What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety involves a constant preoccupation with thoughts or idea that you have or will soon have a dangerous or life threatening illness. These fears persevere despite receiving reassurance from doctors and other trained medical professionals. Harmless physical symptoms, often symptoms of anxiety are misinterpreted and seen as indicators of serious disease or severe medical conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Health Anxiety include:
The increased focus on internal bodily processes, monitoring of heart rate, pulse, breathing etc.
Checking behaviour, finding and then checking on lumps, rashes and blemishes regularly.
Believing that worrying about what may have caused these minor ailments is key to preventing serious illness.
Taking unnecessary steps to prevent illness, taking an aspirin a day, taking vitamin supplements, excessive resting
Researching illnesses online to discover if they have any of the symptoms
Be very aware of current illnesses in the news
Alternatively the health anxiety sufferer may aim to avoid; avoid the news, the internet, the newspaper, the doctors for fears that an illness will be discovered.
If you can imagine living with the increasing stress of this fear, what happens next is anxiety symptoms begin to occur more and more commonly. If these symptoms are then also misinterpreted as dangerous or signs of an impeding major illness the overall situation can get much worse.
CBT for health anxiety
Below are examples taken from nomorepanic.co.uk. Taken from their forums they are what a health anxiety sufferer believed they had followed by what had actually happened. These examples show how difficult and distressing Health Anxiety can be to live with.
- Dry Eye Syndrome
West Nile Virus
- Stomach Virus
A Brain Tumour
- Sinus Congestion
- Common Cold
Fatal Heart Arrythmia
- Common Everyday Palpitations
Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Brusied Shin
Just some of the ways in which CBT will help are:
Initially explaining the mechanisms of anxiety and if you suffer from panic attacks we will get these under control first.
We can develop a history of your experiences of health anxiety and learn more about where it has developed from.
We can look at the behaviours you engage in because of the health anxiety and consider the positive and negative effects these have on you.
We can carry out experiments to test out some of your beliefs around the illness symptoms.