Turning into a hypochondriac?
June 29, 2009 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Am I turning into a hypochondriac?

I hadn't been to the doctors in years, so I went for a routine physical. The physical showed I had elevated LDL (144) and was very deficient in Vitamin D. Additionally, I was to have an MRI to rule out a neuroma because of ringing in my ears, and I had to have a suspect mole removed.

The MRI came back negative, and the mole came back as precancerous. So, they took more of a margin around the pre-cancer mole and took 5 other borderline suspect moles just as a precaution.

Also, during the initial physical I asked the doc about some light to moderate chest pain I have been having. He said given my age (29) and overall health that he order a bunch of tests but thought assuredly that it would turn up nothing. So he suggested I not do the tests because of the added expense even though I have a family history of heart disease.

As I am sitting here typing this I am contemplating going back to the doctor to have more tests done because I have chest pain. It comes and goes but never lasts for more than a few seconds at a time, but the coming and going often persists for a couple of hours. The pain is right below my left collar bone and radiates into the inside of my arm below my biceps.

I feel like I am becoming a hypochondriac. I am an overall anxious person, so how can I help myself determine what needs to be brought to a docs attention and what can just be attributed to my anxious and worrysome nature?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Stress certainly could cause chest pains, but if a doctor doesn't think you need the tests, I wouldn't worry too much.

From what I gather doctors tend to over prescribe tests these days, so if yours says you don't need them, then you probably don't.

Hopefully if you try exercising more (in case you don't already) you'll feel less worried about your health, your health will improve, and you'll feel better all around.
posted by elder18 at 3:33 PM on June 29, 2009

Here are some ways in which I think you can address this. I know of what you speak and have definitely been there.

First of all, having anxiety and painting yourself as a hypochondriac is not going to help you. You may be experiencing anxiety, or you may be going through a period in your life which is causing you to exhibit signs of hypochondria. This does not make you a crazy hypochondriac, and addressing it, if that is the case, will help you to feel more in charge of your physical and mental state if you ever get to this point again.

Chest pain is not something you have to experience, and the way to make it stop is not to write yourself off as someone who is overreacting. You can try, but in my experience, it will not work, and there is nothing wrong with talking to your doctor about your options until your symptoms cease. Even if your symptoms are psychic and not physical, you do not have to have them. Something is causing them, and you need to get to the root.

To that end, you should contact your doctor, and simply tell him what you've told us here. Ask him if he can give you a referral to a psychologist to talk about your anxiety. Perhaps your doctor will prescribe you some Atavan, if your symptoms cease when you take it, you might have a better idea of whether or not the pain you're experiencing is being triggered by anxiety. If you do not see results after discussing your symptoms with a psychologist, you will have a better case for ordering more tests from your doctor.

I am not a doctor at all, but your symptoms sound like they *could* be muscle pain and related to tension in your muscles caused by the anxiety you're feeling. You might also make an appointment with a massage therapist and see if you don't feel better after getting a massage.

Good luck to you, don't be afraid to take charge of the way you're feeling and do whatever you can to feel better! It does sound to me like you would benefit from therapy and a massage more than a battery of tests, but what do I know, I'm just some jerk on the internet. Above all, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with the same care and concern you would a close friend. Always!
posted by pazazygeek at 3:38 PM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

I am an overall anxious person, so how can I help myself determine what needs to be brought to a docs attention and what can just be attributed to my anxious and worrysome nature?

Speaking as someone who used to experience a lot of anxiety (as well as someone with actual chronic medical conditions), I think it might be more useful to figure out ways to manage and reduce your anxiousness.

Over the course of a few years, I was able to dial down my anxiety significantly with a combination of therapy, meds, yoga, and regular exercise. I'm no longer in therapy or on meds, but the benefits still continue. I learned to figure out some of the big triggers for my anxiety, including a propensity to catastrophize a particular event in my head, at which point I would react emotionally as if the fictional worst-case scenario had already come to pass. Learning to notice and arrest this habit took some time, but it was literally life-changing for me. Doing yoga was also life-changing, because it forced me to learn how to breathe slowly and deliberately, which allowed me to learn how to slow down and to be present in the moment.

