Biohacking or neurosis: Can you take too much care of yourself?

We regularly talk about the prevention of dangerous diseases – it includes regular visits to the doctor, vaccinations and, as necessary, examinations and tests. On the other hand, examinations are unnecessary, and diagnostics are excessive, therefore, for example, regularly doing a full-body tomography or donating blood for a cold is a waste of money and time. Sometimes obsessive self-diagnostics and attempts to take full control of the body into their own hands take an extreme form – for the so-called biohackers, this is no longer a means, but a goal. Let’s try to figure out when taking care of your body becomes excessive and how to stop in time.      

Life is not only a set of laboratory parameters, it should also have a place to lie in bed on weekends, watch a movie or eat ice cream, without thinking about plans for tomorrow.

In September, entrepreneur Sergei Fage said that for about five years he has been engaged in biohacking – he uses a scientific approach to getting the most out of his body and mind and “to become more energetic, healthy, happy, confident, strong-willed and smart, to improve mood and concentration and also extend your life. ” He optimized the parameters of sleep, nutrition, physical activity, took and continues to take many medications and nutritional supplements, visits doctors, including a psychotherapist, constantly undergoes examinations by various methods – and to date has spent about two hundred thousand dollars on this.  

There are more than one hundred blood test parameters that Phage regularly checks ; bringing them to “ideal” levels means he will live a longer, healthier life than anyone in 2017, he said. True, questions arise – for example, how to fall asleep on a business trip if the humidity and temperature of the hotel room are not optimal? Is it okay to spontaneously go out on a date or out with friends if you’re on a fasting day ? Actually, when to live, if the day is scheduled every minute for measuring tidal volumes and taking regular supplements, and all efforts are directed to improving the body? Life is not just a set of laboratory parameters, it should also have a place to lie in bed on weekends, watch a movie or eat ice cream, without thinking about plans for tomorrow.    

In Silicon Valley, many are passionate about biohacking: a few years ago, Google opened a subsidiary company Calico , which, in fact, is looking for the secrets of eternal youth, and even eternal life. While the enterprise is engaged in really serious developments , amateurs improve their own bodies on their own, and they have followers – biohackers even hold large conferences . This is not surprising – from time immemorial, the search for a “magic pill” of youth has consolidated people around them – it does not matter if we are talking about medical fasting or three liters of water a day. It is normal to be afraid of old age and death. It is abnormal to subordinate your life to this fear: firstly, then there is simply no time to live, and secondly, it will not work to control absolutely everything, sadly enough. The risk of the ill-fated brick falling on your head is not going anywhere.    

Few people have the opportunity to engage in high-level biohacking, but many people have an obsessive desire to control their body parameters: some weigh themselves after each meal, others measure their waist or biceps several times a day, and others constantly monitor their pulse, writing down the results in a notebook. In itself, this is not very dangerous – except that at some point, ignorance of the current parameters makes you feel anxious, and now a person carries a tonometer with him so that he can measure blood pressure even at a bus stop. Worse is attempts to correct deviating parameters on their own: firstly, deviations may be insignificant and do not always deserve treatment, and secondly, prescribing medication for oneself without the supervision of a doctor is simply dangerous. 

Sometimes it starts with a desire to bring the appearance to the “ideal” – which, as we all know, is unattainable. While weight and body fat within the normal range do make us healthier and prevent a number of diseases, the pursuit of “ideal parameters” can lead to eating disorders and the abuse of dangerous drugs. People who start working out in the gym often go to one of two extremes: some are afraid of even protein shakes like fire, others begin to “help” their bodies with injections of hormones and other serious substances – usually without the supervision of a doctor.   

Biohackers interfere with the fine tuning of the body with an iron bar and seriously risk not only the progression of neurosis, but also the severe side effects of self-medication

In relation to health, these extremes are also encountered: some do not go to doctors and do not receive treatment until they become completely unbearable, others are endlessly examined, unable to stop. The midwife told the author of this text during pregnancy in Barcelona that foreign patients behave in a very typical way, but in different ways: if women from Arab and African countries can first come in the last week of pregnancy, then patients from Russia and the post-Soviet space are always upset that they are prescribed few tests and do not prescribe vitamins. Of course, the practice of Russian medicine also contributes to our love for examinations: a lot of unnecessary tests, treatment of non-existent diseases . Unfortunately, this does not give very good results, and the real problem often cannot be identified for years.    

According to Anton Rodionov, a cardiologist, associate professor at the First Moscow State Medical University named after I.I. IM Sechenov, the human body can be compared to a car: “A normally working, serviceable car drives smoothly and noiselessly, and there is no need to stop every kilometer and look under the hood to see if oil is leaking, if the belt is frayed. The annual routine maintenance is quite enough, you can safely drive and not worry about the health of the car. A healthy person does not feel the work of internal organs and should not feel the need for constant monitoring of physiological indicators. A regular, infrequent and uncomplicated examination (annual check-up) is enough, and we can live in peace. Of course, as you get older and diseases appear, the regularity of the examination changes, and the doctor may ask you to more often monitor one or another indicator of vital activity – for example, a person with arterial hypertension needs to measure blood pressure every day, and with diabetes mellitus – blood sugar. ” 

Moreover, if a healthy person has an obsessive need to measure his pulse, pressure, body weight, and so on too often, this can be considered as signs of neurosis. Rodionov cites a close comparison as an example: you open Facebook or Instagram over and over again, although a minute ago you were convinced that you did not receive any new messages. Further, there is a danger that, after reading advisers on the Internet, a person will want to independently intervene in the work of the body and begin to knock down pressure or lower the pulse – and this is already not harmless. According to the doctor, biohackers interfere with the fine tuning of the body with an iron bar and seriously risk not only the progression of neurosis, but also severe side effects of self-medication.

Fitness trackers also add fuel to the fire – for example, those who monitor sleep parameters may develop orthosomnia , an obsessive desire to sleep “correctly”. Sometimes we forget what we use the gadget for – and now a walk without a fitbit seems in vain, because the number of steps taken is not reflected in the daily schedule. But still, life should not be a slavery to the indicators: it is good if the pedometer motivates for a couple of extra laps around the office, but it is bad if a person feels inferior without going through these couple of laps. Taking care of your body is great – but you shouldn’t create a cult out of it.

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