Health anxiety (also called hypochondria) is where a person worries excessively about health. One of the major signs of having this condition is that the fear persists even with medical assurances.
Here are some of the signs of health anxiety (or hypochondria disorder):
- Excessive worry and preoccupation about health
- Increased health worry coincides with life stresses
- Irrational interpretations of physical symptoms. For example, feeling dizzy equates to an interpretation of a tumour
- Having images or thoughts that appears causing anxiety where you overestimate the danger present which causes excessive worry, checking and reassurance
- Worry and rumination with mind being overactively asking “what if x, y or z happens” or “why did i feel this way” or “only if i had not done x then i may not be feeling this way”
- Focus internally on body sensations and mental states e.g. anxiety which in turn causes you to divert attention away from tasks and people. At the extreme feeling paranoid.
- Paradoxically having to use avoidant strategies such as keeping yourself busy so as to not think about your health. This can also include avoiding situations that may lead to thoughts about health e.g. avoiding doctors or television programs involving health
- Seeking reassurance from friends, support, family, doctors and google!
All of these can then lead to feeling “down”, “tired”, anxious and even depressed which can in turn lead you to become more avoidant and withdrawn in general. At Paththerapy (Bracknell) we use a combination of treament modalities such as CBT, EMDR and Counselling to help people find ways of balancing the worries, thoughts, safety and avoidance behaviours all the while working with the “whole” of the person.