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Health Anxiety

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Health Anxiety, Reassurance, Doctor, Patient

Most people worry about their health from time to time. That can be a good thing as it might lead you to take positive action such as exercising more or making changes to your diet. It also means you go to the doctor when you need to. However, if you find yourself constantly worried about your health, you could be suffering from health anxiety.

What is Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety is a condition that causes healthy people to worry that they are seriously ill, even though they may have no symptoms or very minor symptoms. It used to be known as hypochondriasis but as that term has such negative connotations, it is now rarely used. Health anxiety is a serious condition and can have a huge negative impact on the life of the sufferer and their family.

What Are the Symptoms of Health Anxiety?

  • Regularly checking your body for lumps, bumps or rashes

  • Being overly aware of physical sensations such as any tingling, change in your heart rate or the slightest pain

  • Worrying constantly about your health and feeling convinced you have a serious disease

  • Either visiting the doctor regularly to seek reassurance about your health, even insisting on further tests or second opinions OR complete avoidance of visiting the doctor as you worry about having your worst fears confirmed

  • Searching the internet or other media for information on health

  • Avoiding exercise or certain activities in case it causes harm

  • Avoiding people with serious health conditions as it exacerbates your own health anxiety

It is important to note that health anxiety can cause you to become overly anxious about the health of your family, too. If you are constantly taking your child to the doctor or panic every time they get a bump or a sore throat, then you could be suffering from health anxiety.

The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

The problem with any kind of anxiety is that it causes physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and chest pain, headaches, sweating, dizziness, shaking and muscle pain. These physical symptoms cause more anxiety to the person already worried about their health and just convinces them that they were right to be concerned.

What Causes Health Anxiety?

  • Previous serious health conditions. Even though you may have been healthy for months or even years, you constantly worry that the illness will return.

  • Health anxiety can be part of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can manifest as an obsession with your health and your body in general.

  • If someone close to you was overly worried about your health as you were growing up, you could develop health anxiety as an adult.

  • Watching someone you love suffer or die from a serious health condition can cause your own health anxiety.

How Can My Programme Help?

Firstly, it is important to say that even people with health anxiety do become physically ill. Any physical symptoms must be checked by your doctor and all relevant tests carried out. However, if your doctor can find no physical illness, then hypnotherapy could help.

Hypnotherapy can be extremely relaxing and I can teach you self-hypnosis so that you can relax your body and mind regularly to prevent the anxiety taking over. I can also teach you other techniques to help to manage general anxiety.

If you come for a series of 1-1 sessions, we can look at changing your beliefs and thought processes to help you think more realistically and recognise the symptoms of health anxiety. Learning about and identifying some of the most common Cognitive Distortions could help. Often health anxiety comes from an inability to deal with the unknown and a need to control everything. If that is something you can relate to, I can also help you to overcome that fear and be OK with relaxing and letting the future unfold as it will.

Hypnotherapy appointments take place online via Zoom or WhatsApp or in person in my office in Exeter. Please get in touch if you'd like to come and see me, or book an online consultation and initial assessment session using the button below. There is no obligation to book the complete programme.

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