I saw the advert for this Channel 4 programme a week ago and didn’t really think anything bad about it and decided to watch it. Last night it was on and I was extremely disappointed in it. It portrayed people with heath anxiety or HA (the term hypochondriac is a bit derogatory I believe) as a burden on the health care system and basically just a nuisance. Rather than highlighting the condition to people who don’t suffer it, it just led to people bashing them and calling them ‘selfish’ on social media. Dr Christian said that these people ‘visit the GP when they are well’. How dare he say that. They aren’t well, they just aren’t physically ill. People will mental illness should be treated exactly the same as someone with a physical illness.
It was also to my surprise that there was an Emetophobia sufferer on there. Ok so I can see how they said Emetophobia was similar to HA in that it is a fear of getting ill – just a specific illness, but other than that, it isn’t the same at all. If anything it is more like OCD than HA. The Emetophobia sufferer never went to the doctor’s even if she was ill due to a fear of catching something that would make her sick. She had lots of rituals to stop herself catching something (like using gloves to open packing. (I still take something from the back of the shelf to make sure it hasn’t been touched)) and clearly spent her life doing these compulsions to stop the obsessions. I know this for a fact as that is what I was like. I was diagnosed with OCD before the word even recognised Emetophobia.
I had to stop looking at social media as the comments I saw were awful. One suggested that the Emetophobic lady should see what the factories were like that her food came when it was shown that she used gloves to open the packaging. What is that meant to achieve? Do they think that it is a laughing matter and that seeing that will make her better? I guess they think she was just being stupid. In an age where mental health charities are working hard to get rid of the stigma of mental illness, this belittling programme just put the fight back a few years by making it something to be laughed at – even the music that accompanied the show had a comical tone to it.
Someone on No More Panic asked why someone with OCD (or Emetophobia as she actually had) would be on the same programme as those with HA. That is a very good question. That would be like putting on a programme all about recovering from heart attacks and then adding a person who suffers with acid reflux disease. They both cause chest pain but they aren’t the same thing! This was just bad researching by the programme makers. They read that Emetophobia was about a fear of vomiting and put two and two together and assumed it was the same as HA.
Speaking of acid reflux, that was another small part of the show that really got to me. They suggested that people also go to the GP to ‘waste’ their time on simple things like acid reflux and constipation and that they should just see the pharmacist about that. I have suffered with gastroesophagus reflux disease (GORD) for 10 years and I also have IBS. These are another two disorders that have charities etc. trying to get people to understand better and to take away the stigma that it is ‘all in their head’ but this programme once again took away the work that they have been doing. Of course you should go to the GP with acid reflux or constipation! They could be a sign of something serious going on from a hiatus hernia, stomach ulcer, bowel obstruction to cancer.
This programme by channel 4, along with other similar titles like Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, just adds to the stigma that people like me have to face each day. It is programmes like this that make me want to fight to get these real illnesses taken seriously and for sufferers to be given the same respect as those with physical illnesses.