What to Do with Health Anxiety when You Have RA?
Last updated: February 2022
It’s a well-known established fact — okay, maybe not "established" per se, but it’s at least pervasive — that having a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) induces a certain level of health anxiety, one that is ultimately rooted in your body.
When you have RA, you live with the fact that your body actively works against you because your body’s immune response is misaligned, attacking healthy joints, tissues, ligaments, and more because it reads those cells as antagonistic “invader” cells.
Wreaking havoc on your body - even when you’re not sure how and why - RA can be disastrous, turning even simple medical situations into costly and stressful ordeals, clearly indicating that RA invariably leads to health anxiety. What does this look like?
What health anxiety looks like
For instance, I had a problem arise with my thyroid that was partially induced by my RA. What normally would have been a routine scan for my thyroid — I had one abnormal lab that wasn’t even that bad — turned into the possibility that I either had thyroid cancer or a tumor in my brain.
Thankfully, neither of those happened. But, what did end up happening was a rather disconcerting journey involving thyroid ultrasounds, expensive endocrinology appointments, multiple trips to the lab for a battery of tests, and more.
Complicating all of this is the fact that RA creates so much inflammation in my body that my lab results are fairly always skewed negatively, which included skewing the elevated cortisol that started this whole process in the first place.
Needless to say, this demonstrates the amount of anxiety that RA can produce even when you’re trying to just take care of your body.
Anxiety having to prove my condition
Another situation that produced health anxiety was the time when I wanted to get my COVID booster shot and had to explain that I was immunocompromised. In this situation, I had made an appointment at the pharmacy for my booster but, when I checked in, they were skeptical because I was so young. With this, I had to prove to them that I was on Humira and had an immunocompromising disease.
Thankfully, I don’t leave the house without my Humira prescription card, so proving that I was immunocompromised wasn’t an issue. The problem came afterward when my insurance didn’t want to cover my third shot because, somehow, my insurance company conveniently forgot that I was immunocompromised and, at the time, booster shots were only available for those with conditions like RA. Once again, I had to prove to them about my condition, my body, and my life, advocating for myself yet again in this fitful anxiety drama.
Validation in shared experiences
The point here is that RA can produce health anxiety in multiple perspectives and situations which is difficult to deal with and manage.
I’m hoping that, in writing this article, you can see the type and level of anxiety that people with RA deal with on a daily basis. By sharing my stories, I hope you feel validated and recognized in your own anxiety situations because, while they will always abound, it doesn’t mean they define us.