QUESTION: I am 47 and have severe health anxiety since last 15 years and was diagnosed mitral valve prolapse with trivial regurgitation before 6 years. All this year my fear was related to heart disease, attack, stroke arrhythmia, nuero problems etc. but one week before urine came from my blood and got scared and went to urologist and did ultrasound for kidney, prostate, uterus etc and there was no stone & infection. The Dr. gave me antiobiotic & told to complete the course. Since one week I got afraid of Cancer, which started with this infection & all of a sudden I remember one of my aunt who died of cancer, she was having blood in the stool. I started to look at my stool everytime & fearing that there is blood or my stool is black & I will get or have some sort of stomach related cancer. I am afraid to go the bathroom for my poo, even small belching, bloating, gas makes me afraid. How to fight this fear. Plz help me I am dying of obsessing this stomach cancer fear. I know that, this is irrational fear and blood can come by ulcer, anal fissure, inflammation of the colon etc.My anxiety is very severe and I am unable to relax or sleep. I am taking cipralex(escitalopram) 10 mg including .25mg rivotril 2 times since one week and also taking bisoprolol (beta blocker) 5mg for my blood pressure. Please someone help me to desensitize this fear, if I am unable to remove the fear, my heart problems will be increase.
ANSWER: Dear Afzal,
Thank you for your question and for telling me about your situation.
What I hear is you have symptoms that are confusing and scary for you.
You are worried that if you feel fear, it will make your health worse.
Therefore, you do not allow yourself to feel the fear, or you are afraid to feel fear, and you think the fear is what is making you ill.
This may be due to your family members having died after having similar symptoms.
However, you cannot blame yourself for diseases. Over the decades, bad "positive thinkers" have tried to convince cancer patients they are "type c" and their worry contributed to their cancer.
This is completely wrong.
Cancer is generally caused by the accumulation of toxins from carcinogenic chemicals, such as industrial chemicals, overexposure to household chemicals, second-hand cigarette smoke, living near a toxic chemical plant, etc.
It works to the advantage of the chemical companies if all the cancer patients feel guilty and blame themselves, instead of try to stop the chemical companies.
However, it sounds like you do have health issues if you are exhibiting symptoms.
My advice is to rely on your doctors. If they tell you that you are not sick, please don't try to investigate it and investigate it, because you might make yourself sick by worry. Typical diseases you can give yourself: headaches, ear aches, insomnia, stomach aches, aches and pains, and many other symptoms.
People can even make themselves die of unknown causes that they are determined to find.
As far as fear, it's good to not feel afraid, but if you do have fear, go into it and come out the other side. If it's there, you cannot ignore it with drugs, etc., because you push the fear feelings inside. Fear cannot "cause" cancer, but it is best to walk it out, dance it out, or write in your journal to process the fear until the fear goes away.
If you do not trust your doctor's opinion, find another doctor.
I'm not sure what those drugs are, but if you do not want to take them, or feel like the doctor has misdiagnosed you, go for a second opinion.
If you want to discuss further, please write back,
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Dear Mr. Nori,
Thanks for your reply, I know i have been fighting all these years the debilitating health anxiety without any medicines. But now due to cancer phobia, which has been trigger due to my auunt died of Blood cancer 20 years ago & recent blood coming from my urine, I am obsessed with cancer. Due to anxiety & fear, now my bowel movement also increased and sometimes there is stomach pain. Anti anxiety medicine are also not helping me to control this fear. Sometimes I am thinking this medicine is only for controlling the bodily sensation due to anxiety & it will not help the symptoms of stomach cancer, what should i do to remove intrusive & catastrophic thought, which brings more flight & fight response. Sometimes i behave like i have cancer, sometimes i fear i will get it in future & sometimes i want to prevent it by doing some compulsion, its very confusing. I am avoiding now to eat much food also. Most of the time my mind on my stomach only. Please help me i will be grateful to you. How to challenge this negative thoughts by congnitive positive talking. How to have the thoughts without feelings attached to it. I know all the sensation brought by anxiety & panic are harmless such as fast heartbeat, stomach upset or IBS, sensation loss, needle & pin feelings, dizziness, chest pain, chest tightness, tingling, breathless ness, all this symptoms i have been fighting since 15 years. All this 15 years my fear was related to chronic problems such as heart problems, blood pressure, diabetes, Neurological, which you can live on. But the problem with cancer phobia is if you are diagnosed it is confirmed death & u r afraid to go & make test. This kind of cancer fear is new to me & i don't know how to challenge this fear. Since i came to know that, blood from the stool is one of the symptoms of stomach cancer i start obsessing about it & start checking my stool everytime. there are several other non serious or chronic reason for blood coming from stool, like ulcer, piles inflammation of the colon, crohn disease but my mind only obsessing with the blood with stool only to cancer. How to have this thought without any power of feeeling & remove the intensity of the fear. Plz help me
ANSWER: Dear Afzal,
I am not a doctor. So my advice is not meant to replace medical advice.
In your voice, I hear your fear a reluctance to submit yourself to the medical establishment. M.D.s have a tendency to slice and dice terminal patients, as if they could halt the process of dying. Many people are afraid to die, so they want doctors to offer them options. However, you do not want to go into treatment, even though you exhibit serious symptoms.
