Paging Dr Google!

Watercolor_Doctor_Who_by_denalim

As an anxiety sufferer I worry about things many others wouldn’t give a second thought to. The main focus of my anxiety is death, and more specifically, death from disease and medical complications. Never have I been particularly concerned about the risk of death from a fatal car crash or being hit by a bus; events that are quite possible when I’m walking down the street or driving in a car. No; I am concerned about more obscure but just as real risks such as meningitis, cancer, heart attack etc. Hypochondria can be defined as fears that minor bodily or mental symptoms may indicate a serious illness, constant self examination and self diagnosis and a pre-occupation with one’s body. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypochondriasis)

While I cannot deny I have suffered (and presently suffer) from elements of hypochondria, it seems my anxiety has now progressed and refined itself in its manifestation leading to a more specific disorder known as “Illness Phobia”. Illness phobia includes symptoms such as ruminating endlessly about the disease (or death), avoiding anything in the way of radio, tv, newspaper or magazine coverage on the subject, or very occasionally obsessively collecting information. (www.anxietycare.org.uk/docs/illness.asp).

This sums me up quite well. While I’m not committed enough to have one illness of focus, I fear any fatal disease, and my focus varies according to situation or circumstance. For example, my disease of the month is currently Hantavirus, after an extreme cleaning spree following the discovery of a lovely family of mice residing alongside us in our family home. Being an intern of Dr. Google I (thankfully) discovered that Australia and Antarctica are the two countries exempt from Hantavirus (although this may be debatable as Australian rodents have tested positive to the Hantavirus antibody and the view that the disease may be misdiagnosed). However, my medical studies while enrolled at the University of Anxiety has allowed me to become quite educated in other areas of disease and illness such as Leptospirosis, Meningococcal, and serious complications such as meningitis, encephalitis, kidney and heart failure and sepsis. I am also informed on pregnancy related risks such as pre-eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, placental abruption, uterine rupture, DVT, amniotic fluid embolism, listeria and toxoplasmosis.

Just as the definition of Illness Phobia describes the sufferer either avoids exposure to information or obsessively collects information; and I have done both. I am unable to read magazines such as “Take 5” and “That’s Life” as they publish real life stories of people’s near death experiences or situations of fatal or terminal illness; and as such evoke the Dr (or phobia sufferer) in me to begin obsessing over every spot, freckle and mole on my skin and slight ache or pain in my body. Alternatively my phone is filled with screenshots of lists of signs and symptoms of various diseases and disorders and my brain has categorically stored summarised overviews on prevalence, treatments and mortality rates.

So, what do I make from all this? Firstly I always believe it is better to be informed. Yes, it is undeniable information can heighten my anxiety and strengthen my obsessive phobic thoughts; but I would rather be aware of these signs than potentially put myself or my children at risk by ignoring warning signs that may mean the difference between living and dying. My youngest son recently had a bout of bacterial pneumonia and had it not been for my over-anxious mothering, worried call to the state health information helpline and a frantic visit to casualty for prompt admission and treatment; my son could have possibly died (actual doctors with real degrees told me as such).

Secondly, while living with anxiety and phobias can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and limit my ability to fully enjoy things in life, I am thankful that I am able to identify my fear or phobia and manage it accordingly (and at times laugh at it’s absurdity). There was a point when I believed I was ‘crazy’ and let my anxiety overcome me to the point where it was debilitating and affected all areas of my life; and I once thought I would always be that way. I now know this is not the case. I recognise that I will have good and bad days, my weak and strong moments, times when my management strategies work and times when they fail; but I will NEVER let anxiety overtake me again.

I am still determined to live my life not without fear but despite fear.

I look at the positives that come from having anxiety and illness phobia, such as having a clean, rodent free home(!); two happy and healthy children and a near completed degree in “Self-Diagnosis in Death-Related Disease and Disorder”, all thanks to my colleague Dr Google!

If you or someone you know needs assistance in dealing with depression or anxiety contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or at http://www.beyondblue.org.au.

