I’m not grandiose enough to believe that I invented the term, “Googlechondria”, but if I have, let me know how I can copyright it and make a bit of extra cash! This term came to me after seeing three highly anxious clients in one week who all assured me they were afflicted with some sort of highly complex physical or mental illness. When I applied some cognitive behavioral questions to their stories (in this case, it mainly consists of finding real evidence for one’s assertions), they all came up blank.
Let me give you one of my favourite examples:
Client: “I have a brain tumor and I’m dying”…
Me: “When did your doctor give you this devastating news?”
Client: “Well, I don’t have an official diagnosis yet but I know it’s true.”
Me: “Umm…then how did you find out about this supposed terminal tumor of yours?”
Client: (Often looking at me like I’m an idiot) “Google!”
Me: “Let me get this straight- you are convinced you have a brain tumor and are terminally ill, and yet you have had no medical tests or conversations with doctors telling you this for certain? So how exactly did you come to this conclusion looking at Google alone?”
Client: (Now obviously annoyed with my apparent idiocy) “I had one of those headaches I told you about last time- you know- when my head starts to throb and I feel like someone has a vice grip on my brain? Well, I went to the computer and looked up the symptoms I was experiencing and it said it could be a brain tumor, so that’s how I found out.”
If I’ve done my job well enough, this client will walk out of this session realizing that they have the anxious habit of ‘catastrophising’ or ‘awfulizing’ and jumping to false conclusions when minor incidents are worked up into a tizzy in their own minds. Then we talk at length about working on letting go of that bad mental habit and replacing it with mindfulness and curious self-enquiry and deescalating of bodily anxiety symptoms (in this case, the supposed ‘brain tumor’ was actually a physical manifestation, or ‘symptom’ of the client’s anxiety). She later learned to pair these ‘head symptoms’ with anxiety and took them as an immediate sign that she needed to do some of the deep breathing exercises we had practiced together which magically made her ‘head pain’ disappear after about five minutes of this meditative practice!
And of course I could site countless examples of clients’ self-diagnosing of a multitude of mental illnesses they happened to ‘Google’ when they had too much time on their hands. My personal favourite is when clients tell me they have “borderline personality disorder” because they figured it out by ‘Googling’ their behaviours on the internet (often during the week leading up to their period). Of course, when I ask whether they have received an official diagnosis, they say “no” but still try to convince me otherwise.
My answer to them is this: “I have a couple of reasons for doubting this supposed “fact” about your current state of mental health. One is that you have not been officially diagnosed and second is the fact that ‘lack of self-awareness’ is one of the main features of Borderline Personality Disorder; something you may have too much of from the sounds of it.”
Google is the hypochondriac’s dream and perhaps downfall as well…I often think how awful it must be to be a doctor these days with so many patients telling them what is wrong with them because they looked up their symptoms on WebMD…
So the next time you get the urge to find some incurable illness on the internet which might suit you that day, why don’t you turn off the computer, make a cup of tea and sit in candlelight and meditate for ten minutes? I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better and you might even ward off that fateful ‘illness’!
Esther’s Recommended Reading: Will I Ever Be Good Enough?
Even before I became a therapist, I was a self-help book junkie. I can remember reading countless self-help books when I was as young as fourteen in my quest to understand my suffering and to find a way to heal. Now I’ve written three self-help books myself and am delighted to hear from clients and readers that my words are helping them understand and heal. I am always on the lookout for good self-help books that my clients find helpful and almost always buy my own copy to devour and share with other clients.
The most recent book I’ve been devouring which was recommended by a client is called, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. I highly recommend this book if you have any inkling that you have a narcissistic mother. Here are some of the questions Dr. McBride outlines in her book in the questionnaire called, “Does Your Mother Have Narcissistic Traits?” as presented on her website (http://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/narcissistic-mother):
Are you a daughter of a narcissistic mother? Take this brief survey.
Narcissism is a spectrum disorder with the most severe end of the spectrum considered a narcissistic personality disorder. A woman can have several narcissistic traits and not fit the personality disorder. Mothers with only a few traits listed can negatively affect their daughters in insidious ways which is explained in Dr. McBride’s book.
(Check all those that apply to your relationship with your mother)
- When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?
- When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she she try to top the feeling with her own?
- Does your mother act jealous of you?
- Does your mother lack empathy for your feelings?
- Does your mother only support those things you do that reflect on her as a “good mother?”
- Have you consistently felt a lack of emotional closeness with your mother?
- Have you consistently questioned whether or not your mother likes you or loves you?
- Does your mother only do things for you when others can see?
- When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce,) does your mother react with how it will affect her rather than how you feel?
- Is or was your mother overly conscious of what others think (neighbors, friends, family, co-workers)?
- Does your mother deny her own feelings?
- Does your mother blame things on you or others rather than own responsibility for her feelings or actions?
- Is or was your mother hurt easily and then carried a grudge for a long time without resolving the problem?
- Do you feel you were a slave to your mother?
- Do you feel you were responsible for your mother’s ailments or sickness (headaches, stress, illness)?
- Did you have to take care of your mother’s physical needs as a child?
- Do you feel unaccepted by your mother?
- Do you feel your mother was critical of you?
- Do you feel helpless in the presence of your mother?
- Are you shamed often by your mother?
- Do you feel your mother knows the real you?
- Does your mother act like the world should revolve around her?
- Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
- Does your mother appear phony to you?
- Does your mother want to control your choices?
- Does your mother swing from egotistical to a depressed mood?
- Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?
- Do you feel manipulated in the presence of your mother?
- Do you feel valued by mother for what you do rather than who you are?
- Is your mother controlling, acting like a victim or martyr?
- Does your mother make you act different from how you really feel?
- Does your mother compete with you?
- Does your mother always have to have things her way?
Note: All of these questions relate to narcissistic traits. The more questions you checked, the more likely your mother has narcissistic traits and this has caused some difficulty for you as a growing daughter and adult.
If you identify with a number of these traits, I highly recommend you buy a copy of Dr. McBride’s groundbreaking book to help you heal.