Why I no longer watch medical dramas

For many years, I loved medical dramas. I started watching Grey’s Anatomy (no spoilers, don’t worry) shortly after it started airing, and I stuck it out until last year or so, when I’d finally had enough. I’ve watched House with Jim from time to time, and I have dipped my toes into many a hospital TV show or movie over the years.

You know what, though? I realized I just can’t take those shows anymore. I’m not really a hypochondriac by nature, though I have fallen into the WebMD wormhole many times and have diagnosed myself with everything from a brain tumor to colon cancer. Generally, I am aware that the illnesses that pop up on an internet search or in a TV show are extremes and that whatever symptoms I or my loved ones are experiencing are most likely tied to a very typical and decidedly non-serious scenario.

But I can’t help but notice how, over the years, my mind started going into high-anxiety mode when I learned about new symptoms in myself, my cat, and my husband. Jim hits his head and I think, “It’s fine. People bump their heads. But what if it’s like that episode of Such & Such TV show and really he’s had a brain hemorrhage and my not forcing him into the ER means he will die and I will live in regret for the rest of my days?!” Satchel, our cat, has been throwing up a lot over the last few months, and instead of thinking, “Maybe it’s a GI issue or acid reflux,” I think, “This is just like Wally [our last cat], and this is the first sign that his entire body is going to break down and the vet won’t be able to tell what is wrong with him and all his systems will fail one by one and he’ll not even reach the age of five.”

You see what I mean? I’m fueling my anxiety just by writing about these scenarios.

When it comes to migraine, I’m pretty darn familiar with the condition and all its signs and symptoms. I know logically when I should be alarmed and when I should just think, Well, this weird symptom is pretty common, so I shouldn’t freak out. When I am in a bad bout, though, my threshold for alarm is drastically lowered.  I’ve had a migraine five out of seven days this week. I guess this is my new life. I guess I should think about retiring. Maybe this is how it’ll be forevermore. I hate that I wasted my very last healthy day ever goofing off online and checking Facebook. Oh my gosh. I just coughed. Is that the first sign of something terrible? I mean, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, but maybe I’m one of those rare examples of someone who gets lung cancer despite living a smoke-free life. Or maybe the migraines have been a many-year warning that I have something more serious going on, and I have ignored all the signs of that more serious thing for so long, thinking everything is just part of migraine, and really I have only a few months to live. Who would come to my funeral? 

And on and on.

There are remedies for my medical anxiety, though. They include frequent exercise and mindfulness (both to reduce stress and keep my body and brain in good shape). They also include TURNING OFF THE DANG TV and saying no to TV shows where someone shows up at the hospital with a case of the hiccups and ends up dead the next day.

How about you guys? Do any of you have anxiety when it comes to medical issues, migraine-related or no? Do you notice that watching or reading medical dramas makes you more prone to this type of anxiety?

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Comments

View Comments (8)
  • aijay71
    3 years ago

    A very loud yes to all of the above. And coincidentally, or not, migraine and anxiety started at the same time for me. I wonder which came first but as I was aged 11 and I’m now 44, I’m not entirely sure. I have had various episodes of panic over the years but health anxiety is the root of each episode. I’ve researched it a bit and to ‘sensitive’ people like me, my scanner which we all have to check all is ok, is set to super sensitive. Any ache, pain, twinge or anything unusual is immediately cause for concern. It’s definitely worse when I am due my period, but then aren’t most things? I recently downloaded an app to my phone called What’s Up? This app has breathing techniques which I do know in the cold light of day, but seem to instantly forget when I feel anxious. There are also mindfulness exercises which take your mind off the source of your anxiety and allow you to focus on something different. I’ve found it invaluable. I avoid medical programmes these days which I used to enjoy very much.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Alijay71,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. Sounds like you and I have a lot in common. I appreciate the info about the What’s Up? app–I might check that out!

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling okay today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Colleen Meegan
    3 years ago

    Please, all of you, remember these so-called “medical” shows are fiction! I am a PhD-prepared(Neuroscience) nurse who cannot watch any of them anymore, because they consistently give WRONG information. Even some of my favorite shows (CSI: NY) have had the “doctors” state the exact opposite of what is accurate. I’ve seen chest x-rays up on the viewing screen backwards (whose heart is on the right?). WebMD is OK for lay people, I guess, but as a professional, I always go to PubMed. I realize many of us migraineurs are indeed lay people, but seek out a real professional before believing anything. On the other hand, I know “professionals” who are not at all professional. All of you: take care!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Colleen,

    Amen to everything you said! I am a former health editor and know that a lot of what is on these shows is not only unlikely but often impossible. But they still get my brain spinning in a way that makes me really uncomfortable and anxious.

    I also check PubMed when I’m really curious about something I hear about.

    Thank you for your kind and smart feedback–it’s much appreciated.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • akilman
    3 years ago

    I have always loved medical dramas, the more realistic the medicine is the better. WebMD is my favorite, although I am not always satisfied with their information and I go in search of journal articles to fill in more technical details. Worrying that my mother, husband, son, daughter, granddaughter, is dying of some horrible condition is a constant problem. I push myself to think of more common, less lethal, causes for the symptoms I’m obsessing about. One situation just won’t get less alarming though. My son suffered a skull fracture a year and a half ago. He was very lucky and has few remaining effects. However, I constantly look for problems. He forgot something, I think it’s evidence of brain damage, not normal 17 year old preoccupation. He has a headache, I think he is experiencing post-trauma migraines, not a headache. And there is really no way to prove myself wrong. The anxiety is on going, as is the battle to find calm and balance in a life constantly interrupted by migraine.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Akilman,

    Thanks for your comment–I know just what you mean about worrying about loved ones. What medical drama seems to be the most accurate/well-researched to you?

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

  • Luna
    3 years ago

    Some of the stories by the commentators on this web site are bad enough to scare me out of really reading them. Concerned about the power of suggestion. I’ve been dealing with anxiety lately and don’t know why unless it is just a new and hopefully transient prodrome. I seem to be in the prodrome stage pretty much 24/7 now but it could be so much worse.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    3 years ago

    Luna,

    Thanks for the comment. Can you clarify what you mean about commentators’ stories? I hate that we’re freaking you out!

    Take care; I hope you are feeling good today.

    -Janet G., “The Migraine Girl”

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