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A Life of Self-Diagnosis

how advertisements give you hypochondriaMeryl can be found writing about whatever she wants – from travel to food to friends and relatives – over at Six Decades and Counting. This post was originally featured there. 

Once upon a time I was many many things. I have had a number of jobs over the years. I used to be a financial professional, a teacher, a secretary, a retail sales clerk, and that’s just naming a few. Now that I’m retired I don’t need a paying profession. I have the freedom to move on to other interesting pursuits.

And I discovered a thought-provoking endeavor I’d like to share with you.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hypochondria as unusual or excessive concern about your health: a tendency to fear or imagine that you have illnesses that you do not actually have.

At this point in my life I have plenty of time to imagine illnesses and lots of time to extensively be concerned about my health.

My means of education is commercials. I am learning all about aches and pains and diseases from my TV. My attention span is short nowadays, so commercials are an ideal learning tool.

There was a time I did not listen to commercials. I checked email, emptied the dishwasher, tossed laundry from the washer into the dryer, peed. But my routine changed once I took on the task of becoming a hypochondriac.

In my previous 60+ years I doubt anyone would have ever labeled me a hypochondriac. Sometimes I ignored ailments to see if they disappeared, and at times they did.

But no more. Now, with the help of TV commercials and ads in newspapers, magazines, online and other venues, I ponder what each ache, pain, and symptom might be.

Restless leg syndrome? Sometimes I get a weird feeling in my legs and get the urge to move my feet.

Too many excess pounds? I have fought a weight problem since my teen years. Maybe I should try a pill.

Diabetes is turning into a worldwide epidemic. So far my numbers are good, but you never know. I may have pre-diabetes. Ninety percent of people who have it do not know they are victims of the condition. That is what the no-nonsense woman on the commercial states. She wouldn’t lie – maybe stretch the truth, but not lie. I may need whatever drug is advertised. Better contact my doctor immediately!

Problems falling asleep or waking too soon? I may need a pill to fall asleep sooner and sleep longer. Family and friends envy my ability to lay my head down and be in la-la land almost immediately, but maybe I can shave a few seconds off that time.

Allergies? Even at my advanced age people have been known to contract allergies. Sometimes my eyes water and I sneeze. I may need an allergy prescription.

Fibromyalgia? Never heard the word until recently. Sometimes I have muscle aches and pains, fatigue and memory loss. Another question for my doctor.

Depression? Another problem to contemplate. Sometimes I feel down, but I don’t think I have clinical depression, although I get more and more depressed watching drug commercials these days …

In addition to studying various ailments, I am learning the side effects of medications. Announcers rattle them off quickly and I barely catch them, but they frequently include fatigue, drowsiness, swelling, constipation or diarrhea, skin rashes, nausea, and possibly death.


There could not be a more severe side effect than death.

Wow, I have a lot to worry about. All these ailments, a variety of symptoms I used to ignore, the side effects of drugs, and then the cost of these drugs! After all, drug companies are not non-profits. They are in the business of making money. Lots of money.

The only sane solution is to stop watching commercials. Summer is coming, and there are a lot of alternative activities to take up my time.

Maybe it is time to put aside my hypochondriac studies and move on to something else.

Recently while wandering grocery store aisles I began reading ingredients on food packages. I have been told if I do not know what an ingredient is – usually a chemical additive – do not purchase the item.

All those chemicals swishing around my body, doing all sorts of bad things to my insides! I can’t imagine. I don’t even know where to begin on the kind of damage they may be causing. Maybe I try to should figure it out?

Uh oh …

Meryl Baer

Meryl Baer is a recovering financial professional now freelance writer/blogger living at the Jersey shore. She travels a lot, but when home takes zumba and yoga, walks on the beach and writes. Check out her take on life, travel, cycling, kayaking, grandparenting, food and whatever else she finds interesting at the moment on her blog, Six Decades and Counting -

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