Opinion: Hypochondria is Funny, But Not in a Ha-Ha Way

Opinion: Hypochondria Is Funny, but Not in a Ha-Ha Way

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By Lauren Modery of Hipstercrite

I loved watching Woody Allen films as a teenager because as a bad Jew (“bad” in that I’m still not quite sure when Rosh Hashanah is), I found him not only hysterical, but relatable as well. There was one facet of his character -which also happens to be a real-life trait of his as well– that I didn’t relate to growing up, and that was of his unrelenting and unapologetic hypochondria. I had difficulty understanding how a person could think they were sick or dying a fair chunk of the time, until one day I felt the same way. And it wasn’t funny like a Woody Allen movie and I wasn’t funny like Woody Allen. Instead it has been a personal purgatory that makes me want to hide under the couch and only occasionally outstretch a paw of curiosity.

I thought my hypochondria would be short-lived, but as I write this, it appears to be at an all-time high (except for when the Xanax kicks in- then it’s at an inconsequential medium). I’m not quite sure what triggered this affliction, but my best guess was the day I turned 30 (go ahead, laugh).

Turning 30 didn’t appear to be an emotionally big deal when it happened, but deep down I think the internal switch of childhood to adulthood was fully flipped. That defining moment has since sent me into a tailspin. I watch confused and bewildered as my peers get married, have children, or in some instances, unfortunately, get ailments or pass away. I stand slack-jawed as the wrinkles on my parent’s skin multiply and my grandmother’s stoop gets steeper and steeper. The realization that this ship ain’t stopping has finally hit me; no more twenty-something fantasies that we’re all going to live this one out forever.

So what does my hypochondria entail? Well, it includes a lot of self-diagnosing via WebMD. I would actually go to the doctor instead of checking WebMD obsessively, but if I did, I’d probably become the What About Bob? of my doctor’s office. There are also frequent panic attacks (and I don’t use that word lightly: they’re full-on pacing-shaking-sweating-pleading with my boyfriend to take me to the hospital attacks) triggered by some arm or leg pain that I’ve immediately concluded is a blood clot ready and willing to start its immediate course to my brain. Recently a stiff neck (most likely caused by all this anxiety hoopla) made me believe that I had spinal meningitis even though I was vaccinated for it during college. At various points I’ve also convinced myself that I had “side cancer,” an infected gall bladder, a broken rib, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.

In Allen’s films, they don’t show you how exhausted Woody’s character is from all his anxiety and hypochondria at the end of the day. Instead, he has some love interest chasing him or a lucrative creative project on the horizon. In real life, hypochondria can be debilitating. It can drive your patient loved ones to lose patience and prevent you from living the life you want to live. As I work on this newly developed tribulation, I know the first order of business: BLOCK THE LIVING HELL OUT OF WEB MD.

Curious about ways to curb your anxiety and panic?