Dont Compare Your Experience Of Hypochondria To Someone Elses
Just like all mental illnesses, no two are the same. Your experience with hypochondria might be ENTIRELY different from someone elses, even if they have the same basic traits. This particularly applies to when youre reading things online. We know by now you shouldnt be on forums but if you DO find yourself on a forum and stumble across a negative story, remember that it isnt YOUR story.
Fear Or Fact Seeking: Chronic Medical Conditions And Worry
Signs & Symptoms
- What if my cold turns into pneumonia and I die?
- Ive had three headaches this year. Im sure I have a brain tumor!
- What if that pain means I have cancer?
- I dont think my doctor is qualified enough
- No-one understands me
- Avoiding going places or doing things for fear help may be hard to find
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or disturbed/interrupted sleep
- Excessive body checking
How Does Your Body React To Work Stress
Imagine for a moment that your boss has emailed you about an unfinished assignment . Your body and mind instantly respond, activating a physical reaction called the fight-or-flight response. Your heart beats faster, your breath quickens, and your muscles tense. At the same time you might say to yourself, Im going to get fired if I dont finish this. Then to manage your anxiety and negative self-talk, you work late into the night to complete the task.
Over the course of our evolutionary history, humans developed this coordinated fear response to protect against dangers in our environment. For example, a faster heart rate and tense muscles would help us escape from predators. In the modern era, fear continues to serve an important function. After all, the fight-or-flight response can provide the necessary energy to pull an all-nighter and keep your job.
But what happens if you encounter stressful experiences at work every day? Over time, chronic work stress can lead to a psychological syndrome known as burnout. Warning signs of burnout are overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, and a sense of inefficacy. Certain work-related stressors are closely linked with burnout. Examples are having too much work or too little independence, inadequate pay, lack of community between coworkers, unfairness or disrespect, and a mismatch between workplace and personal values.
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Use Imagery To Help Manage Anxiety
This is such an under-utilized but very powerful mechanism of our brain when it comes to directing our thoughts and behavior in a way to serve us, particularly in the context of anxiety.
Our brains are neuroplastic. We can train and rewire them to work better in our favor, yet we often live the majority of our day unconsciously by default.
Think about how many times you have day-dreamed today. When your tummy starts growling just before lunchtime, can you easily hook into images of what you want to satiate your hunger?
Often we engage imagery without thinking, but guided imagery is a key technique that helps with the reduction of anxiety with diagnoses of PTSD, social phobia and performance anxiety.
Your brains amygdala plays a key role in emotional regulation and hence those emotions connected with perceived fear responses when you feel anxious.
Imaginal exposure therapy works to dampen amygdala activity and reduce the intensity of emotions experienced in anxiety. You have the advantage of visiting memories in a safe, controlled space interspersed with grounding/relaxation, and gently exposing your minds eye to that which you feel anxious about. Starting this process should be done with a trained professional.
Ways To Handle Health Anxiety
Dealing with health anxiety can be difficult at any time, but during a global pandemic, it can be especially challenging. Public health is at the forefront of everybodys minds and habits like wearing masks and using hand sanitiser are now part of our everyday routine so its no wonder some people are struggling with health anxiety right now. Dr Nick Radcliffe, a GP from Brownlow Health, confirms this:
“Health anxieties are more common than you might expect and we see this impacting a lot of students in their day-to-day lives. If the more general advice listed here isn’t helping, you should certainly contact your GP. We will take all symptoms seriously and if it is suggested that you are suffering from health anxiety, this doesn’t mean your problems are being dismissed. It is a diagnosis in itself and once recognised and accepted, there are treatments that can help.”
What is health anxiety?
Health anxiety is a term used for people who worry that they are ill, or worry about getting ill, to the extent where it can take over their life. Some symptoms of health anxiety are:
- constantly worrying about your health
- frequently checking your body for signs of illness, e.g. lumps, tingling or pain
- often asking for reassurance that you arent ill
- worrying your doctor may have missed something
- constantly looking up health information
- avoiding anything to do with serious illness, e.g. TV programmes
- acting as if you are ill, e.g. avoiding physical activities
How to handle health anxiety
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When Should I See A Healthcare Provider
You should see your doctor or healthcare provider whenever there is something out of the ordinary with your body or your health that you are concerned about. Your provider will be able to discuss your concerns and order any tests that may be necessary. They will tell you if your symptoms are concerning or serious. Dont avoid going to the doctor if you ever feel like there is something off about your health.
How To Stop Severe Anxiety Disorders
If you feel your anxiety is out of your control and significantly impacting your ability to function in life, go see your primary care provider immediately. Each additional day you go without treatment reinforces the anxiety, making it stronger. Because anxiety affects so many individuals, there are several options available.
Other anxiety reduction strategies like relaxation exercises and meditation may be less effective for severe anxiety, because the severity often makes spending time on those activities harder to accomplish. They may be useful in combination with other techniques, but should not be used alone.
It is highly recommended to seek therapy to better tackle long term management of severe anxiety.
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Put Your Anxious Thought In A Text
Instead of ruminating over a troubling thought, write it down in a text message you send yourself. You might say something like, Im worried about a deadline at work or Im freaking out over a first date planned for tonight. Then set a reminder to revisit your thought later on.
If we can actually get it out of our head, it helps the hamster wheel to slow down a bit, Hessler explains. When it’s actually time to revisit the issue, youre often in a better place mentally to process how youre going to problem solve, she says.
Discourage Their Excessive Worry Checking Research And Reassurance
Illness anxiety causes an inordinate amount of worry and stress, excessive checking and re-checking of what appear as signs or symptoms of an illness as well as compulsive research, and for some, also excessive reassurance-seeking.
