Know the symptoms: How to know when you need to see a Doctor

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What is a hypochondriac? In the clinical sense, it’s a form of anxiety disorder, and therefore it’s no small matter. To a hypochondriac, a momentary tightness in the chest or even a sneeze can ruin their day. The Mayo Clinic says, “This excessive anxiety–rather than the physical symptom itself–results in severe distress that can disrupt your life.”

But right now, we are all hypochondriacs to a certain extent. Every time we cough, we wonder if this is the first sign that COVID has finally caught up with us. If you have an Apple Watch, you are constantly checking the pulse oximeter to see if your oxygen level is below 95. A reading of 93 sends a chill of panic down your spine. If that happens, do this before calling the doctor:

  1. Move your watch down closer to your hand as far as it will comfortably go.
  2. Sit down and rest your arm on the armrest watch-side up.
  3. Do the test again and remain still for 15 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 to 3 times to get an average.

When you do these things, you will get a much more accurate reading and realize your blood oxygen is just fine. Also, don’t get crazy if your temperature reads one-tenth of a degree higher than it usually does. Slight fluctuations in temperature are normal. Watch for these symptoms of COVID as expressed by the CDC:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Here are a few other signs that you need a doctor:

A Positive Test

Thank goodness we can all take a safe, reliable, and affordable at home STD test these days. That means we don’t have to have an unnecessarily awkward conversation with our partner or doctor. We are able to administer the test ourselves and get the results discreetly. The good news is that we have nothing to worry about the vast majority of the time.

In the rare event of a negative result, you will want to see your doctor and get another test for thoroughness. Be aware that false positives occur in some types of tests regardless of who administers them. So a positive reading from a test is not definitive proof that you have a disease. Doctors take the chances of false positives into account before assigning you a treatment regimen. They consider the nature and severity of your symptoms and will often order another test just to confirm the first one. At home tests for all types of diseases are readily available and accessible. So before you make an appointment with your doctor, do an at home test first. You’ll be glad you did.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a killer that all too often goes undiagnosed. One reason is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. We have no problem going to the doctor if we suspect we broke a bone. But few people call their doctor due to signs of depression. We might be the last to know we are suffering from depression. But others around us can see the signs. We can leave clear signs of depression in our social media

Focus Medica list the following symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Tearfulness
  • Hopelessness
  • Short temper
  • Irritation
  • Loss of interest/Lack of pleasure
  • Memory loss
  • Flat affect
  • Sleep disorders
  • Tiredness
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness

All of these symptoms are common among humans. We all exhibit two or three of them frequently. But as the symptoms pile up and increase in severity, it indicates a medical problem that needs attention. Call your doctor and tell her if you are having these symptoms more than usual.

If the People Who Know You Best Are Concerned

One of the reasons we have a constellation of friends and family is to keep us grounded and let us know things about ourselves that we otherwise wouldn’t know. We are often the last to know when we have a problem. Our friends, on the other hand, tend to see the changes right away. By the time they work up the nerve to say something about it, the problem is often pretty far along. This is especially true when it comes to over indulging in vices like alcohol and drugs. Never dismiss the observations of the people who know you best and love you the most.

It is perfectly okay to be a little paranoid about your health. You can always call your doctor to get in the cue. Minimize the false calls by only making appointments when you get a positive result from an at home test, when your symptoms of depression start to mount, and when your closest confidants start expressing concern about signs they have noticed.

Closing Thoughts

In 2019, the Harvard Medical School published an article that said that we should stop using the term “hypochondriasis,” because it is a demeaning term. We should now call this type of anxiety a somatic symptom disorder.

A somatic symptom is a symptom that causes someone to have excessive thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors related to those symptoms. To use the example from the beginning of this article, a sneeze to many of us is just that–a sneeze. But to someone with a somatic symptom disorder sneezes, they may immediately wonder if they’re coming down with a serious illness. They may spend hours (or even days) stressing out about their health. Do they have a cold? Is it Covid? Some might even start taking supplements in the hopes that they will fend off whatever caused them to sneeze. If you or someone you know suffers from this disorder, please seek the help of a mental health professional.

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