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Applying Occam’s Razor to Health

Recently I had a bad headache, which is a rare occurrence for me. The last headache I had was in 2013 while I was on hepatitis C treatment. That was many years ago, so the only obvious explanation for my pain was that I had a brain tumor. I took an acetaminophen, got a good night’s sleep, and in the morning the headache was gone. Either acetaminophen is a cure for brain tumors or I just had one of those 24-hour tumors.

Seriously, I didn’t really think I had a tumor, but for a brief moment, the thought flashed through my mind. (It didn’t help that I was reading Do No Harm, a book about brain tumors.)  Fortunately, more rational thoughts followed, such as, “Take a Tylenol.” But it left me wondering, why is it that we jump to worst case scenarios?

There is a huge difference between obsessively entertaining worries, or just having passing ones. If you tend to worry about your health, here are some tips to try:

Apply Occam’s Razor to your problem. Occam’s Razor states that among a series of potential explanations, the simple one is the most likely reason. For instance, if I am tired, is it related to an illness or is it because I didn’t get 8 hours of sleep?

Be patient, and wait for an explanation to emerge. My mentor at Stanford told me that when it came to his own health, he found that pretty much everything got better in about two weeks. If it wasn’t a clear emergency, he’d wait tow weeks before going to the doctor. I’ve applied that to my own health, and it’s worked for me.

Think about worst-case scenarios, and then ask, so what? What if I have a brain tumor? What is the worst thing that would happen? I’d be upset, and then I’d deal with it.

Set parameters around worrying. If I have something that really bothers me, I invoke a rule: No worrying when I am trying to sleep or while I am driving. I allow myself to worry all I want when I am walking,

Avoid Doctor Web. I can’t tell you how many diseases I have never had because I had all the symptoms that lined up with a disease I found on the Internet. These days I try to let my doctor do the diagnosing.

Use humor. Sometimes a headache is just a headache, but why not also have a good laugh at my silly thinking. Sometimes a good laugh is all I need to keep my mind off my troubles.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • long nguyen August 12, 2018, 7:14 PM

    Thanks for the information in your post. This is very useful for me. Sorry if my english is bad.

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