When the anxious person has obsessive and negative thoughts, itâs important to empathize about their struggle with anxiety, but try to discourage them from excessive worry, checking, research, and reassurance-seeking. Donât reinforce their obsessions or compulsions by automatically buying in to the health concern, by helping them with excessive research, or by giving reassurance too frequently. Instead, you can help by reminding them of what theyâve learned about illness anxiety, diverting their attention to other issues, or reviewing some coping strategies . Also, remind them that their compulsive behaviors, although intended to ease their anxiety, will actually increase it in the long run.
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What Can Cause Illness Anxiety Disorder
What makes someone have illness anxiety disorder isnt very clear, but researchers have explored various theories, many of which are related to early life experiences and personality traits. Examples of possible risk factors include:
Having overly worried or anxious parents
Witnessing parents suffering from a serious health condition
Having had a serious illness as a child
Having experienced childhood abuse or neglect
Experiencing extreme stress or witnessing a major trauma
Having had serious symptoms, whether or not it threatened their health
Being overly concerned about body sensations or changes to the body
Having a general tendency to worry
Having a habit of looking for health-related information on the internet
Having certain genes
Ultimately, these theories point to a common theme among people with illness anxiety disorder: a misunderstanding of illness and good health. For example, if you suffered from a serious childhood illness, you might believe that its more common than it is, and you may not fully know how you got it or how it was treated. This could lead to an unrealistic belief that its really easy to get a serious disease.
Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Professor Jasper Smits and Professor Stefan Hofman have conducted extensive research into the most effective treatments for managing adult anxiety. They published findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from an extensive meta-analysis which revealed CBT to consistently have strong impact in the treatment and management of anxiety.
CBT involves addressing, challenging and reframing negative thoughts and re-shaping unhelpful behavior. A task-based, practical approach is applied to help clients recognize maladaptive thinking and habits, learn more helpful and positive ways to behave and think and in turn, transform their symptoms.
For individuals to really experience benefit, undertaking regular applications of doable homework exercises is most effective. CBT is highly effective but requires individuals regular commitment.
Expect to work with a mental health professional on a weekly basis for three to four months. Find someone who wont just give you homework sheets but is closely attuned to providing you with good education, comfortably assess any resistance to change, and be able to modify and adjust exercises that best enable you to do them.
You wont just experience a reduction in your symptoms because you develop such strong self-awareness and self-monitoring skills. Youll learn mental skills that will strengthen your resilience and propel you further forward toward goals of how you want to feel, think and behave.
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What Causes People To Develop Health Anxiety
Experts arent sure of the exact causes of health anxiety, but they think the following factors may be involved:
- You have a poor understanding of body sensations, diseases, or both of these things. You may think that a serious disease is causing your bodys sensations. This leads you to look for evidence that confirms that you actually have a serious disease.
- You have a family member or members who worried excessively about their health or your health.
- Youve had past experiences dealing with real serious illness in childhood. So as an adult, the physical sensations you experience are frightening to you.
Health anxiety most often occurs in early or middle adulthood and can worsen with age. For older people, health anxiety may focus on a fear of developing memory problems. Other risk factors for health anxiety include:
- a stressful event or situation
- the possibility of a serious illness that turns out to not be serious
- being abused as a child
- having had a serious childhood illness or a parent with a serious illness
- having a worrying personality
Health anxiety is no longer included in the American Psychological Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It was previously called hypochondriasis .
Now, people who had been diagnosed with hypochondria might instead be classified as having:
According to the American Psychiatric Association, illness anxiety disorder is marked by:
How To Handle Stress At Work
- Luana Marques, PhD, Contributor
If youre currently working, you probably know what it feels like to be stressed on the job. A must-do project arrives without warning. Three emails stack up for each one you delete. Phones ring, meetings are scheduled, a coworker drops the ball on a shared assignment.
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Return To Normal Gradually
You may be flooded with invitations to socialise as COVID-19 restrictions lift, but it’s important to take it steadily. “It’s natural that we will feel a little anxious as we adjust to changes in restrictions. I always ask my patients to be kind to themselves, especially if they’re struggling,” says McLaughlan.
“Write a list of activities which might be triggering for you. Start with the easiest and gradually work your way up to doing the activities which might feel most frightening. Reward yourself when you’ve achieved one of your goals, but don’t give yourself a hard time if some days are more difficult than others.”
What Does It Mean To Be Anxious
Although anxiety is often an unpleasant feeling, its actually a healthy response to certain triggers.
There are many situations that come up in everyday life when it is appropriate and reasonable to react with some anxiety, says Edmund Bourne, PhD, a former director of the Anxiety Treatment Center in San Jose and Santa Rosa, California, and the author of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook.
Thats because anxiety as in day-to-day worrying about say, crossing a busy street or about a persistent toothache helps keep us safe. Its also a natural response to stressors. As Dr. Bourne explains, If you didnt feel anxiety in response to everyday challenges involving personal loss or failure, something would be wrong.
Normal anxiety is proportionally related to a specific situation or problem and lasts only as long as the situation or problem does, says Sarah Gundle, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City and a teacher at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center at Mount Sinai Hospital. For example, its completely normal to feel anxious about speaking in front of a large group of people or meeting an important deadline at work.
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Try Supplements Or Change Your Diet
Changing your diet or taking supplements is definitely a long-term strategy. Research shows certain supplements or nutrients can help anxiety reduction.
- kava kava
- dark chocolate
However, it can take up to three months before your body is actually running on the nutrition these herbs and foods provide. If youre taking other medications, make sure to discuss herbal remedies with your doctor.