Health anxiety and childhood trauma

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JustKathy

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Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« on: July 22, 2021, 08:31:21 PM »
Just something interesting I thought I'd share, especially since there was a recent thread about health anxiety.

This week I had my first colonoscopy, something I should have had done ten years ago but kept putting off because I have terrible fears surrounding hospitals and procedures that require sedation. I don't know exactly what caused those fears, but they've been with me all my life.

When I arrived for my procedure I was a wreck, trembling all over and visibly terrified. An absolutely wonderful nurse came over to try and calm me down. She asked why I was so afraid and I told her I really didn't know, but that I had been this way since I was a teenager. I didn't want to go into the details of my childhood so I left it at that. She then said, "Most of the people who come in with such severe anxiety tell me they suffered some sort of childhood trauma." After she said that I calmed down, knowing I wasn't alone.

Does anyone else who suffers from health anxiety have an idea of how they got that way? It sounds like the kind of thing that would be the result of a bad experience with a doctor as a child, but in my case, I never went to the doctor. My mother was neglectful and left me to suffer when I was sick. When I had chronic tonsilitis she left me in pain and said it was my punishment for kissing boys (something I had never done). The only time I remember seeing a doctor was when I developed severe bronchitis but Nmother told the doctor that I had been caught smoking cigarettes, so he dismissed me as a problem child and told me to stop smoking (again, something I had never done).

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Andeza

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2021, 09:01:51 PM »
Goodness, JustKathy, no wonder you don't want to go to the doctor. Every time in your past that you needed one or got taken to one you were accused and lied about. I'd be traumatized by that too! I hope the scope went well, that's on my list of things to do in another decade or so... I'm praying technology renders it unnecessary. Fingers crossed.

I'm not 100% sure where my fear of hospitals and doctors comes from. My uBPDm was always in and out of doctor offices, they could never figure out what was wrong with her, but they were happy to send her for tests that I had to go along for as well. I suspect now that many of her so-called problems were just BPD attention grabs or medication seeking behaviors. Additionally, I got sick frequently as a child. Despite being kept home most of the time, I would get every cold, flu, and upper respiratory virus there was. I seem to be prone to anything lung related, but ... I'm not sure why (Still am). Because I was kept home, homeschooled, and terrified of doctors, I didn't act normal around doctors and nurses. Their response to this was to assume that I was being physically or sexually abused. Great. So now they check me over for that and I'm even MORE traumatized. That's awesome, thanks.

I do pretty much everything as "alternative" as I can now. Midwife and home delivery instead of hospital. Herbs and lifestyle changes instead of long term medications, etc.
Remember, that there are no real deadlines for life, just society's pressures.      - Anonymous
Lasting happiness is not something we find, but rather something we make for ourselves.

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JustKathy

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2021, 09:57:53 PM »
I hope the scope went well, that's on my list of things to do in another decade or so... I'm praying technology renders it unnecessary. Fingers crossed.

Thank you, Andeza. It actually went very well and the polyps they removed were benign. I had to actually go through it to realize that my fears were completely unwarranted. It was a very easy procedure and I was home 90 minutes after it began.

I'm going to send a thank-you note to that wonderful nurse. I wouldn't have gotten through it without her supportive words.

You may be right that having doctors not believe me when I was young has caused my panic. I'm usually fine with routine appointments, but procedures terrify me. There's something about being sedated and losing control. My mother worked hard to convince me that everything from pregnancy to spicy foods would kill me, so there's also that. Planting the constant fear of death into a child's head is going to cause some serious long-term damage.

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MarlenaEve

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2021, 11:31:02 AM »
Just something interesting I thought I'd share, especially since there was a recent thread about health anxiety.

This week I had my first colonoscopy, something I should have had done ten years ago but kept putting off because I have terrible fears surrounding hospitals and procedures that require sedation. I don't know exactly what caused those fears, but they've been with me all my life.

When I arrived for my procedure I was a wreck, trembling all over and visibly terrified. An absolutely wonderful nurse came over to try and calm me down. She asked why I was so afraid and I told her I really didn't know, but that I had been this way since I was a teenager. I didn't want to go into the details of my childhood so I left it at that. She then said, "Most of the people who come in with such severe anxiety tell me they suffered some sort of childhood trauma." After she said that I calmed down, knowing I wasn't alone.

Does anyone else who suffers from health anxiety have an idea of how they got that way? It sounds like the kind of thing that would be the result of a bad experience with a doctor as a child, but in my case, I never went to the doctor. My mother was neglectful and left me to suffer when I was sick. When I had chronic tonsilitis she left me in pain and said it was my punishment for kissing boys (something I had never done). The only time I remember seeing a doctor was when I developed severe bronchitis but Nmother told the doctor that I had been caught smoking cigarettes, so he dismissed me as a problem child and told me to stop smoking (again, something I had never done).

JustKathy: I remember you talking about your fear of having your colonoscopy done. Did you feel less afraid after you've taken it?

