Brian Maranan Pineda
OBSESSING ABOUT YOUR HEALTH CAN MAKE YOU FEEL WORSE
Being concerned about your health is normal, says Gordon Asmundson, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. But as many as one in five of us are likely to worry way too much about it, and health anxiety tends to feed upon itself, setting off a spiral of intensifying fear and illness. Anxiety is characterized by physiological arousal - quicker breathing, faster heart rate, tenser muscles - that can in turn make minor pain seem more intense, magnify odd sensations, and lead us to interpret minor problems as signs of serious disease.
Likewise, commercials that emphasize rare but serious complications of common ailments can amp up existing anxiety. In one survey, 68 percent of physicians reported that ads like these trigger noticeable anxiety in their patients; 12 percent reported that their patients experienced "a great deal" of anxiety. "I quite often see people with conditions like chronic pain who are crippled more by their worry than by the condition itself," says Asmundson.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Any health concern can be exacerbated by anxiety. If your health stress is unmanageable, talk to your doctor about strategies for managing it, such as meditation.
DISCUSSING DRUGS WITH YOUR DOCTOR IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA
Research has shown that mentioning a drug in the doctor's office can do a patient good. In one of his studies on patient-doctor interactions, Kravitz asked trained actors to visit a general practitioner and describe symptoms of major depression. Of the "patients" who asked for a drug, including those who asked for a particular drug by name, 90 percent got high-quality initial care: an appointment for follow-up, refer-ral to a mental-health specialist, or a prescription. But only 56 percent of the actor-patients who did not mention a drug got any one of these treatments. Kravitz's conclusion: "It suggests that informed, motivated, and involved patients can dramatically improve the quality of their own care," he wrote.
THE BOTTOM LINE: If you learn about a drug from an ad, and that helps you explain your condition to your doctor or helps you feel less embarrassed, mention it - but when it comes to deciding whether you need that prescription, your doctor should be the one to make the final call.