Health Anxiety

Is the illness that you fear the illness that you have?

There are different types of health anxiety and it is a relatively common condition. Many are unable to function normally without the fear of health preoccupations. Some obsess over breathing, health rate, headaches or pains and aches. Others worry about organs such as the heart, brain or diseases such as diabetes or cancer.

Seeking certainty from hospitals and doctors can bring temporary relief, however any further aches or pains can ignite the cycle again. Googling symptoms, self-diagnosis or comparison to others and their health may again result in visits to A&E and doctors’ appointments.

Changes in heart rate, debt of breathing, blood pressure and balance are all normal sensations that we feel, however a person with health anxiety may misinterpret these signs as something to fear and therefore dangerous.

If a person believes that these signs are symptoms of a disease this can result in feelings of worry and anxiety. The feelings are real however the belief is false.

Anxiety is the body’s protective measure in coping with stress and worry. When we misinterpret these sensations, we can become hypersensitive and hypervigilant to bodily signs. For eg: if we go to buy a red car, we become to pay more attention to cars passing us and red cars are amplified.

Since is it possible that you may suffer with a serious illness, it is imperative that you get this checked out. If you get the all clear but can’t seem to shift the feeling of dread and worry each scan of your body will result in uncertainty. Even getting the all clear doesn’t make you feel better. In the back of your mind you still feel that something isn’t right. The symptoms you feel are real but they are not coming from the dark place you believe.

Did the doctor do all the scans? If I just get this one – Then I will be happy I am OK. Something must be wrong if I feel this way! As you imagine the worse outcome your body goes into protective mode in the form of anxiety, such as an increase in your heart rate, stomach discomfort, headache, difficulty breathing.  Health anxiety is a condition that causes healthy people to worry that they are sick, even when they have no symptoms, or they have minor symptoms. If you or someone you know have experience a real health problem in the past, this can cause anxiousness in the future.

Focusing on our cognition can help. If I am experiencing tingling in my left side, this must mean my heart is under pressure? The situation of the tingling is not causing the anxiety, it is caused to the meaning that tingling holds in our mind. If we have assigned tingling to MS or heart disease, then that’s what we believe will happen. When we assign meaning to irrational thoughts, we give them energy and power.

Learning to overcome your fears by correcting irrational thoughts. What else might this mean? Approaching situations differently can easy the worry. Health anxiety may not always show up alone, you may need to address multiple issues such as self-esteem, depression and self-worth. The more you acquaint yourself to the possibility that you may suffer with health anxiety the more you can loosen its grasp through self-awareness and understanding.

As you “unpack” your worries it is natural to feel overwhelmed. You are not to blame for intrusive thoughts. Remind yourself that you are going through this and you know how your feeling. Anxiety may never go away but you can learn to accept and manage this as part of your life’s journey.