show, a guest discussed why a person might have trouble losing weight. I learned that having extra pounds, fluid retention, dry hair and brittle nails means I might have an underactive thyroid, a hormone imbalance, or organ failure.

Honestly? I’m not trying to lose weight, but I was momentarily convinced that I had organ failure. Call it casual hypochondria: You have a thermometer, and use it often. You love the Web MD symptom checker, you know the difference between swollen tonsils and inflamed tonsils, and when you see the doctor for tests, you say “gimme the works!”

It’s not your fault — you’ve been inundated with studies, reports and “news” items: You should get a mammorgam, but not too soon — medical scans are where most Americans get exposed to radiation! We’re having an “obesity epidemic,” yet slightly overweight people live longer! Sunshine boosts your mood, but too much sun is bad for you! Never go outside without sunscreen! And P.S.: sunscreen gives you cancer!

The problem with casual hypochondria is that you panic for a moment, then tell yourself you’re being silly, and move on. Which is even scarier: What if you really do have a thyroid problem, but just think you’re being too paranoid? What then?

Perhaps it seems that the way to cure this fevered worrying is to stop watching the news. But if you don’t watch the news, how will you know that you might have organ failure??? It’s an Ouroboros, and with a 24-hour news cycle and a constant onslaught of “new” “studies,” it’s choking on itself. Quick! Heimlich!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out if this pain in my leg is sciatica or rickets.

Earlier: Breaking: You Are Not A Doctor

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