This is just my opinion, but you might consider embracing the dis-ease process in your body. Remember, I am not a professional, so consider my opinion, but do not base your ultimate decisions on what I say.
You might seek counsel in your house of worship, but I encourage you to find out all you can about hospice, and find out what hospice care is available near where you life.
Hospice is the opposite of a hospital. Instead of trying to promise you that you will live, hospice allows you to die peacefully.
If you find out what you would do if you were dying, it might allow you to let go of your fears and live the rest of your time free from worry.
Sorry if I sound morbid, but in recent weeks and months, I lost two important people in my life. Both died under hospice care, and it made me realize that hospice is a blessing.
Please write back when you are able. Please get other opinions. I may be way off the mark here.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thanks for the reply.
I came to know thru your writing that, cancer is caused by toxins from the carcinogenic chemicals, overuse of household chemicals, second hand smokes etc.
Also, Fear cannot cause cancer.
but Now I am obsessing & fearing that, anxiety can cause cancer.
Since last 15 years i have been battling anxiety & panic attacks & I know that, anxiety & panic attack symptoms are harmless & it will not kill you. it is only fear (flight & fight response.
But this irrational fear that, anxiety can cause cancer is making me more fearful. How to fight this negative thought with positive thoughts. I am repeating your word that, Fear cannot cause cancer. But still i am unable to convince my mind. What to do. Can u help me.
Thank you for your follow-up question. I do think of you with kind sympathy for your condition, or any medical condition you may have that is undiagnosed.
Here's something that might convince you: chapter five of my book, Cult Survivors Handbook. I wrote it for ex-cult members to relieve their depression without having to go on medication.
You will see from the chapter that I make the case that cancer causes depression and anxiety, rather than depression and anxiety causing cancer. So it is possible that your anxieties are coming from the disease process in your body.
Also, I thought once you fully understand and accept your emotions, you might feel better about getting the diagnosis.
Please read the chapter, then write back again, if you want to discuss further.
V. Mind-Body Healing
Depression feels like it is just in the mind, but it is often rooted in the body. For example, sitting around in a stuffy room may make you feel depressed. Sleeping too much may have a similar effect. If you go out for a brisk walk, or work out at the gym, then eat a nourishing meal of organic food, take some helpful herbs, and drink fresh spring water, the depression will fade. This happens because sitting still slows down all the metabolic functions. Combine a sedentary lifestyle with poor nutrition, and you may get serious depression, even if there is nothing to be depressed about.
In our quick-fix, fast-paced society, doctors have gone overboard prescribing mood pills. The pills may relieve symptoms, and in some cases a pill may be the best solution. However, for most people, depression is a warning sign to tell us that something is out of balance. It could be a negative attitude, or the backlash for procrastinating a challenging situation.
When we finally stand up to the attitude and change it, or stand up to the situation and go through it, depression falls away. It is nature's way that we must feel the depression in order to be motivated to make necessary changes. Another possible cause of depression is that we need to grieve a loss. In this case, depression is natural and will go away on its own, without the need for pills.
Drug companies and doctors may believe that brain chemicals are to blame for depression, but their medications could also mask the symptoms of serious health problems. This happened to me. When I was eighteen, I learned that rather than a brain chemical imbalance, I had a problem metabolizing glucose. In my late twenties, I learned that I also had food allergies. At that time I met an acupuncturist who cured me with needles, Chinese herbs, and diet. I am careful about my diet so I rarely get symptoms anymore. I believe psychiatrists should routinely screen for hypoglycemia, food allergies, and other biological factors that may cause depression, before they write a prescription.
A woman's monthly cycle and menopause may also cause mood fluctuations. Hormones are powerful organic drugs the body makes to help women stay in contact with their emotional life. In the few days leading up to the period, when the hormones are rushing, a woman feels motivated to review all that has happened over the month and reevaluate obligations, relationships, and her entire emotional life. PMS can cause depression or anger, but moodiness helps us reexamine our boundaries and shake off unnecessary burdens. Taken in a positive sense, mood fluctuations are a blessing because they help women come into harmony with themselves. Taking anti-depressants to repress PMS mood swings actually deprives women of vital information that our hormones would otherwise teach us.
Another disease that can cause depression is cancer. They say that type c people (worriers) get cancer, but it could be the other way around, that cancer causes depression and worry. Cancer comes from living in a polluted world, where our food, water, air, and even sunshine may be carcinogenic. The routine treatments for cancer seem more harmful than the disease itself. Although it is essential to keep looking for a cure, I believe that as a society we need to acknowledge the dangers of carcinogens. If we speak out and ask for changes, governments will have to stop corporations from filling our environment with dangerous carcinogens. Meanwhile, we need more hospitals to offer support groups for cancer victims.
The mainstream medical establishment still offers the best alternative for acute conditions, such as a broken leg or burst appendix, but they seem to have less of an edge on chronic and degenerative diseases. But even if you opt for the traditional medical course, you will help yourself along if you acknowledge the mind-body connection at the root of the disease. When you acknowledge that psychological situations may contribute to health problems, you take responsibility. Look for the root of the disease as a positive exercise; not as an opportunity for negative self-blame.