Do You Think You Suffer From Health Anxiety
Its not uncommon to hear about a condition or read about the symptoms and think it applies to you. Suddenly, you get this strange and nagging feeling that youve developed said condition out of the blue.
Medical students often perceive themselves to be experiencing the same symptoms of the disease that theyre studying, researching, reading and learning about.
The more we focus on something, the more it expands in our minds, says Duke. Repeatedly reading about an illness can activate our threat system, even if no real threat exists.
If you find yourself stressing about your health in an obsessive manner, Duke recommends weighing the evidence.
Consider the evidence for and against your negative health thought and you will likely come to a more balanced perspective, which allows you to problem solve, she says.
After seeking a medical evaluation, its important to externalize your feelings. Resist the urge to keep things inside that are bothering you. Try talking to a trusted friend or seeing a mental health professional if your anxiety is growing.
And leave the internet alone for a while.
The internet wont provide more than momentary reassurance, Duke notes. Its like going down a rabbit hole of anxiety. Instead, try positive forms of distraction like exercise and meditation.
How Health Anxiety Fuels Ocd
Being in control allows us to feel some semblance of calm, so we constantly try to find ways to gain the upper hand on our health anxiety.
Of course, this may feed OCD tendencies, and when you realize that its a cycle that never ends, you may find yourself sinking into despair.
Let me give you an example
To try to be more in control I would run through a checklist in my mind.
More on that in a sec.
I used to have an obsession with my moles and would check them constantly to make sure they werent skin cancer. My grandmother had lost a friend to melanoma and knowing this sent me into a complete panic.
There was one particular mole on my back that looked pretty dark, and to my mind, sinister.
But I could only see this mole if I twisted my neck around and looked at it with a little handheld mirror.
I checked it so many times a day that I actually ended up with awful pain in my neck and shoulder from the constant repetitive twisting motion .
Okay so back to that checklist I mentioned
I would look at a mole and Id ask myself a few questions to put my mind at ease.
- Have I shown my mole to anyone and received validation that it looks okay? Yes, I showed my mom and my girlfriend and they thought it was fine. This gave me temporary relief and Id move on to the next question.
- Have I worried about this specific mole before? If yes, especially if it was a while back Id feel temporarily calm, because I figured if it was serious I would have known by now.
Encourage Their Participation In Treatment
Illness anxiety, or âIllness Anxiety Disorder,â is not a hoax. It is a real diagnosis. Formerly called âhypochondriasisâ or âhypochondria,â illness anxiety can have a significant impact on a personâs quality of life, emotions, wellbeing, relationships, and functioning.
Unfortunately people sometimes get very frustrated and even act judgmental or invalidating when dealing with someone who has illness anxiety. But it is much more helpful to acknowledge the suffering it causes, and to lovingly encourage the anxious person to seek treatment for it. It is fundamental that family members or closest friends cooperate with helping the anxious person get better.
Starting with a visit to the primary doctor is important for two reasons. First, the primary doctor can evaluate whether the illness anxiety is about any legitimate health concerns. Keep in mind, however, that even if the anxious person does have legitimate health symptoms or concerns, their anxiety may still be disproportionate to the health concerns. Second, the primary doctor can evaluate whether the anxiety itself is being caused or exacerbated by biological factors. If neither of these account for the reported level of anxiety, then a diagnosis of âIllness Anxietyâ may be considered. Some primary doctors may also offer to treat the anxiety by prescribing medications.
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Overcome Extreme Health Anxiety By No Longer Seeking Reassurance
The second step and I think this is possibly the hardest step that people with health anxiety experience is to stop constantly seeking reassurance.
I know that this is the hardest step for me.
Every new symptom that I would get, Id be on Google and Id be looking up my symptom.
What does this mean? What does this lump mean? What does this sensation mean? Ive had a headache for the last five days, what does that mean?
And Google, I dont know whats going on with their algorithms but Google seems to know that the results that get the most clicks seem to be the most catastrophic results. Google really DOES NOT help you to overcome extreme health anxiety!!
So, results that show cancer, results that show stroke or heart attack or any of the other serious illnesses that you can think of, theyre always the one that kind of get the top spot in Google so theyre going to be the results that automatically flash up in your face.
Thats not good because 9 times out of 10 or should I say, 99 times out of 100, your symptom could be put down to anything else.
Headache, for example, could be tension, tiredness, lack of water, staring at the screen for too long.
Youve got a bump on the head and you can get a headache from that, wearing your hair too tight.
Sometimes, I find certain earrings pulling on my earlobes can give me a headache.
Thats why getting that reassurance can temporarily make you feel good.
So its up to you to stop seeking out reassurance.
Managing Health Anxiety: 4 Lifestyle Changes That Helped Me
I get so many questions from people asking me what the one thing is that I did that made coping with health anxiety easier.
I wish I could give that solution to you right now.
I wish I could say, do this one thing today, and tomorrow your health anxiety will be gone.
But to be honest, there wasnt really one specific thing I did.
When I started to change my lifestyle for the better, and my anxiety and panic started to lose its intensity, so did my health anxiety.
This is why I am so passionate about sharing everything I did in regards to nutrition and other lifestyle factors, I wrote a whole book about it!
Every single thing you eat and everything you do or expose yourself to every day will either fuel your symptoms or help them.
When my health anxiety and panic were at an all-time high, I felt permanently stressed out but wasnt finding ways to manage the stress in my life.
