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Is This OCD?

Question:

I have a major anxiety disorder but I am too afraid to take medication for it. I was wondering if a drug such as Prozac will really help me. This is what is wrong: I am terrified that I have diseases like Cancer and Herpes. I get so nervous even thinking about them that I can’t concentrate on anything else. I get so nervous that I have cold sweats and run to the bathroom all day. I am also terrified of doctors so even if I get sick I won’t go to them. The only thing that helps a little is asking people that I trust if they think i have the disease in question. I don’t know what to do anymore. I am trying to get through a Master’s program in University but I think I need to drop out. I am actually very depressed about that but I know my only other alternative is medication and I am so afraid that it will screw up the chemistry in my brain and let’s say I want to stop it what if it makes me depressed forever. I am generally a happy person and I don’t want to be depressed. As of right now I can’t take this thing I have anymore. I know it sounds like hypochondria but I am so afraid of doctors. I think I am more afraid of doctors than the sickness in question but I keep imagining the cancer cells growing inside my body and thinking I am to blame if I have it because I am doing nothing about it. I don’t know what to do anymore. What do you think?

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Answer:

One of your concerns has to do with what is happening to you; what is the proper name for this stuff you’re dealing with. There really isn’t any way to know, I’m afraid to say, without you going to see a doctor and describing your symptoms to her. Anxiety of this type can be caused by many things. It is nice to know what is the name for problems you are dealing with, but keep in mind that knowing the name of your condition (or conditions) won’t help you by itself. Names of disorders are only helpful to know inasmuch as they point you towards effective treatments for what ails you. You will still have to “take the cure” even if you know the name of your condition if you want relief.

By the way, hypocondria is a likely enough condition, given your symptoms. Hypocondria describes someone who becomes convinced that they have a medical disease of one form or another. Their belief in their illness persists even in the absence of evidence of health. There are also other elements of what you are dealing with, however. You are potentially phobic as well (fearful and avoidant), and you are also procrastinating something fierce. Then there is your suggestion that you may be depressed. There is more going on than simple hypocondria.

Medication can and does help people with anxiety and depression conditions. Antidepressant medications do not “screw up the chemistry” in people’s brains. Instead, they more accurately might be said to help that chemistry come back into a more normal balance. For the most part, modern antidepressant medications are safe and well-tolerated. They help lift and support people’s moods, and some of them have anti-anxiety properties as well. Anti-anxiety medications need to be used with care, as many of them are addictive in the same manner as alcohol. However, they are marvelous things and can help people who might otherwise hide in their homes with the covers over their heads to function better. You do need to be cautious with medication and to take it as prescribed, but you don’t need to fear it as you do.

Fortunately, there are very effective alternatives to medication for treating depression and anxiety available. Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy (CBT) is something you might pursue. It involves no medication at all; just talk therapy. The talk therapy in question is very “here and now” oriented. It will help you learn how to rationally examine your fears and worries and face down your anxieties in a graduated manner. It can help you cope better with your tendancy to become paralyzed with fear and worry. It is relatively short-term as treatments go too. You can expect to see an effect in several months of regular attendance. As a university student, you may qualify for free psychotherapy (at least for several sessions), although the therapy offered to you might not be Cognitive Behavioral in orientation. It is worth seeking out CBT in the community, and scrimping on other luxuries so as to be able to afford it; it can likely offer you completely medical free relief (at least in part) from your symptoms if what you are dealing with is regular old anxiety and/or depression, and in so doing, could give you your life back.

So, there is help avaialable, but it won’t come to you. You will have to overcome your fears and seek out that help on your own initiative. Given how fearful you are of medical professionals, my suggestion would be to seek out that psychotherapist first, and get yourself evaluated by a medical doctor later on. It is reasonable that you should be evaluated for signs of the diseases you fear you have, and that this should happen in a timely manner. However, if your fears will keep you from doing this immediately, then you are better off working with a professional therapist for a while so as to learn how to calm yourself down some prior to making your medical appointments.

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Comments
  • PATRICIA

    I HAVE BEEN SUFFERING ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION FOR SOMETIME NOW. I AM CURRENTLY TAKING MEDICATION AND I AM 28 YEARS OLD. I CAN'T EVEN THINK OF WHAT MAY HAVE CAUSED THIS. I KNOW I HAVE CONSTANT WORRIES IF THE DOCTORS MISDIAGNOSED ME. THOUGH I HAVE GONE TO MANY AND HAVE HAD BLOOD DRAWN. I FEEL TIRED ALOT AND SOMETIMES FEEL AS THOUGH I'M SHUTTING DOWN. I WORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING AND I JUST WANT TO BE NORMAL AGAIN. I WAS ALWAYS INTO SPORTS AND ACTIVITIES AND NOW I FEEL ISOLATED. I CONSTANTLY COMPARE MY SYMPTOMS AND THOUGHTS WITH OTHERS AND TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF ALL OF THIS. SOMETIMES I FEEL THIS WEIRD FEELING IN MY HEAD. I JUST WANT TO KNOW I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE SUFFERING WITH THIS AND THAT I WILL BE OKAY.

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