Worrying causes cancer ...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Over the years it has been brought to my attention that I may be somewhat neurotic. My mother, a therapist of 10+ years who holds a masters degree in psychology, on one or two occasions has told me that I appear to have neurotic tendencies. She said it to me in a joking manner, but humor is how my family oftentimes delivers and copes with the truth. Kind of like how belligerently drunk people accidentally tell you “how they really feel” before they puke and pass out on the steps.

I wasn’t offended because it has proven itself to be mostly true. Plus, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. The problem with having neurotic tendencies is that I’m letting these tendencies harm my life in certain ways.

For the longest time I didn’t know what neurotic even meant. Growing up I’ve heard it thrown around in conversations along with terms like narcissistic, anal, and anal retentive. I had a general idea of what those things meant, but I couldn’t write out a specific definition (thanks to my college psychology classes, I can now). But I knew for sure that I had only ever heard them in a negative context and being any of those things wasn’t going to help you win friends.

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Neu*rot*ic [noo rottik]

1. affect by neurosis

relating to, involving, affected by, or characteristic of a mild psychiatric disorder characterized by depression, anxiety, or hypochondria

2. overanxious or obsessive

PSYCHIATRY: overanxious, oversensitive, or obsessive about everyday things
(often considered offensive)

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Sounds just like the kind of girl you want to bring to a party, doesn’t it?

Only two things about this specific definition bother me: One- being neurotic is always linked to the “psychiatric disorder” and that neurotic people are “often considered offensive”.

1) I have zero psychiatric disorders (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). My thinking and processing patterns just happen to lean towards shared characteristics which are that of neurosis. But if someone really wants to argue with me and say, “Well, that’s what neurosis is!” then fine … at least it’s classified as a “mild” psychiatric disorder. And that’s the low-end of the spectrum. After all, in the world of salsa there is mild, medium, spicy, and even caliente.

And 2) I’m not offensive – I’m awesome!

What could classify me as neurotic is my obsessive worrying and hypochondria. I worry about everything and I worry it to death. Actually, I think it’s a control issue. If I worry about it long and hard enough, maybe I can actual prevent it from happening. Like somehow me focusing on it could bend a spoon and protect me from harm.

I make a lot of “what if” statements. “What if THIS happens?” or “What if she thinks THAT about me”. The word “if” is the opposite of “definite”. “If” doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen. So, I’m wasting energy on things that may never come to be.

THAT’s a problem.

Hypochondria. Gosh, that word even sounds like a disease. I think its loose meaning is “an invented illness”, an excessive (that word is never good) preoccupation with what’s going on in your body.

Do they give out medals for hypochondria? Is it an Olympic sport I’m not yet aware of?

Here’s hoping.

If you read any of my other blogs, you’re aware of my heart palpitations. Those started as some random, harmless fluke but probably remained severe because I dwelled on it, I obsessed over it, I WORRIED about it. In turn, that made the physical problem worse. So, I worried about it more. And the more severe the skipping beats got, the more I was convinced I had heart disease. “What if this gives me a heart attack?” “What if I drop dead?”

Other instances - "What if this pain in my leg is a blot clot?" "What if this ingrown toenail never heals and they have to take my toenail off permanently?" "What if this birth control makes my hair fall out?"

WHAT IF?

It’s all one big, vicious cycle. It’s a dog chasing his tail in circles. It’s a merry-go-round. There’s no end. It keeps going.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I know I am slightly (or mostly) neurotic. At least I’m aware of how I’m thinking and can catch myself when I have an obsessive, overly anxious moment. That’s a positive. However, on the down side …

… I can obsessive and worry over having unhealthy thinking.

What if I never change?

"The neurosis in which the search for safety takes its clearest form is in the compulsive-obsessive neurosis. Compulsive-obsessive to frantically order and stabilize the world so that no unmanageable, unexpected or unfamiliar dangers will ever appear.” -Abraham Maslow (American Philosopher and Psychologist, 1908-1970)

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