Most of us have heard of seasonal affective disorder, affectionately known as SAD. We may even know about light therapy, like alarm clocks that emit faux sunshine instead of sound—or our mothers’ more homespun remedies, such as opening the curtains in the morning. Recently a Finnish company took the light therapy concept to new technological heights when it introduced the Valkee, lighted ear buds that plug into your smartphone and combat SADness by firing bright light through your ear canals into the light-sensitive areas of your brain.
What is less common—but more pernicious—is seasonal hypochondria disorder, which typically strikes in late winter/early spring, after months indoors watching My Strange Addiction. If you’re not sure if you have it, don’t worry. It’s new. It wasn’t until a friend pointed out the seasonal component to my crippling fear of death that I even realized such a thing even existed. Now I think about it all the time. So as spring struggles to take hold, and you blow your nose for the 12th time this hour, here are 7 unmistakable signs that you too might be a seasonal hypochondriac.
1. Only Google truly “gets” you. You recently became preoccupied with the mechanics of swallowing to such an obsessive degree that you worry you will choke whenever you have a glass of water. You wonder if this could be the initial symptoms of a terrible neurological disease. As your browser history fills up with things like “trouble swallowing” and “gurgling in throat,” you remember the Internet is filled with people just like you. Rather than feeling comforted, you lie on the couch wondering if anyone has ever forgotten how to breathe.
2. Your doctor’s word is meaningless. You find a lump behind your ear and tell yourself it’s a brain tumor. The doctor tells you it’s a fluid buildup in a gland in your neck, caused by your ear piercing. Rather than being relieved, you demand a second opinion. That piercing complements your throwback high-tops and skinny jeans too perfectly to remove without the word of at least two MDs. (Also, does this guy even have a medical degree?)
3. You’ve stretched the idea of “a reassuring touch” to perverse new limits. Rather than taking advantage of the nightlife in your freshly gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood, you sit on the couch alone, giving yourself testicular/breast self-examinations. You are terrified that any small variations between your right and left sides are cancerous, but for some reason you are unable to stop touching yourself.
4. Any attempt to make things better tends to make them worse. You got laser eye surgery because you were insecure about the way you looked in glasses, but then you became concerned that your dry eyes and headaches were a sign of surgery-induced macular degeneration that would end in blindness. You only stopped harassing your eye doctor when she insisted something else must be causing the headaches. (“You might want to see a neurologist—worst-case scenario, a brain tumor.”)
5. You’re. Always. Hungry. As a kid, you were sure you had a tapeworm, because you were small and skinny and never gained weight. No matter how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you ate, you never felt full. The thought of those long white worms eating your food faster than you could digest it brought tears to your eyes. As an adult, you pop yet another pack of White Castle cheeseburgers into the microwave and realize those insidious little monsters may have been inside you all along.
6. You’d totally love to make out, but let’s be honest, it’s just not safe. When you were a teenager, you convinced yourself you had an STD even though you were still a virgin. Perhaps you took sex ed classes in the ’90s and learned that any sexual contact, no matter how fleeting, is potentially a death sentence. Now when you notice a good-looking girl/guy checking you at Starbucks, you start to sweat: What if she likes you, you end up going out, and eventually she wants you to touch the inside of her body?!?!
7. You were healthy last year at this time, but that was literally hundreds of days ago. You go back to the doctor every winter/spring with new spins on these same “symptoms,” convinced that you have a tumor or some incurable disease. There might even be an unpaid bill for $310.85 for a magnetic resonance imaging scan sitting on your desk right now. It came back negative. You’re pretty sure that should be covered under Obamacare somehow. Right?
Remember, knowledge is shareable—just like the diseases that will kill us all.