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How Do I Know If It’s Anxiety Or Something Serious

Obsessions And Compulsions In Health Anxiety


With an illness anxiety disorder, many people obsess about their health. An obsession refers to the thoughts and fears regarding your health, and compulsions are what you do to make yourself feel better and calm the anxiety created by the unwanted thoughts.

I shall explain this more fully using a worked example of Jane. She believes her doctors have missed a cancer diagnosis.

Health Anxiety And The Fear That You Have Cancer

She keeps getting aches and pains and thinking something dire is wrong with her. This makes her afraid, and she cant stop thinking, What if I have cancer?

So she goes to the doctor and is told her tests are normal but still feels not right. She goes back to the doctor, looking for reassurance that she does not have cancer.

The aches and pains are still there the fear is still there, the worries about her health are still therethe reassurance is not enough. She worries that they have missed something, she goes back to the doctors, continuing the cycle.

The constant fears and thoughts are like obsessions in OCD, and the repeated trips to her doctors are like compulsions in that she does this each time she is afraid of cancer.

When something makes you worried or anxious about your health, you try to make yourself feel better.

The problem is that the things you do to make yourself feel better may worsen your health anxiety and keep it going.

The things you do to feel better could be

Characteristics Of The Pain

Although chest pain is common to both a panic attack and a heart attack, the characteristics of the pain often differ.

During a panic attack, chest pain is usually sharp or stabbing and localized in the middle of the chest.

Chest pain from a heart attack may resemble pressure or a squeezing sensation.

Chest pain that occurs due to a heart attack may also start in the center of the chest, but can then radiate from the chest to the arm, jaw, or shoulder blades.

Anxiety Can Be Physical Too

Anxiety doesnt just show up in your thoughts.

For some people, anxiety proves more physical than anything else. Commonly recognized physical signs of anxiety include a nervous stomach, sweaty hands, or a pounding heart. But thats not all anxiety can do.

You might also notice:

  • numbness or tingling in fingers, hands, or feet
  • dizziness
  • fatigue and general weakness

Physical anxiety symptoms can contribute to concern for your health, especially when you dont realize these symptoms relate to anxiety.

Appetite and sleep loss can also leave you feeling drained, exhausted, and without the energy or motivation to explore these symptoms further.

The signs listed above dont automatically translate to anxiety. Thats why it always helps to connect with a mental health professional trained to distinguish key symptoms of anxiety from other concerns.

Conditions that involve similar symptoms include:

Also Check: How To Calm Yourself Down During An Anxiety Attack

How To Cope When You Have Panic Attacks

Desperate for help, he reached out to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which sent him a list of therapists experienced in treating panic attacks and anxiety. This is how I got better,” Sideman says. “I found a therapist who understood what panic disorder was, understood agoraphobia, and knew cognitive behavioral therapy, which I had not known about. He also started practicing meditation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help with treating panic disorder and agoraphobia. According to a study published in December 2013 in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, its effects lasted as long as two years after the initial treatment. And a study published in August 2017 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology suggested that it may be superior to traditional psychotherapy in the treatment of this condition.

People generally can overcome panic attacks faster if they seek help after the first one or two, says psychologist Cheryl Carmin, PhD, director of clinical psychology training at the Wexner Medical Center and a professor at Ohio State University in Columbus. When you do seek help, your doctor or therapist will ask about your symptoms and the situations in which they arise, and might also recommend additional medical testing to rule out other health concerns.

The Difference Between An Anxiety Attack And A Panic Attack

7 Common Therapy Myths Debunked

Once again, anxiety attack is not a clinical term. It’s a term used to describe periods of more intense anxiety that go beyond traditional anxiety experiences.

That differs from the term panic attack. Panic attacks are severe anxiety attacks like what is described above – attacks that are often so disabling that many people struggle to cope with them and develop panic disorder, health anxiety, and possibly agoraphobia.

Traditionally, the term “anxiety attack” is used to discuss weaker versions of panic attacks. If you have multiple panic attacks, you have panic disorder. Anxiety attacks can affect anyone – even those without panic disorder or an anxiety disorder – and so the term is used to encompass all of these types of attacks.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll discuss these types of anxiety attacks as the weaker version of a panic attack. But in life, people do use the two terms somewhat interchangeably, and both are related to the same feelings of doom, along with relevant symptoms.

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Can Anxiety Cause Headaches

Headaches are associated with chronic anxiety.

Headaches are common in and of themselves, but they aren’t necessarily a common symptom of the general anxiety you might feel here and there.

However, headaches including migraines can be a complication of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder . This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive worrying that disrupts a person’s day-to-day life.

Can Anxiety Cause Chest Pain

Certain anxiety disorders can cause feelings of chest pain.

Chest pain is not a common symptom of the general anxiety you feel here and there.

However, if you suffer from a type of anxiety disorder called panic disorder, you may experience feelings of chest pain during a panic attack.

The most important consideration any time you’re experiencing chest pain is the possibility of heart attack, which is a medical emergency.

Unfortunately, panic attack symptoms and heart attack symptoms can feel similar. So, whether you have a history of panic attacks or not, you should go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing chest pain.

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Is Health Anxiety Making You Ill

The symptoms you feel in your body are real.

Health worries create real physical symptoms in your body.

