When there’s not a pandemic raging outside, a lot people who are using healthcare services are a group of folks known as the “worried well.”
The worried well are basically as they sound. They primarily are visiting the doctor because they’re concerned about their health. They don’t actually need medical treatment and they mostly are there to be reassured that whatever it is that they’re experiencing can and will resolve on its own.
While some of these folks do have hypochondria, a lot of them aren’t hypochondriac at all. They’re just overly concerned. And are trying to be responsible. Even if a lot of these visits are unnecessary.
When I worked for a large hospital system in my past, I encountered these cases all the time. In fact, they seemed to make up the majority of family medicine and walk-in care — as well as a sizable chunk of the ER patients, since the uninsured in America can basically only turn to emergency rooms.
People who really didn’t need medical attention but sought it out anyway, just to be careful. Just to make sure.
Since the pandemic has hit, however, the vast majority of these patients aren’t coming in anymore. Some are still doing telemedicine visits to talk about the headache they woke up with this morning. But most of them aren’t. They’re fending for themselves, not seeking medical advice. And this means a big loss of business for a lot of healthcare sectors. (Particularly coupled with the fact that elective surgical procedures have been on hold for some time.)
Because of my experiences working in a healthcare system, I tend to be the opposite way. I spend a lot of time as the unworried well. And when I’m sick, I am generally the unworried sick.
Even before the pandemic, I tended to be a person who didn’t fuss much when I got a fever, didn’t even take ibuprofen and certainly didn’t go see a doctor, provided it stayed below 102 F. (Since the conventional health advice when dealing with your vanilla viral illness is that fevers below that are harmless and can actually be good for you, since it is part of your immune response.)
I didn’t make much of a big deal about headaches. Nothing like that.
Sometimes I took it a bit too far. I struggled with endometriosis for years before realizing it wasn’t normal. And it took coaxing from my doctor to see a specialist and try other treatments when they realized that my pain was only about half-improved on the regimen. (From my perspective, half-improvement was significantly better than before, and I didn’t see a reason to rock the boat or use healthcare resources when other people were literally battling cancer or what have you.)
But I went. And my pain is about 95% better. In fact, that’s been the best thing that’s happened to me this spring. My endometriosis is finally under control. And my migraines are a lot better than they have been in the past.
The Worried Well When It Comes to Relationships
As a relationship writer, that got me to thinking: Are there people that are effectively “the worried well” when it comes to their own relationships?
If I look around at the people I know, I can actually see the ones who are always reading about relationships, communication, how to be a better partner, etc.
I find myself wondering if the ones who study the hardest are really the ones who are doing just fine.
Maybe they’re the worried well of relationships, just looking for reassurance. A sign that they’re on the right track.
When I First Became Obsessed with Relationship Self-Help, I Was in Dire Straits
I can vividly remember the point in my life when I first became obsessed with relationship self-help. At the time, I was struggling very hard with a partner, and I was desperately looking for any resources I could that would help me. I wanted to find something I could do on my own to improve the situation.
And implied in all of this was that I wanted to find something that could improve myself to the point where our relationship would just magically work.
But it doesn’t work that way. I found plenty of techniques that helped me keep everything patched together. Arguably for longer than I maybe should have.
I wasn’t the worried well then. I needed help. But not the kind I recognized I needed. First and foremost, I needed to be in a different relationship. Particularly as not only did my partner not think there was anything wrong with what he did (thinking that all problems we had either didn’t actually exist — and were exaggerations — or were my fault), but he thought that the fact that I asked for him to do things differently meant that I didn’t love him the way he was. And therefore didn’t love him. Since to his view, love was unconditional and would not ask for accommodation.
Never mind that he asked plenty of me and claimed to love me all the while.
No, it was different when it was him.
Things Are Much Better Now… But Not Only Do I Still Read About Relationships, Now I Write About Them
Anyway, that relationship eventually came to an end, after about a decade of “working on it.” Trying and failing. Trying and failing.
From his perspective, he didn’t think we worked on it very much at all, because a lot of the work I did, I did on my own, since he wasn’t interested in doing any when I asked him to. He told mutual friends that the divorce came out of nowhere. Never mind we were separated for the better part of a year beforehand. And that he refused several requests to go to couples therapy.
No, it was a complete surprise.
There are people like that in life who will manage to be surprised by unpleasant things that were brought up countless times before they happened. It’s mind-bending, but they do exist.
I have never questioned the decision to leave that relationship. It has always felt like the right move.
And yet, I found even as I moved on with my life that I was still reading loads of information on relationships, communication, how to be a better partner.
And as you know, many years later, I would go on to study as a psychological researcher and then become a relationship writer.
So yeah. Things are much better now… but not only do I still read about relationships, now I write about them.
I don’t feel desperate anymore, like I need to scramble for resources. My love life is stable, happy. It really works for me.
And yet… I’m still drawn to them.
Looking around, the same goes for a lot of my friends. Those who are actively working on those skills are often the ones who seem to need it least. Meanwhile, the hot messes I know are quick to deflect blame and dismiss help of all sorts.
It’s curious. Makes me think that certain sectors of the self-improvement industry (in general, not just pertaining to relationships) are largely supported not by those of us who are struggling with wellness the most but instead by the worried well. Folks who are actually doing just fine being good people and having healthy relationships with others… but just want to make sure they’re on the right track.