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One of the major issues with hypochondria is the feeling you are just not trying hard enough. Do you wonder if there might be some obscure disease lingering in dank medical library corners that you could be putting to good anxiety use? "No need!" I say. One can be a hypochondriac with just a basic knowledge of disease.

Step One: Exposure
I'm not talking about exposure to disease, here, there is absolutely no need for that. The first thing you are going to need to be a good hypochondriac is a wide (note: not necessarily accurate) knowledge base of ailments. You can choose among anything from diseases to rare medical conditions, so you need to be educated. I recommend regularly reading medical websites, such as WebMD and pay close attention to feature articles (if it’s got the words “untreatable” or “mysterious,” you’ve got yourself a keeper). Another good source for information is medical TV shows such as ER, or House; if those aren’t to your taste shows like Scrubs or MASH will also suffice. Another good source is the news. Watch cable news channels when someone famous is sick or has died, they will spend hours discussing in depth certain diseases in order to educate the public in case we might be suffering from the same ailment. Daily Newspapers will also run features along the same lines, especially in “For Your Health” sections.

Doing this, and paying close attention to details (the more dreadful the better) will give you a wide base of diseases or illnesses to chose from in the following steps.

Step Two: Question Everything
Anyone can pull off Step One; however, to really be a genuinely believable hypochondriac the real work begins with this step (which involves intense self-awareness and a wildly active imagination; if you do not have a good imagination you are going to have a seriously hard time being a hypochondriac). Remember the symptoms (pain, inexplicable bleeding, whatever the case may be) that your education has placed in your mind already, any time you even think you detect one of these symptoms (this can sometimes take a little effort on your part), start to make connections between the symptoms and the particular ailment(s) (that’s right (s), if you are exceedingly talented, you can have many ailments in the works at once).

Remember, blow it all out of proportion; reject all logical explanations without so much as a second of attention paid. For example: Stomach feeling upset? It’s probably not the all meat pizza you had last night, most likely it is Stomach Cancer. Do you feel dizzy sometimes? It isn’t because you forget to eat most meals because you are so busy. You probably have a blood clot in your brain. Do you see how that works? Symptom to horrible disease within thirty seconds; that is what you are shooting for.

Step Three: The Worse the Better
Like I have said previously, this is all about imagination. You have your symptoms and you are drawing the line to the horrible disease; but if you are new a this, let us pause for a moment and make sure we are truly on the same page; the worse disease that you can associate your symptoms with, the better.

Many ailments will have the same or similar symptoms, but we want to shoot for the moon, so to speak. If you have a stomach ache, don’t think to yourself, “Oh, it may be something I ate,” that isn’t hypochondria at all. You could think to yourself, “Maybe I have an ulcer.” You are getting closer with this one! You have diagnosed an ailment, but it isn’t necessarily the best you can do; you can go much further; stomach cancer, as I mentioned before. What we are really trying to achieve here, as we will discuss later, is Maximum Potential Worry. To achieve MPW you are going to need a worst case scenario type ailment. Never stop with something that can be easily cured; so come on, push on one, or even two steps further. For some people it will be enough to stop at the “deadly, yet curable” stage, but some people need the full effects of something truly deadly and uncontrollable (cancer is always a good option for this). If you have achieved this, worry is on its way; but there is another step that can be very useful, and even helpful to this step, before we get there.

Step Four: Do the Research
I know what you are thinking, “More Research? But I already read all the medical websites and pay close attention when the news mentions a new disease.” Yes, you are doing a very fine job so far; however, now that you are starting to narrow down your symptoms and ailment, it might be a good idea to look deeper into this particular area of interest, to either find your best possible ailment, or to find out all the nasty little details of the one you have chosen.

Once again, medical websites are going to be very useful. WebMD is a good place to start, find out the basics and the general names used for your ailment; but once you have that, broaden your search by googling the ailment and getting the really dirty information and statistics. Make sure to keep track of all your research for further use; print it off, or save it on your computer for now.

See, now that you have even more information on the ailment, it is just that much more wood to throw on the fire of MPW.

