Dear Diary: I Think Something is Wrong with Me

by Silvia Toledo-Lopez | Thursday, Mar 14, 2024

I feel compelled to delve deeper into my own experience with Illness Anxiety Disorder (IAD), which has been both challenging and transformative. While this path has not been easy, I want to share my story, and share everything that encompasses living with IAD. I hope my story is able to help other people living with this disorder and help educate those who are unaware of this challenging lifestyle that none of us choose.

Illness Anxiety Disorder

The first stages of IAD were subtle, manifesting as persistent uncertainties and occasional health concerns. A seemingly harmless worry about a lingering cough or an unexplainable pain quickly turned into a compulsive obsession with life-threatening illnesses. Soon, my life revolved around medical appointments. I felt like I was trapped in a never-ending cycle, searching for answers that I was never going to get. The weight of uncertainty and fear became increasingly burdensome and took a significant toll on my mental health. I spent my days reading countless articles and books about medical diagnoses. I had learned a wide range of symptoms and the diseases that went along with them. I thought all this knowledge would help me, but it just fed into the continuous cycle. Soon, my anxiety turned into concerns for not only my health, but also the well-being of the people I cared about. I wanted to be able to prevent suffering and protect my friends and family from illness.

The Mind-Body Connection

Understanding the mind-body connection within the context of IAD was similar to deciphering a complex code. My mental health had a detrimental influence on my physical well-being. Simple bodily sensations, such as an increased heart rate, a muscle pain, or a headache, would instantaneously open a Pandora’s box full of anxious thoughts. The more I focused on these pains, the more they intensified. They were feeding into the cycle of fear and physical discomfort. It felt inescapable.

I Need Reassurance

IAD is characterized by an unquenchable thirst for reassurance. I found myself convinced that the next doctor's appointment, the next blood tests, or the next set of results would finally give me the answer I was looking for and free me of the relentless anxiety. Each round of reassurance, however, was disappointingly brief, as fresh anxieties and new symptoms would soon arrive, leaving me once again in a place of uncertainty. My fear of misdiagnosis became a haunting thought. If one doctor couldn't identify a problem, I would immediately seek a second opinion, then a third, convinced that they were to blame for not being able to detect what was wrong with me. This cycle left me feeling trapped and hopeless.

Where Did This Come from?

I felt compelled to understand where all of this fear and anxiety came from. Was it self-induced? Was someone torturing a voodoo doll version of me? Talking to my therapist helped me understand. This disorder didn’t come out of nowhere; it was deeply rooted in my past experiences and learned behaviors. A family history of severe illnesses, a traumatic experience involving my family’s health, and an ongoing tendency to catastrophize minor health issues all came together to create the disorder. Catastrophizing never made things any easier, as it involves thinking about the worst possible thing that could happen and often over-exaggerating fears. Recognizing this didn't necessarily make the journey easier, but it did provide valuable insights. It allowed me to comprehend the fears that had taken over my life.

Seeking Help

The quest for seeking help became the defining chapter in my journey with IAD. It encompassed therapy, support groups, and intense self-reflection. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was a powerful tool in learning how to deal with IAD. With the guidance of my therapist, I started to identify and challenge the irrational thoughts that fueled my health anxiety. Gradually, I learned to reframe my thinking, replacing fear with reason. Support groups, made up of individuals who shared similar experiences, also played a crucial role. Sharing my own struggles and listening to the stories of others who understood what living with IAD was like, created a sense of community and validation. It provided great comfort, knowing that I wasn't the only one navigating IAD.


I want to emphasize that my journey with IAD is still ongoing. However, my determination to live a life with less anxiety is something that has helped me significantly. I am constantly confronting my fears and seeing my therapist. I remain committed to continuing this journey of healing. Additionally, by sharing my story, I hope to raise awareness about IAD and foster a deeper understanding of this disorder. I want to remind everyone that individuals with IAD are not simply "hypochondriacs." We are individuals facing a genuine mental health challenge.


Works Cited:

Cleveland Clinic. (2021). Illness anxiety disorder (hypochondria): Symptoms & treatments .

Espiridion, E. D., Fuchs, A., & Oladunjoye, A. O. (2021, January 25). Illness anxiety disorder: A case report and brief review of the literature . Cureus.