The more you worry about your health, the more anxious you feel. Anxiety creates real physical symptoms in your body. Some of these symptoms include.

  • headaches

However, you may misinterpret what is happening in your body.

Suppose your thought processes are concerned with severe illness. In that case, it will not make sense for your brain to think that symptoms you feel in your body may result from anxiety caused by worries relating to your health.

  • Initial worry that something may be wrong with you
  • Over time, these worries create anxiety.
  • The anxiety results in physical symptoms in your body.
  • The physical symptoms then become a source of concern, making you more convinced that something serious is wrong with you.

Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety

Is This Really “Just” Anxiety? – or is it some Other Illness?

There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
  • Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.

During therapy, continue to show your support by:

  • Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
  • Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
  • Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
  • Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.

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Who Is At Risk For Anxiety Disorders

A mix of genetic and environmental factors can raise a persons risk for developing anxiety disorders. You may be at higher risk if you have or had:

  • Certain personality traits, such as shyness or behavioral inhibition feeling uncomfortable with, and avoiding, unfamiliar people, situations or environments.
  • Stressful or traumatic events in early childhood or adulthood.
  • Family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions.
  • Certain physical conditions, including thyroid problems and heart arrhythmias .

Anxiety disorders occur more often in women. Researchers are still studying why that happens. It may come from womens hormones, especially those that fluctuate throughout the month. The hormone testosterone may play a role, too men have more, and it may ease anxiety. Its also possible that women are less likely to seek treatment, so the anxiety worsens.

What To Do When You Have An Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks often need to run their course. Once they’ve started, there is very little that you can do to stop them completely. They’re a reaction that your body has that is somewhat beyond your control. They can be prevented, and their severity can be lessened, but they are very hard to stop.

Reducing its severity has to do with reacting correctly to the symptoms. Remember – the physical symptoms you experience are very real, and very disruptive. But they’re not related to any health problem, and solely a result of your anxiety. If you believe you feel an anxiety attack coming or you’re certain you’re in the middle of the one, try the following:

Drinking water may also calm the mind, and if you feel strong enough, a good jog can get your body to breathe better and use oxygen at a healthier pace.

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Social Phobia: Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is among the most common mental disorders on a lifetime basis. Prevalence ranges from 12% to 14% of the population.3 The hallmark of SAD is the marked and persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations. There is the fear that one will act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing. In some cases, exposure to the feared situation may lead to a panic attack.

Generalized SAD is characterized by fear and/or avoidance of multiple social situations and is the most common form of SAD among patients presenting to a primary health-care provider.3 The onset is usually in childhood or early adolescence and is believed to stem from genetic as well as environmental factors. Research has shown that parents who have SAD tend to be overprotective and are overly sensitive to social disapproval themselves.4

How To Help Someone With Anxiety

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All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people dont know how to best help someone with anxiety. People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety, says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you dont necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So its important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesnt make sense to you. Its distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.

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How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety Or Something Else

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Ask U.S. doctors your own question and get educational, text answers â it’s anonymous and free!

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How Do Anxiety Disorders Affect Children

Its normal for children to feel some amount of anxiety, worry or fear at certain points. For example, a child may feel scared of a thunderstorm or barking dog. A teenager might get anxious about an upcoming test or school dance.

But sometimes, children approach these situations with overwhelming dread or they cant stop thinking about all the fears tied to one of these events. It may seem that none of your comforts help. These children often get stuck on their worries. They have a hard time doing their daily activities, like going to school, playing and falling asleep. Theyre extremely reluctant to try something new.

When thinking about your childs anxiety levels, getting stuck is key. It separates the regular worries of childhood from an anxiety disorder that needs professional help. If the anxiety or worry interferes with your childs ability to function, it may be time to seek help

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Is Your Anxiety Normal Or A Sign Of Something More Serious

4 min Read Time

Its normal to feel anxiety from time to time. Maybe youre nervous about speaking in public, worried about a health issue or concerned about your finances. As troubling as it can be, occasional angst is not harmful. In fact, it can actually be helpful, serving as the motivation you need to tackle new challenges.

However, too much anxiety isnt healthy. It could also be a warning sign of an anxiety disorder or another medical condition that needs treatment, according to Christina Lynn, MD, medical director of one of HCA Healthcares behavioral health units. We spoke with Dr. Lynn about anxiety, and she offered some insight on whats normal, whats excessive and when it may be a red flag for a serious health issue.

Q: Is it normal to experience bouts of anxiety?

A: Yes, anxiety is a normal response that everyone experiences. Its actually part of what drives people. If we didnt have anxiety, you wouldnt be as motivated to do things. It makes you take that extra step, to dress up a little bit more nicely and make a good first impression. It’s a normal response to stressful events and change. I would actually be more concerned if someone did not have anxiety when coping with change.

Q: At what point does anxiety start to become a problem?

Q: Are there different types of anxiety disorders?

A: Yes, there are many different anxiety disorders.

Q: Do anxiety disorders also cause physical symptoms?

Q: How are anxiety disorders treated?

How Many Years Does Anxiety Take Off Your Life

Do YOU Have Health Anxiety? (TEST)

But, Olfson noted, conditions such as major depression and anxiety disorders are far more common, and they also appeared to shorten peoples lives. Overall, the analysis found, people with mental health conditions were more than twice as likely to die over roughly 10 years, versus people without the disorders.

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