I have major health anxiety and is 100% because of my childhood trauma. I've recently developed physical symptoms that don't make any sense and relate to my fear of disease.

The nurse was really great, you were lucky to have had her. I assume that you felt better because of her.

I had a family doctor as a child who wasn't very approachable (no bedside manner, cold and aloof) who terrified me as a child. NM would take me to this doctor often because she was afraid I had a heart disease. So I was given tests after tests by this dr. and all related to my heart/lungs.

The result was that I have mitral valve prolapse, which is a valve problem but is benign. I suspect that the amount of crazy stress I was under from the age of 5 onwards caused it. My first panic attack was at 5! I still remember it. :( I don't have anxiety or heart issues now but health phobia is still alive and kickin'.

I wish I could tell you there is a cure for this phobia. Knowing the cause is the first step to healing it.

You said your mother didn't take you to dr when you had tonsillitis. Or at all. That is incredibly abusive. That's the highest form of neglect. Not treating a child's illness can be lethal to the child. NM was the same but she did make an effort to take me to the family doctor, at least.

In my opinion, ignoring a child's illness or any physical or emotional problem they may have tells the child they're worthless or their needs don't matter. And that causes trauma in the child.

Wishing you well and hopefully you can get past this anxiety.



Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms-
to choose one's attitude in any
given set of circumstances, to choose
one's own way.
-Viktor Frankl

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MarlenaEve

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2021, 11:36:37 AM »
Planting the constant fear of death into a child's head is going to cause some serious long-term damage.

NM did the same thing. We're in this together.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms-
to choose one's attitude in any
given set of circumstances, to choose
one's own way.
-Viktor Frankl

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djunamod

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2021, 01:28:22 PM »
Both my sister and I have health anxiety. I almost never go to a doctor and when I do, you have to drag me kicking and screaming into the office. My sister also never goes to a doctor. I think for me, it comes from my PDm's attitude toward us when we got sick. She took care of us but there was just this underlying wariness, like "I don't need to be dealing with this" or "how dare you get sick and make me take care of you when you're supposed to be taking care of me?" (my mom is N and BPD). The sad thing is that she was a nurse for many years and a good one. But I guess when it came to nursing her own kids, that was just a big burden on her.

Djuna

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JustKathy

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2021, 04:23:03 PM »
JustKathy: I remember you talking about your fear of having your colonoscopy done. Did you feel less afraid after you've taken it?

Yes, definitely. They told me I should have another one in five years which I'll be fine doing. It's a bit like fear of flying, I guess. You have to actually go through with it to realize that your fears were unwarranted.

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JustKathy

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2021, 04:28:41 PM »
I think for me, it comes from my PDm's attitude toward us when we got sick. She took care of us but there was just this underlying wariness, like "I don't need to be dealing with this" or "how dare you get sick and make me take care of you when you're supposed to be taking care of me?" (my mom is N and BPD). The sad thing is that she was a nurse for many years and a good one. But I guess when it came to nursing her own kids, that was just a big burden on her.

Oh, Djuna, I'm so sorry you went through this. It's especially messed up that your mother was a nurse. How sad that she was so good at caring for total strangers but couldn't care for her own children.

I do think they get angry because our illnesses detract from their own drama. My Nmother would also become furious if my father had any medical issues. She'd call him a hypochondriac and tell him to shut up and quit complaining. She was the only one in the house who was allowed to get sick.

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MarlenaEve

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2021, 08:12:14 AM »
Djuna-so sorry to hear how your mother treated you.

I think some narcissists like getting into nursing jobs. They get a lot of supply from there. But, when it comes to their kids, they can't actually get any supply if they get sick. No one's gonna pat them on the back and tell them how much they appreciate that they've tended to their needs. Their sick child is like a burden to them. Plus, as JustKathy said, a sick child distracts them from their own drama.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms-
to choose one's attitude in any
given set of circumstances, to choose
one's own way.
-Viktor Frankl

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JustKathy

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Re: Health anxiety and childhood trauma
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2021, 04:24:42 PM »
I think some narcissists like getting into nursing jobs. They get a lot of supply from there.

Wow, that reminds me of a period where my Nmother was pretending to be a nurse. She was obsessed with the idea of working in the medical profession because "doctors and nurses get respect."

When she was around 50 she went through a short program at the local Community College. She said she was in nursing school but it was a certificate program, probably to be a medical assistant (a front office person). When she completed her certificate they had some kind of graduation ceremony where she was photographed in a uniform and nurse's cap. She framed that photo and had it hanging in the house.

She did get a job in a doctor's office after graduating but quit just a few weeks later when a highly qualified person got a promotion and she didn't. Around that same time, I told her I had run into a woman who had lived in our neighborhood when I was growing up, and the first words out of Nmother's mouth were, "Did you tell her I'm a nurse now? I'm a NURSE." I told her I hadn't and she said that if I ran into anyone we knew to tell them. ::) She also kept telling people to come to her for medical advice because she was a nurse. She ended up dropping the whole act after a year when she didn't get the attention and "respect" she had hoped for.