Dealing With Health Anxiety During Doctor Appointments
Last updated: August 2022
Lately, I've been experiencing some troubling symptoms. While I'm almost sure they're related to the current treatment I am on. A doctor still needs to confirm this.
Additionally, the endometriosis specialist who put me on that treatment is now retired, so I should be looking for specialist care elsewhere. Yet, I have been delaying doing all of this.
While I have never loved going to see a doctor, I am now severely struggling with the idea of booking an appointment. I know this is all due to my health anxiety.
Where my health anxiety started
Five years ago, my mother died from an incurable form of cancer. I already suffered from PTSD, but since losing my mother, any cancer talk makes me feel physically sick. Living with a disease like endometriosis, with new symptoms flaring up often, only increases this anxiety.
It's also been five years since my excision surgery, and I am starting to wonder whether the painful flare-ups I've been experiencing lately mean the adhesions are back. It could just be stress driving the pain, but my anxiety turns these worries into paralyzing fears.
As a rational person, I know that being seen by a doctor is the right thing to do. Yet even when I pluck up the courage to call for an appointment, my anxiety does not relent. In fact, on the day of the appointment, it becomes seriously disruptive.
Feeling anxious before medical appointments
If the appointment is early in the morning, I will probably get no sleep the night before. Yet if it's later in the day, I'll spend hours unable to focus and do any work. I will overthink everything, anticipating shrugged shoulders from my GP or a lack of knowledge of endometriosis.
If I am booked in for specialist care, my fear of invasive tests will make me jittery and shaky. My PTSD is linked to an examination I had at the age of 12, and the upsetting hospital experience that followed.
Managing my health anxiety
The day before an appointment, I will take myself to the beach to practice mindful breathing outside, feeling the sea breeze on my face. This stops my thoughts from escalating.
As I get ready, I put on a peaceful jazz playlist on an appointment day. I always dress in comfortable clothes and wear my favorite lipstick, a shade called "Dragon Girl."
An hour before my appointment, I disconnect with a short meditation session. I grab a notebook and write down what I want to say to the doctor, so my thoughts are on paper, neatly organized, and out of my mind.
While I have yet to find a therapist to cure my anxiety disorder, speaking to a professional helped lower my anxiety levels during medical appointments. EMDR therapy helped me with my aversion to invasive examinations.
Mindfulness exercises, like counting how many blue objects I can spot in a room, are useful too.
There are no quick fixes for my anxiety. I will probably never be able not to dread seeing a doctor.
However, I also know that worries about my health will only dissipate through medical tests and reassuring conversations with a health professional. Living with a chronic illness is unavoidable.
In the meantime, I just have to manage the continuous battle between my fears, overactive mind, chronic anxiety, and me.
Nobody said that life with endometriosis would be easy.
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