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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkHealth & Beauty 

Balance Caution and Hypochondria
email this pageprint this pageemail usJacob Franek - AskMen.com
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April 08, 2010



(iStockphoto.com)
You've heard it many times before: Even with all the wealth and prosperity in the world, if you don't have your health, you have nothing. Maintaining good health is the one chore that no one can look after but you. Should you, therefore, be diligent in looking after your own health? Of course, but avoid disguising hypochondria as diligence. Instead, you need to balance caution and hypochondria - here's how.

Don't diagnose yourself online

Sure, the internet is filled with all the latest bells and whistles -- like those cool “show me on the virtual stick figure where it hurts” symptom-checkers -- but the web is also plagued by the simple fact that anyone can put anything online. While reputable health websites certainly exist, remember that without the proper medical knowledge to put what you're reading into context, you are no better off than before. Relentless internet research is really just a one-way ticket to hypochondria.

How to balance caution and hypochondria:

• First off, schedule an appointment with your doctor if something ails you.

• If your condition isn't life-threatening, do some research (if you must) and then follow up on your ideas with your doctor.

• For a complicated condition, simply avoid trying to diagnose yourself.

• Avoid reading too much into anecdotal personal horror stories (there are a lot of them online).

Schedule regular doctor visits

Scheduling regular doctor visits is all about being on top of your health, but that doesn't mean you should run to your doctor every time you have a heart palpitation.

How to balance caution and hypochondria:

Schedule appointments according to a reliable online screening guide.

• Have a regular checkup at least once a year, outside of specific illness-related appointments.

• Work with your doctor to determine a reasonable screening schedule.

• Track your appointments on your home computer or online, using a health tracker from a self-help website.

Avoid needless prescriptions

We recognize that most men out there are not medical experts, but there has to be a certain level of trust with your doctor. Then again, some docs will prescribe anything simply to ease a patient's hypochondria. Carelessly prescribing antibiotics, for example, has led to a global increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ushering in a new wave of deadly infectious diseases.

How to balance caution and hypochondria:

• Remember: Antibiotics only kill bacteria. So, if you have a cold or flu, without any secondary bacterial infections (such as strep throat), avoid antibiotics as they are entirely useless and ineffective against viruses.

• Do not press for a prescription when your doctor does not think one is warranted.

• When taking antibiotics, be sure to finish your prescription. Failure to do so might result in a relapse (and a new course of antibiotics) or the development of antibiotic resistance.

Seek out a second opinion (but not a sixth)

As much as we revere (or chide) our doctors, keep in mind that docs aren't superhuman beings - they do make mistakes. Maintaining a healthy skepticism is, well, healthy. On the flip side, being skeptical doesn't mean seeing every MD within a 50-mile radius (a cold is still a cold).

How to balance caution and hypochondria:

• Try asking your doctor how confident they feel about your diagnosis and whether you should seek a second opinion.

• For complex conditions, ask your referring doctor to recommend multiple specialists and schedule multiple appointments before you receive any one diagnosis. Doing so will save you time in the long run, but may be costly.

• Do some research: Ask friends, ask other doctors and search health websites to find a reputable family physician or specialist (when necessary). Some early research on your problems can prevent a lot of future headaches.

Slow 'n Steady

Hypochondria is a word that tends to be thrown around. In the general sense, it simply refers to one who overreacts, but in the literal sense, it is a very real and harmful psychological condition. If you generally tend to overreact, just relax and take the above precautions to ensure your health is being properly safeguarded. If, however, you fear you may suffer from clinical hypochondria, reach out and get some help - now is as good a time as any.

Jacob Franek is a Toronto-based health writer and epidemiologist with experience in all facets of health care. He writes on science, technology and health. He is not afraid of swine flu.



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