Several years ago I heard one of my doctor friends refer to “The Worried Well” and I began to, well, worry that I was one of them. I asked my personal physician about it and she told me she “didn’t think of me that way.” There is definitely a benefit to having someone around who can tell you that you are fine—absolutely fine. And if there are reasons for doubting the reassurance, that’s normal for The Worried Well, too.
Look up “The Worried Well” on the internet and you’ll find dozens of fun facts describing the phenomenon: one in four physician appointments is taken by a healthy person. The Worried Well often suffer from depression and/or anxiety; social isolation may be a component of their hypochondria. Certainly some of my friends who live alone tend to be more concerned about their health than those who live with other people. I know from experience that if I go too long without talking (or, more correctly, “unloading” my concerns) to a friend, anxiety creeps in.
A case in point: last week I was alone for several days, a period that coincided with a dear friend’s third anniversary surviving Pancreatic Cancer. As night fell, I began to notice a few abdominal pains. One thing led to another and I spent a few hours researching symptoms while my abdominal pain shifted here and there. I didn’t meet many of the criteria for Pancreatic Cancer, so I symptom-surfed Gall Bladder disease. It was kind of plausible but the more is read, the more I came to realize that abdominal pain can be caused by just about anything. When my husband returned days later, I greeted him with my grab bag of maladies and he told me that I was fine—absolutely fine. There wasn’t any medical evidence for his opinion but that didn’t matter. I felt better immediately. Which just goes to show, it’s good to have a friend to tell you exactly what you need to hear.