Help, I Can’t Stop Diagnosing Myself With Illnesses I Just Don’t Have

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HypochondriacUNILAD

If I were to pinpoint a specific time I became aware of my overwhelming tendency to worry about my health, I’d probably say it was in high school.

That’s around the time I started getting headaches all the time, so obviously I became convinced I had a brain tumour. Because what else could be causing my headaches?

Forget about being a rational, well-reasoned human being… in my mind, I had a brain tumour and there was nothing anyone could do to convince me otherwise.

After about a week of having non-stop headaches and frantically googling my symptoms, I declared to my family that I needed to go to the doctors immediately because I had a brain tumour. Obviously, they tried to reassure me that I didn’t but I was adamant.

When the doctors couldn’t put my mind at ease, I booked myself in for an eye test, only to be told I had perfect 20/20 vision (humble brag). At this point, I became even more determined something was wrong – if there was nothing wrong with my eyes, it must be a tumour, right?!

Since then, every time I get a headache, or a strange lump or lesion, I’m convinced this is the one that’s going to kill me and I get so worked up googling my symptoms and self-diagnosing myself that it’s become a running joke among my friends and family.

HypochondriacUNILAD

It didn’t stop in high school though; this one time at band camp (lol jk, university), I convinced myself I had diabetes because I kept needing to wee. Like, a lot.

Full disclaimer: I had just started a new healthy eating plan where I was trying to drink more water throughout the day, but that didn’t even cross my mind at the time and I instead starting googling my symptoms frantically.

With the two main suggestions on good ol’ Google being either diabetes or pregnancy (nope), you’d better believe I became obsessed with the idea I had diabetes.

And it didn’t help that all the symptoms seemed to describe me (and probably every other student) perfectly: Fatigue? Always. Excessive hunger? Erm, definitely. Increased thirst? Well, I drink loads when I’m hungover so that must count. Right?

So me being me, I decided to take a trip to the doctors one morning before uni and ask what my GP thought. Except I didn’t ask, because I was convinced I knew what was wrong with me, so I kinda just declared I had diabetes and said I needed to be tested for it.

The GP went through the motions and asked why I thought I had it, before checking my blood sugar levels with a prick on my finger. And it awkwardly showed I didn’t have diabetes.

Except I was convinced that I did, so obviously I didn’t believe the blood sugar test and asked for a blood test which – to his credit – my GP booked me in for the next week. And… it again showed I didn’t have diabetes – although I was apparently extremely deficient in Vitamin B12. So at least there’s that.

I’ve had a few more ‘incidents’ since then, but probably the one that stands out the most is the time last year when I realised my heart rate kept going ridiculously high whenever I went to the gym.

Gif of the Crystal Light National Aerobics ChampionshipKTLA

Which I might have ignored except for the fact I’d fainted a couple of times – once in front of the new gym instructor, who walked past at the exact time cold water was getting poured all over my face in an attempt to wake me up. Yeah, not the best moment of my life.

As embarrassing as that was though, I was more concerned at the possibility of having an undiagnosed heart condition. Because, y’know, that’s where my mind immediately went to, and not another – more plausible – reason that I’d just done too much exercise.

Again, I googled my symptoms and again, I went into a major panic when it told me I could have any range of heart problems. So, a trip to the doctors it was, who actually seemed quite concerned and arranged for me to have a 24 hour ECG – which basically monitors your heart and picks up any abnormalities.

When the ECG showed that actually, I did have a really high heart rate whenever I exercised, I was booked in to have another ECG – along with an ultrasound to rule anything out.

Even after all these tests, the doctor still couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing the problem and I was referred to a heart specialist who saw me a couple of months later. And the conversation was, well, interesting to say the least.

Let me just briefly summarise what was said:

Him: When would you say your symptoms started?

Me: Well, when I started going to the gym regularly at university.

Him: And how much exercise do you have to do for your heart rate to go as high as it has been doing?

Me: Not a lot, probably about 10 minutes on the treadmill before it reaches its peak.

Him: Have you ever just considered that you might just be slightly unfit?

Me: ….

White guy blinking gifGiant Bomb

Sooo y’know, I just got told I was unfit by a qualified heart consultant who’s kind of a big deal. No biggie. Cue my extremely embarrassed self trying (and failing) to explain why actually, I wasn’t that unfit.

That takes us to approximately one month ago, when I realised a mole on my shoulder had changed colour and had raised slightly. Now, I know I convince myself I have a serious illness most days (guilty as charged), but this was 10 times worse because it seemed like there could actually be some logic to my concern.

Obviously, I panicked. Well, first I googled my symptoms (no brainer) and then I panicked because I was taken to a quiz on the NHS titled ‘Mole self-assessment: Could you have a cancerous mole?’

This then, based on my responses, told me I needed to see a doctor straightaway as I had a ‘high score’. Clearly, a high score on an assessment for skin cancer was not as sought after as a high score on an exam and you can imagine the pure hysteria I descended into at the thought of having a cancerous mole.

So while I waited for my doctor to refer me to a specialist, I showed as many people as possible my newly changed mole and when each one responded with, ‘ooh you should probably get that checked out,’ I panicked even more.

To make matters worse, one week before I was booked in to see the dermatologist, the mole fell off. Like, straight up came off my skin and fell onto the floor. Obviously, in my head, this just confirmed that things were bad and I had to lie down because I felt so sick.

What kind of normal mole just falls off?! And what was I supposed to do in my dermatologist appointment now?!

Picking the mole up from the floor, I decided I’d put it in the closest container I could find (okay, a shot glass) and wrap it in cling film so I could still show the offending item to the specialist.

Here’s the shot glass (kettle for reference):

Kettle and shot glassUNILAD

Fast forward to one week later, when I sat in front of the doctor and showed him my container (shot glass). After inspecting it and looking at my skin where the mole had initially fallen from, the specialist paused slightly before declaring, ‘nothing to worry about, it was probably just a scab’.

A SCAB?! A scab had caused me WEEKS of stress and had made me question my entire existence?! I mean, c’mon. As ecstatic as I was that nothing was wrong with me, this was just ridiculous.

That was about two weeks ago now, and I’m yet to find anything new to worry about (‘yet’ being the imperative word).

Who knows though, maybe I’ll find a spot or something soon and diagnose myself with some rare, practically unheard of condition which only affects 0.000001 per cent of the population?

It wouldn’t surprise me.

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Lucy Connolly

Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).