Don’t Catastrophize on Your Health

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Before you fly off the handle, make sure you’re actually sick.

Ever since I stopped living with my parents, I’ve become much more cognizant of my physical condition. When you’re a kid and you live with people who take care of you, you don’t need to be especially aware of what’s going on with your body unless you have some kind of persistent condition. As an adult, though, you suddenly become aware of the fact that your body is, in fact, your problem, and if you don’t have the answers readily available, you might start to freak out. I know I do.

But before you start freaking out and assuming you’ve suddenly contracted a debilitating disease, take a deep breath and let the logical part of your brain do its thing. Medicine, after all, is a science, and science has a method. The first thing you should do is carefully examine your physical condition to determine what exactly is ailing you. Are you aching? Having trouble breathing? Is something you normally do now causing pain or discomfort? Every scrap of information you can gather brings you that much closer to the truth of the matter.

When you think you’ve got yourself figured out, your first assumption will probably be to research your symptoms online. A little preliminary research can give you some ideas, but therein lay the hazard: simply Googling symptoms will almost always yield very concerning results, not because that’s what you actually have, but because that’s the stuff people are searching the most.

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Instead, the best course of action is also the most obvious: talk to your doctor. When you try to observe a bunch of unconnected symptoms together, it’s always going to look like something bad, but with a doctor’s trained eye, you can get a much clearer picture, usually of a much more harmless affliction. And in the event it isn’t a harmless affliction, well, you’re already at the doctor’s!

It is your body, and you can feel what’s going on inside of it, but you need the right kind of knowledge to parse those feelings. If you’re not a doctor yourself, pretending you are is only going to scare you more.