In these worrying times with a virus still around, developing health anxiety is probably at its peak right now. Everyone is concerned for their health and others which is understandable Health anxiety which can be known as hypochondria, it is where you spend so much time worrying you’re ill constantly. Or even about getting ill, that it begins to take over your life. We all worry when we get ill and when our bodies don’t feel right, but when you worry day in day out that somethings wrong even though you’re fine is when it starts to become a problem.
Hypochondria is something that many of us suffer with but sometimes might not even know. It’s the constant googling when something feels out of place, but we all know that Google isn’t the best place to go when you’re feeling like this. It’s important to know that it’s ok to worry, but what becomes a problem is when it’s constant and you take every route to avoid getting ill. You let it take over your life and it can be hard to get out of that cycle. It’s important when to reliase when you’re suffering with health anxiety.
Some of the symptoms vary and the individual suffering may not be impacted by every single one of these, but it’s important to know what they’re. You could be suffering from health anxiety if you’re constantly worrying about your health, frequently checking your body for signs of illness such as tingling, pain or skin rashes. You will always ask people for reassurance that you’re not ill, worry that your doctor or medical tests may have missed something, look at health information constantly in the media or on the internet, you might act as if you were ill by avoiding physical activities.
Anxiety itself is a common form of mental health condition and they do relate in some ways, symptoms for anxiety do result in headaches a racing heartbeat and someone who is suffering with health anxiety may mistake these for signs of illness.
Whilst there are no exact causes for health anxiety, there are some causes that could be potentially bringing on health anxiety as a whole.
These could be, that you have a family member who worries excessively about their health or your health, you may have had a past experience dealing with a serious illness in your childhood. So, this could mean that as an adult the physical sensations may remind you of that and worry you.
Health anxiety often occurs in early or middle adulthood and can worsen for people of that age. For elderly health, anxiety focuses more on the fear of developing memory problems. But, there can be other causes of why you begin to develop health anxiety. This could be stressful situations or an event, the possibility of a serious illness that turns out to be nothing serious, being abused as a child, having a worrying possibility and excessively checking your health on the internet.
Concerns for health or health anxiety?
If you feel your body is sending you signals that you’re ill, it’s very normal to be worried. However, health anxiety is something that has a constant belief that you have symptoms of a serious illness. This may consume you with worry and that distress becomes difficult to manage. If you feel concerned then what we would most likely to is see a doctor.
With those that suffer from health anxiety, you’ll feel a lot of stress about your symptoms even after medical tests have come back negative. As well as doctors have told you multiple times there’s nothing wrong.
Living with health anxiety
Having to cope with suffering from any type of mental health condition is hard when it begins to slowly take over your life. But, it’s vital that if you’re suffering you can learn ways in which you can help yourself when you start to slip into that mindset. Self-help is so important and something that we should all do when mental health starts to creep upon us. It’s always good to practise how to take care of it yourself and ease the feelings a little while you’re waiting to get help or you’re at home between sessions and your anxiety gets worse.
Some self-help tips include keeping a diary, which allows you to note how often you actually check on your body or ask anyone for reassurance. Slowly, by doing this you can begin to reduce how often you do these things over a week or so. Keeping busy is another self-help tip that works wonders a lot of the time. Rather than, constantly checking your body or googling, take yourself away from that and distract yourself go for a walk, go out with a friend, draw, exercise, cook up a storm.
Try as much as possible to get back to normal activities, start doing you’ve been constantly avoiding because of your health worries, such as socialising or taking part in sports. Try challenging your thoughts, think about what’s worrying you and why and then begin to put it into perspective.
As health anxiety is commonly known as hypochondria, which in that case there is actually two types. Those being diagnosed with hypochondria might be classified instead with illness anxiety disorder which is when a person has no physical symptoms or only mild ones. Or a somatic symptom anxiety disorder which is when a person has symptoms which are causing them massive amounts of distress to them or they have multiple symptoms.
When you arrive at your GP, the doctor will most likely perform a physical exam on you to rule out any health conditions you’re concerned about. Your doctor may also refer you to a mental healthcare professional. They may perform a psychological evaluation which will involve a series of questions about the symptoms you’re feeling, stress, family history, any worries and any issues that are affecting your life.
Health anxiety is marked by, not having any physical symptoms, or having one that are mild, preoccupation about an existing medical condition or family history, performing health-related behaviours that are seen as unreasonable and these include screening your body all over for a disease, checking what you think are the disease symptoms online and avoiding any doctors appointments.
There are two common types of treatment for those suffering from health anxiety, these include psychotherapy which is normally cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This kind of treatment is often very effective, it teaches you skills that can help you to be able to manage the disorder. It’s used to identify your health anxiety, worries and beliefs, learn other ways to look at your body sensations by changing the negative thoughts. It helps to raise awareness of how your worries affect you and your behaviour, learning to cope better with anxiety and stress, learn to stop avoiding situations and activities. It will help to boost your functioning at home, work, school, social setting and in relationships with other people.
It can also help to see if you’re suffering from other mental health disorders, such as depression or bipolar. Some other types of psychotherapy could include stress management and exposure therapy.
Medication is another one, if your health anxiety improves with just therapy alone, that is all that will be used to treat the condition. Some people don’t always respond the best to therapy which will mean a doctor will most likely put you on medication. Antidepressants, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often used to treat this condition.
It’s vital to get help if you feel you’re suffering from health anxiety, but it’s also important to make sure that if you begin to feel any mysterious lumps, your having breathing difficulties, in crippling pain or anything that seems significantly out of place that you do go and get checked out. Having health anxiety doesn’t mean that you don’t go and get regular check-ups if your doctor genuinely thinks somethings wrong.
What it is, is thinking there’s something wrong when there is not any signs or anything and no one can diagnose anything and getting fixated on that. It’s important to get help for health anxiety, just as it’s vital to see someone if you or your loved ones feel something is very wrong and this can’t be stressed enough. If you have a headache and your in that state of mind, it’s most likely anxiety and stress and by you googling your symptoms it can make you think really negative thoughts about what it can be and that’s when the hypochondria begins to kick in. But, if you feel somethings not right get checked out as well as get treatment for health anxiety because it’s not fair on yourself to obsess over if you’re ill or how to avoid getting ill.
Call Mind on 0300 123 3393 or visit their website.