Most of us do worry about our health from time to time but, for some people, health worries become overwhelming and a problem in itself.
Health anxiety is excessive worrying about your health, to the point where it affects your everyday life and makes you feel very distressed.
Some people with health anxiety have a medical or long-term condition, which they are managing, but may also worry about their health excessively. Others have medically unexplained symptoms, which they are concerned may be a sign of a serious illness, despite the doctor’s reassurance. Others may be highly anxious and preoccupied about their future health, for example, getting cancer or heart disease.
“I have worried a lot about getting ill and do make frequent appointments to see my GP. I am learning to cope with my uncertainty and anxiety.”
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What is it?
When we have health anxiety we may frequently seek information and reassurance about our health.
Alternatively, we may avoid our doctor and medical information, or any activity that might make us feel physically changed, for example, exercise. Neither of these are helpful and can lead to a vicious circle which increases our anxiety.
Constantly seeking reassurance gives short-term relief, but increases the problem in your mind, and usually makes you feel worse. If you keep checking and scanning your body for signs of illness, you will increase your anxiety and this will make you self-check and seek reassurance even more.
When physical symptoms are triggered or made worse by worrying, it causes even more anxiety, which just worsens the symptoms. Excessive worrying can also lead to panic attacks, social avoidance or even depression.
In order to know if you have health anxiety you may find it helpful to answer the following questions:
- Have you been preoccupied with having a serious illness because of body symptoms, which has lasted at least six months?
- Have you felt distressed due to this preoccupation?
- Have you found that this preoccupation impacts negatively on all areas of life, including family life, social life and work?
- Have you needed to carry out constant self-examination and self-diagnosis?
- Have you experienced disbelief over a diagnosis from a doctor, or felt you are unconvinced by your doctor’s reassurances that you are fine?
- Do you constantly need reassurance from doctors, family and friends that you are fine, even if you don’t really believe what you are being told?
If you have answered yes to the above questions, you may have health anxiety.
How Let's Talk can help
At Let’s Talk we will assess your needs and offer you the appropriate treatment to help you to get back on track. The help we offer may include self-help, attending a course, individual guided self-help over the telephone or face-to-face therapy sessions. You may also be advised by your GP to consider anti-depressant medication.
Psychological help will aim at helping you learn more about your fears and learn to live life in a more peaceful, accepting way. Techniques will work with you to manage your worrying thoughts, face situations you may have been avoiding, relax your body and mind and increase your confidence. If you have a long-term condition, learning to manage health anxiety can improve your quality of life.