You may never turn into a completely laid-back person, but viewing your anxiety as a condtion you can take some control of -- rather than seeing it as an unchanging biological fact, like your height -- can help you improve both your mental and physical well-being (and help you learn to distinguish between physical symptoms caused by anxiety and those that may be due to other issues). Good luck.
posted by scody at 3:50 PM on June 29, 2009

I think you need to give yourself a break. Pre-cancerous moles are scary. For many people, late twenties/early thirties is the end of the perfect health of youth and the beginning of actually being able to see ourselves age. That's pretty scary, too. It's okay to be a little freaked out by everything. So go easy on yourself for a few days, do some things you love, and then reconsider getting the heart tests done.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:53 PM on June 29, 2009

I certainly can't diagnose you with an anxiety disorder by reading a short few paragraphs but I can try to alleviate some of your anxiety about your chest pain.

You are obviously concerned that the chest pain you are experiencing indicates that you have something wrong with your heart. The problem with tests is that the ones we have are not sensitive or specific particularly in low risk people (ie they have a lot of false positives and false negatives). Doctors are supposed to sort out who they think warrants a test (worrying enough history and physical exam) and who would get no benefit from (and possibly be harmed by) having a test. I get more worried about patients who have a personal history of diabetes, a strong family history of heart disease (ie not a grandparent who had a heart attack at 75), cocaine users, smokers and less worried about active 29 year olds.

Also, the details of the chest pain matter. Worrisome chest pain is that which occurs while exercising (going up stairs, running etc), lasts for a while and then goes away when you rest for a bit. The time course is important. If your pain only lasts seconds and occurs randomly (not always associated with exercise) this is less of a concern.

I know this all sounds a bit vague with 'more worried' and 'low risk' etc but, unfortunately, medicine is not an exact science and we have to live with uncertainty. If you are still concerned, definitely talk to your doctor again. There is no harm in that. If s/he explains her/his reasoning to you more fully, you may be reassured or you may decide that, given more full information, you choose to go ahead with more tests.
posted by madokachan at 3:57 PM on June 29, 2009

Sort of like the old line about the paranoid, "Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you", just because you think you are a hypochondriac does not mean you aren't truly sick. If the pain persists, return to said MD and have the additional tests.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:54 PM on June 29, 2009

Get the tests done anyways. How much money was he talking? And it will give you peace of mind for years.

Note.. please don't come back and post about how you wasted $10,000 on medical tests. Weigh your budget first.

Also, it does sound like you have anxiety about this, but it will pass.
posted by beingresourceful at 9:20 PM on June 29, 2009

You have a family history of heart disease and chest pain. If you can afford them, I'd recommend having the tests. It will ease your mind. Meanwhile, did the doctor tell you what to do about your LDL and Vitamin D deficiency and why you're VitD deficient and how both of these could make you feel? Having precancerous moles removed is a good thing, and now you know what to watch for. My DH had a couple removed last year, prob caused by sun exposure when he was a child (according to the doctor) and, after he got over the shock, is fine as ever. You're not fussing for nothing about your pain. Pain means something. The trick is figuring out what. And, after all, this is the first time in years that you've had a check-up, lucky you. Nthing the yoga, relaxation techniques to see if they make a difference. Take a look at the sensible advice on the American Heart Association site wrt diet, symptoms, etc. And, does the doctor know your family history? Did you tell him? Just because it's in your chart doesn't mean he's remembered.
posted by x46 at 10:37 PM on June 29, 2009

It's not unheard of for anxiety to manifest as chest pain, especially in women. You say you're anxious. Sometimes "relaxing" isn't enough, and it takes medication and therapy. Please, look into this. Ask your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist.

And no, you're not a hypochondriac if you seek out answers for your problems. Ignore people who tell you so. They are just not brave enough to do that for themselves.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:59 AM on June 30, 2009

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