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Health Worries

Health Worries

Teen: Dear Dr. Expert,

I have this mole on my back. I went to the doctor and she said it was fine. But I just KNOW it's cancer - and nobody will believe me. I made my mom take me to another doctor for another opinion. That doctor also said it was fine and told me to just watch it to see if it changes. I still can't believe them - I hear about these things being missed all the time. Now cancer is all I think about! And I can't stop checking out the mole in the mirror. I've also been spending lots of time on the Internet researching skin cancer. I also keep asking my mom if she thinks I'm okay.

Dreading in Delta
Dr. Expert: Dear Dreading in Delta,

It sounds like you're having a lot of uncontrollable worry about your health. You can reduce your worry by challenging your thoughts to see if they are realistic or not.

First, determine whether you've fallen into a thinking trap, which is an overly negative way of seeing things. In this case, it sounds like you are overestimating danger. Challenge these negative thoughts by asking yourself questions like "What is the evidence that this thought is true?" and "Although it is possible the doctors have missed something, is it probable or likely?"

After challenging your negative thoughts, you will be able to look at them more objectively and come up with another thought that is more balanced and realistic. For example, instead of an unhelpful thought like "I know I have cancer and the doctor missed something," a more helpful thought would be, "My doctor has been practicing medicine for many years and sees moles all of the time. It's very unlikely that he or she would miss cancer. Although I can keep an eye on it, looking at my mole many times a day is not helpful."

Also, try not to constantly research your health worries on the Internet. In fact, researching your fears can actually make you more worried about your health in the long term and it won't ever give you a clear answer. Finally, although getting assurance from your doctor or mom that you're okay is helpful, constantly seeking reassurance will only make you more anxious. So work on reducing your Internet self-diagnosis and reassurance-seeking. It can be hard to stop doing this right away, but it will help you feel less anxious over time.

For more help and ideas, check out the MindShift app.