I don’t watch a lot of primetime television because I typically find it to be mind-numingly stupid and boring. My wife, on the other hand, prefers to watch mindless television for the same reason I avoid it: because it’s mindless. I’m always picky about what I watch as I believe that consuming bad television makes for a bad attitude; or, at the very least, a dull mind.

So I’m always tickled when I find a television show that is both smart and funny. The last show that I really enjoyed was Northern Exposure. Although there have been a few gems since then, I think NBC’s Scrubs is, by far, the best show on television right now. Believe it or not, this comedy is absolutely packed with clever little nuggets of worldly life advice. I’d like to share one with you.

In the episode entitled “My Balancing Act,” J.D is trying to find a diagnosis for a patient, Mr. Yaeger, with odd symptoms. His mentor, Dr. Cox, is overseeing J.D.’s progress:

J.D.: So, judging from the ataxia dysarthia and the mental status change, I’ve concluded that Mr. Yeager is suffering from… Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Kuru?

J.D.: Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Kuru.

J.D.: Yes, Kuru.

Dr. Cox: Wow. I’d actually never thought of that.

J.D.: Hell yeah!

Dr. Cox: Were you aware that the only documented cases of Kuru were members of a cannibalistic tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea?

J.D.: I was not.

Mr. Yeager: Actually, Doc, I was in New Guinea just last week.

J.D.: Really?

Mr. Yeager: No.

Dr. Cox: Newbie, do you happen to know what a zebra is?

J.D.: That patient just mocked me!

Dr. Cox: It’s a diagnosis of a ridiculously obscure disease when it’s much more likely that the patient has a common illness presenting with uncommon symptoms. In other words, if you hear hoof-beats, you just go ahead and think horsies — not zebras. Mm’kay, Mr. Silly Bear?

The moral of the story is this: many of us deal with anxiety surrounding health issues, be it physical or mental health. Much of this anxiety is usually rooted around a few “strange” symptoms which seem particularly bothersome.

Regardless, even when you have strange or uncommon symptoms, it makes much more sense to “think horsies” rather than to presume “zebras.” In other words, your self-diagnosis of horrible diseases is most likely bullshit. It’s much more likely that your symptoms are indicative of a common illness or even of the anxiety itself, even if the symptoms themselves are uncommon.

If you hear hoof-beats, think horsies. And watch Scrubs. It’s probably the only show on television I can happily endorse as being worth your time.

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