Drugan-Eppich: When a hobby becomes an addiction

Bret Belden

From the Loser
By: Tim Drugan-Eppich, Columnist
I’ve been finding recently that I have an excessive amount of time on my hands. So, I did what any resilient person would do: I found a new hobby. This new hobby is one where I take any little ache or pain, just a minor headache or run of the mill stomach grumble, obsess over it, and convince myself that it is going to end up killing me. Apparently this is called hypochondriasis in the medical field. For me, it is just an exciting way to pass free time.
It is not a pastime I would suggest to many people, or anyone for that matter. Needless to say, always assuming that you are on the brink of a catastrophic illness, or already in its grips, isn’t exactly the stuff for a relaxing outlook. So I decided to pick up a side hobby to help with the first, and I have to say, anxiety is a great pairing to hypochondriasis.
Now I’m guessing that I may have sold this hobby a bit too well; you might already be interested in getting started. You might be saying, ‘but, Tim, what if nothing is really bothering me right now?’ That’s alright, no problem at all. What you want to do is go to WebMD and find the symptom checker. Just choose a random body section to start — I prefer one where the symptoms are much more likely to be life threatening — and just take the symptom quiz. It doesn’t really matter which body part you choose, because as I have learned, they are all tied to death in some way. A reassuring thought to say the least.
Now when you take the quiz you will begin to see symptoms that you get from time to time, and just for the heck of it, say that you have those now. By the time you get to the end of the quiz, your results are a wide array of terrifying, incurable illnesses. And remember when you said nothing hurt? Well, now that you see that you probably have a worm in your stomach, a blood clot in your leg, and the beginnings of a tumor in your brain, those corresponding body parts will begin to hurt right on cue. This will effectively ruin your day, and probably week, until something else starts to hurt and you forget about the tumor in your head and start to obsess about the color of your pee.
If the symptom checker begins to bore you, let me suggest looking up new health studies. Be sure to choose catchy headlines not backed by science. One of my favorite phrases to search is “hidden causes of cancer.” This will lead you to a long list of foods, activities and clothing that are sure to kill you and, guess what? Most are part of your daily routine. You eat, wear, and do a large majority of the list: your morning cup of coffee suddenly is out to get you, those wrinkle free shirts apparently want you dead, and that daily walk outside to enjoy the sun? Well, you might as well get a reservation at the mortuary. After this you will be surprised every time you look in the mirror and don’t see massive growths erupting from every inch of your body; but you know it is just a matter of time, that cancer is a feisty bugger.
At this point you are becoming quite an expert at this new hobby of yours. Your frequent requests to get unnecessary checkups have made you the laughing stock of your family. You have also managed to kill any enjoyment life has to offer, trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid anything that might kill you. This leads to incredible amounts of stress, which you now stress about because you have read that stress can lead to an increased chance of mortality.
Eventually, if you are a rational human being, as I hope I am, you realize the ridiculousness of this hobby. Maybe you are dying, but we all are, so why worry about it? So I’ve been trying to put a positive spin on my hobby, trying to get some benefit out of this self-destructive activity I partake in so regularly. I’ve started asking myself, ‘what if I do have a life-threatening illness?’ Wouldn’t it be stupid to spend the time I have left worrying about something I can’t control? Instead, I’m trying to concentrate on what aspects I can have an impact on. Because like I said, we’re all speeding down a one-way street towards death, so am I happy with how I’m choosing to pass the time until I get there?
Are you?
Pretty deep, eh? I know, I’m surprised too.