Health anxiety affects 20% of the general population. In our fragile capitalist climate, analysing the relationship between systematic insecurity and biological insecurity may well be overdue.
Under capitalist governance, value is only granted to those who are deemed economically productive. Following the birth of neoliberalism in Thatcherite Britain, a supposed ‘meritocracy’ was confidently announced by New Labour. Its individualist rhetoric promised that working hard is the direct route to success and social mobility, regardless of our economic or social backgrounds. In turn, this established the false claim that British society has successfully surpassed taxonomy, a far cry from the recent statistics proving that the gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. Still poor? Then you simply didn’t work hard enough.
But how does this have an effect on health anxiety?
When your level of worthiness in British society is dependent on the degree to which you are productive to the economic system, losing your job and thus, your self-help can have a dramatic effect on your psyche. And with so much emphasis on the individual, you are told that you have nobody to blame but yourself. Capitalism triggers mental illness of all forms, but its precise relationship to health anxiety has continuously been ignored. As a working-class person who suffers from intense hypochondria, it has not been difficult to notice the prevalent correlations between my health anxiety and my socio-economic instability.
value is only granted to those who are deemed economically productive
With constant cuts to the NHS and disability benefits, British working class people are feeling increasingly less and less stable in their socio-economic milieu. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has recently announced that NHS cuts are responsible for a staggering 30,000 deaths in 2015 alone. The reality is, those who cannot afford to jump to the top of waiting lists, or pay for an urgent MRI are slipping through the cracks and aren’t being caught by the safety net. For those living in poverty who cannot entertain the idea of private healthcare, increased health anxiety is to be expected.
NHS cuts are responsible for a staggering 30 000 deaths in 2015
Despite its inevitable contradictions, our current capitalist system continues to operate by maintaining a reservation of unemployment in order to keep wages low and workers enthusiastically slaving away. It comes as no surprise then, that job insecurity is high and fear of losing our jobs due to ill health is becoming an epidemic among the masses. The stress of living in poverty without stable home or work environments undoubtedly causes genuine ill-health – an injurious trigger to those suffering from health anxiety who may perceive a tension headache to be a brain tumour. Unfortunately, those who suffer from health paranoia will know that obsessively worrying about having a heart attack, brain tumour or stroke can actually cause several alarming physical symptoms to appear and replicate these deadly illnesses to great measures. What this means is that a vicious cycle is created and maintained and for those already on the breadline, time off work can be detrimental to survival.
fear of losing our jobs due to ill health is becoming an epidemic among the masses
In our profit-based economic system, we must question whether our anxieties are being purposely exploited. The Daily Mail is notorious for its clickbait articles regarding the latest food, activity or lifestyle choice that will inevitably lead to our premature death. Stories of undiagnosed tumours after 14 GP visits and most recently, the extremities of a vitamin D deficiency, are colonising our social networking feeds on a daily basis and so we must question, is it any wonder why we’re predicting our own untimely mortality? Reviewing the media’s political economy, scaremongering sells and it sells well. We are routinely bombarded with ‘lifestyle’ improvements that resemble those enjoyed by the middle and upper classes to guide us into purchasing the latest false need. We buy into this consumerist rhetoric because we are living in a system in which we are drowning in our own anxieties. So, could this be a reality that has been engineered to keep us searching for the latest health treatment that will make sure we continue to get up and go to work every morning?
we are living in a system in which we are drowning in our own anxieties
With online symptom checkers readily available and with the temptation of online diagnostic material possessing my internet searches, I find myself being thrown into meltdown when I am advised to seek urgent medical attention for my involuntary muscle twitches – a symptom, no doubt caused by my destabilising ‘cyberchondria’. What’s important, for those living with intense medical paranoia, is to remember that we are living in a capitalist system that preys on our anxieties because our anxieties are profitable. Just like myself, every time you find yourself panicking on WebMD, you’re one extra person subscribing, reading and sharing content that is putting money in the pockets of filthy rich advertising companies who keep the clogs of the monumentally corrupt capitalist machine turning.
we are living in a capitalist system that preys on our anxieties because our anxieties are profitable
As systematic fragility increases, we must oppose its deliberate biological manifestations. Once again, the people affected the most are those who financially have the least to lose.
Image: mayeesherr, Flickr