Step Five: Never Cease to Worry
This is the pinnacle of our task, so please do not skip it or pass over it lightly (doing so will only lead to more worry down the road).

After you have come up with the ailment of your choosing, and now you have loads of information on the ailment, the key is simple – yet difficult: think about it a lot. I mean A LOT!! Don’t ever stop thinking about it, actually. This will do two things for you:

(A) It will drive the disease and hopelessness of the whole situation deep into your psyche, accelerating one toward the goal of Maximum Potential Worry; and leaving problems that can only to be dealt with through years of counseling later in life.

(B) The more you think about the ailment and its symptoms the more you will actually start to experience the actual symptoms, further convincing yourself of your sickness. Many of these experiences will be phantom pains and such (but do not let that stop you!). This works especially well when you have chosen an ailment that is stress related, or made worse by stress; such as cardiovascular or gastrointestinal ailments.

Stress is what this is all about; so you are going to have to practice worrying enough to really stress yourself the fuck out. You will know that you have achieved this step when you start to have a hard time focusing at work, or even wanting to go to work, and your personal relationships will start to suffer because you will be either too closed off to talk about any of it, or you will drive your friends crazy by talking about your ailments all the time. A good "Oh god I'm going to die!" panic attack or few, and you have entered the advanced stages of MPW. This is called depression, and depression is the key element in being a true hypochondriac!

Step Six: The Doctor Visit
It is inevitable, once MPW has been reached, something will click (or should I say, “snap”), and you will want to visit a doctor to check on your ailment. It may take a month, or even years before you reach this point, but there will come a moment of clarity when you decide to “find out” once and for all, to put this all behind you. By this time, however, your depression will probably have made you sick in other ways, so it isn’t that bad of an idea to visit the doctor.

Make an appointment that is a couple of days away, never the same day you call; this will give you plenty of time to worry some more, and collect what you will need for your visit, which is all of your research (even if it takes you a whole ream of paper to print it all off). Show up plenty early for the appointment (do not bring a book or any other kind of distraction) so that you will get in some more worry; there is no place that generates anxiety and discomfort like the waiting room to a doctor’s office.

When the doctor finally calls you in to the check up room he will, no doubt, leave you by yourself for quite a while; use this time to disorganize your thoughts into a worried jumbled mess (if you possibly can, drop your pages and pages of research on the floor), this would also be time for another spirited panic attack. When the doctor finally comes in he will ask the reason for your visit, at this point do not hold back – express every concern you have, backed up with your extensive research. Most doctors might look at you a bit peculiarly at this point, or an experienced doctor might pat you on the back and order some tests “just to make sure.” Do not let your doctor make light of what you are telling him. If he offers up a simple logical explanation for your ailment, ignore it and demand that he run tests on your to determine when you are going to die of the ailment you have told him about.

Step Seven: The Return of the Test Results
For some, the wait between the doctor visit and the return of the test results is a rather stress free time, feeling a sense of power and accomplishment; however, for your more experienced worrier, this time may be very similar to the Dark Night of the Soul (in this case I recommend seclusion and alcohol).

After a couple of days (or even weeks if you have been really creative) the doctor will have some test results for you. This can go two ways:

(A) The test results are negative. Ninety percent of the time they are going to be negative. Phew! That was close. It is a good thing you did the research and found out, though. But don’t let this last too long. After a couple of weeks you will find the need to start worrying about it all again; so once again, be creative! Maybe the cancer was too insignificant at the time of the original test, and it is really up to something now; that is the kind of mindset we are looking for! Or, if you get bored easily, you can start all over at Step One and pick a new ailment that you are coming down with.

(B) The results are positive. Now, this is rarely the case, but if they are positive that doesn’t mean that you haven’t succeeded at being a hypochondriac, it just means that by some stroke of luck you were right. Take a few minutes now to gloat in your “victory” and inform your doctor how you could have sued him if he had not listened to you! After that, you now have a whole new set of things to worry about!

I hope that you have found this guide informative and helpful. If you need any more personal tips on being a good hypochondriac do not be afraid to contact me, I have specialized in this field for over a decade.

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