At that time I was
- Eating unhealthy, processed foods, and anxiety triggers foods on a daily basis
- Not exercising
- Waking up and going into a job I hated
- Doing nothing good for myself
Its when I started to put myself first, when I started reassessing my lifestyle, thats when things started to shift and I started to move forward in my healing.
Around this time, I also found comfort inthis panic away program which helped me greatly and may help you too.
The following are four lifestyle changes I put into practice that over time, helped me a lot in overcoming daily health anxiety.
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.
Understand That The Reality Is Not A Catastrophe Even The Worst Is Manageable
The number one thing that I think really helps you to overcome extreme health anxiety is thinking that even if the worst was to happen and no doubt, you know what the worst is even if the worst was to happen, thats still not a catastrophe.
Even the worst news that you could possibly get regarding your health is still manageable.
Bits of it are still manageable.
I know people that have been diagnosed with horrible illnesses and have been told that their prognosis is not good, and theyve said to me, even in that, they still have bits of their treatment, bits of their life moving forward that they can still manage and still can control.
So thats the first step to overcome extreme health anxiety. Know that its not like the world completely falls in around you even if you do get diagnosed with something horrible.
The truth is, bits and pieces of the journey ahead are completely manageable and you still have power over that.
And even if you were to get the worst news there would still be bits of your journey that you would then focus on and so it wouldnt be a complete and utter catastrophe things going out of control.
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Signs Youre A Hypochondriac
Do you think you or a loved one is a hypochondriac? With 5 percent of outpatient visits accounting for illness anxiety , its helpful to learn the signs and symptoms to build awareness and create a deeper understanding of the concerns felt by many.
Signs and symptoms may include:
Finally: Set Up Daily Support
Dont wait until it gets bad, set yourself up a daily self are routine – EFT tapping, Bach Flower Remedies, audio support these are things you can easily work into your day without taking too much time.
We recommend five minutes EFT Tapping as soon as you wake up to support yourself before your mind starts bringing you it’s fears. Get your flower remedies ready for the day, you can put some drops in a bottle of water and keep it with you.
Taking quick breathing breaks throughout the day, and tap during the day too if anxiety flares.
Use a guided relaxation in the evening, or before going to bed.
These will all help you get your anxiety under control again. And help your overall health too as stress wont be such an issue and we all know stress is one of the worst things for our health.
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How Can I Help Myself
Face your fear if you can
If you always avoid situations that scare you, you might stop doing things you want or need to do. You wont be able to test out whether the situation is always as bad as you expect, so you miss the chance to work out how to manage your fears and reduce your anxiety. Anxiety problems tend to increase if you get into this pattern. Exposing yourself to your fears can be an effective way of overcoming this anxiety.
Try to learn more about your fear or anxiety. Keep an anxiety diary or thought record to note down when it happens and what happens. You can try setting yourself small, achievable goals for facing your fears. You could carry with you a list of things that help at times when you are likely to be become frightened or anxious. This can be an effective way of addressing the underlying beliefs that are behind your anxiety.
Try to learn more about your fear or anxiety. Keep a record of when it happens and what happens.
Increase the amount of exercise you do. Exercise requires some concentration, and this can take your mind off your fear and anxiety.
Learning relaxation techniques can help you with the mental and physical feelings of fear. It can help just to drop your shoulders and breathe deeply. Or imagine yourself in a relaxing place. You could also try learning things like yoga, meditation, massage, or listen to the Mental Health Foundations wellbeing podcasts.
Avoid alcohol, or drink in moderation
Is Illness Anxiety Disorder The Same As Somatic Symptom Disorder
No, but the difference is subtle. Somatic symptom disorder is when you have excessive anxiety and fear about real physical symptoms. Somatic refers to physical symptoms.
In somatic symptom disorder, you may or may not know what is causing those symptoms, but they exist. Similar to people with illness anxiety disorder, people with somatic symptom disorder might see a lot of healthcare providers and request tests to be run. However, their physical symptoms may never go away.
Illness anxiety disorder is different in that the person is overly focused on and worried about their health, and they have no physical symptoms.
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How Do I Get Help
Talking therapies, like counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, are very effective for people with anxiety problems, including Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which takes you through a series of self-help exercises on screen. Visit your GP to find out more.
Drug treatments are used to provide short-term help, rather than looking at the root of the anxiety problems. Drugs may be most useful when they are combined with other treatments or support.
You can learn a lot about managing anxiety from asking other people who have experienced it. Local support groups or self-help groups bring together people with similar experiences so that they can hear each others stories, share tips and encourage each other to try out new ways to manage themselves. Your doctor, library or local Citizens Advice bureau will have details of support groups near you.
Samanthas Fear That She Would Have A Stroke
I was in my early twenties and had a job as a kitchen worker when I developed a condition called pulsatile tinnitus, which meant that I could hear blood whooshing in a vein in my ear. I used to worry that this sound meant I was about to have a stroke and die. I was really frightened, so I paid a lot of attention to it and tried not to make it worse. I didnt exercise or do anything to raise my heart rate because it made the sound louder, and I refused to travel more than a few miles from the local hospital, preferring to stay with my boyfriend or parents in case I needed medical help. I did ask doctors about it, but after a lot of tests and lots of my own research on the Internet I felt they didnt understand how serious the risk was. I tried a lot of other therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy, but nothing seemed to help very much.
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