Image Credits: http://www.lexiconin.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/cyberchondriacs.png

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Anxiety and Pregnancy

Love Every Moment

Pregnancy is hard.

Swollen feet and ankles, back pain and stretch marks are common and almost inevitable pleasures experienced. Medical conditions such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and placenta previa can all make the “special” time of carrying a baby especially difficult and possible complications such as placental abruption and uterine rupture can lead to premature labour and at worst fetal and/or maternal death.

Pregnancy is not fun.

Don’t get me wrong; it has it’s nice times. Feeling a little life move and kick inside of you. The anticipation and excitement of holding your baby in your arms. Having people fawn and fuss over you, not allowing you to pick up a tissue, can all make you feel very special. However, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can have a great impact on how enjoyable your pregnancy may be and how you may adjust to motherhood post-partum.

Throughout my first pregnancy my anxiety was (in hindsight) well under control. There was the odd late night or two, when trying to fall asleep, when a sudden panic would overwhelm me as I thought about actually giving birth; however apart from these occasional fleeting moments I did not have any concerns throughout my pregnancy and was blissfully unaware of all the things that could possibly go wrong. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. This is especially true for the anxiety sufferer.

In my second pregnancy was the knowledge of labour in all it’s gory – sorry- glory(!); however I was also very lucky to have a previously relatively short and easy drug-free vaginal birth with no complications with myself or baby. Still, it is safe to say it is certainly not a process one would willingly go through if not for the end result – the joy of holding a beautiful baby in your arms at the end. My second son was born prematurely at 33 weeks after spontaneous labour (again thankfully with no major complcations) and it was not until that point that it even occurred to me that things can go drastically wrong throughout a pregnancy.

Throughout my third (and current) preganancy however my anxiety level has been high to say the least. Along with the fear of another premature birth given my second son’s early arrival (and my own at 27 weeks in 1982) I feel it could be a real possibility that my third child may decide to come even earlier than her brother or mother. Along with this fear is the access to Google 24/7 via smart phones and wide-ranged free Wi-Fi. Thanks to Google (and my anxious mind) I am now well aware of all the things that can go wrong which may threaten to take the life of my baby or myself, as well as all the signs and symptoms accompanying each condition (which funnily enough seem to produce themselves physically once that knowledge is imprinted in my mind). It is only for a very patient and understanding (and likely suffering) midwife and my own ability to distinguish when my anxious thoughts are overcoming my rational sense that I have not had a complete breakdown in the past 6 and 1/2 months.

Part of my anxiety management through my pregnancy has been to GET OFF GOOGLE! For some knowledge is power; and while I agree it is always better to be fully informed about things especially when it comes to your health, for those suffering from health related phobia’s and anxiety; it is best not to know some things. At times I feel like if I am to Google something that I think is wrong then I will find that the pain or concern I am experiencing is nothing to worry abut and will be able to put my phone down and continue on with my day happy in the knowledge that everything is fine. However this happens very rarely. Instead I continue to Google and scour forums for mother’s who are experiencing the same complaint until I find that one comment or sentence that confirms all my worst fears that what I am currently experiencing could, possibly, if even by a long shot, be something more serious. Even if I had read 100 pages or comments stating that my concern is nothing; that one comment is all it takes for me to constantly worry and be convinced that things will go horribly wrong. In the end both my midwife and I both agreed that Dr. Google was not a good physican and I should stay away completely from the internet! If I have any concerns I now text message my midwife, however since I have not been researching via internet surfing my anxiety has reduced dramatically and mysterious aches and pains have dissapered without recurrence.

I can now hopefully continue to relax and begin to enjoy my pregnancy and rest my swollen feet and ankles without fear. I am keeping a positive frame of mind and appreciating each day that I carry my child and every movement and kick I feel as it means we are both happy and healthy.

 

If you or anyone you know needs help dealing with anxiety or depression please contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or at http://www.beyondblue.org.au