How Do I Know If I Have Health Anxiety
There are signs and symptoms of the conditions that you can see below.
Signs and symptoms
- Checking and monitoring for potential changes in your body and health
- Googling symptoms, you feel in your body
- Actual physical pain in your body
- Thoughts preoccupied with illness
- Attending doctors to be given a clean bill of health, but not feeling relieved. Scared that they had missed something.
Although classed as an anxiety disorder, illness anxiety disorder shares many characteristics of OCD in terms of obsessions and compulsions, and I want to highlight this below.
Remember: Youre Not Alone
Admitting you have health anxiety is hard, but theres scientific proof that every single one of the symptoms youre feeling and all the behaviors are real.
Anxiety is real. Its an illness! It can make your body sick as well as your mind, and its time we start taking it as seriously as the illnesses that make us run to Google in the first place.
How To Recognize The Signs
This endless Googling and searching for signs that Dr. Yuabova mentions is always one of the first signs for me that my health anxiety has flared up again. Its also, inconveniently, exactly what makes my health anxiety worse. If youve ever Googled bad headache before, then you can probably understand why. It only takes a few clicks to end up on a website that convinces you that you have a tumor or aneurysm. While being a little concerned when WebMD tells you that your runny nose is the worst case scenario is a fairly universal experience, its the complete inability to stop clicking, searching, and panicking that signals you might be experiencing health anxiety, too.
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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.
Check If You Have Health Anxiety
You may have health anxiety if you:
- constantly worry about your health
- frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain
- are always asking people for reassurance that you’re not ill
- worry that a doctor or medical tests may have missed something
- obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media
- avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes
- act as if you were ill
Anxiety itself can cause symptoms like headaches or a racing heartbeat, and you may mistake these for signs of illness.
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Talk To Someone Friendly
Another very effective technique is to talk to someone you like and trust, especially on the phone. Don’t be shy about your anxiety – tell them you feel anxious and explain what you’re feeling.
Talking to nice, empathetic people keeps your mind off of your symptoms, and the supportive nature of friends and family gives you an added boost of confidence. If you’re suffering from a panic attack, it also helps you feel more confident that if something were wrong, you’d have someone that can watch over you.
Finding Treatment For Health Anxiety
Like other anxiety disorders, health anxiety can become debilitating. When your health worries begin to interfere with your life, its time to seek help from a mental health professional.
At High Focus Centers, we understand that every patients needs are different. Our team of mental health experts uses evidence-based treatment strategies, like mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive defusion techniques, to help create a custom program to meet your needs. Additionally, our teletherapy services allow you to receive counseling and therapy from the comfort of your own home.
If you or a family member is struggling with health anxiety, reach out to our team today. Were here to help you on your path to recovery.
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List Your Symptoms To Overcome Extreme Health Anxiety
Set a monthly appointment with your doctor. Write every symptom down, and remove things as the symptoms resolve. Anything that stays on the list for the full month and hasnt resolved is justified for medical attention.
A really good trick if youre suffering health anxiety is to keep a list of every single symptom that you experience within a month.
So, every headache that you get, write down the date, write down the time, write down, headache.
If you find a lump date, time, lump.
New aches, new pains, any new symptom that you get, you write down the date and the time and what this symptom is.
You then also set up a monthly appointment with your doctor. You agree with them that this is what youre going to do, you come to them with your list.
Anything that stays on that list within that month is worth going to see the doctor about, right?
So if youve got a headache that lasts for a month, you need to go and see your doctor about it, thats common sense.
If your symptoms come and go, you review this fairly regularly because youll be writing down every new symptom that you experience.
If and when you find a symptom has stopped, you cross it off your list and thats really good reassurance and reaffirmation for you that your symptoms are coming and going because a symptom that comes and goes is not really anything that you need to worry about, especially for something catastrophic or untreatable which is what youre worried about.
Love + light
Youre Not Imagining It
One of the biggest steps for me meant accepting the symptoms I had were of my own making.
These symptoms are known in the medical world as psychosomatic or somatic symptoms. Its a misnomer none of us actually have explained to us. Psychosomatic might mean in your head, but in your head isnt the same as saying not real.
In a recent paper by neuroscientists, its speculated that messages from the adrenal glands and other organs to the brain can actually create bodily symptoms.
Lead scientist Peter Strick spoke of psychosomatic symptoms, saying The word psychosomatic is loaded and implies that something is all in your head. I think now we can say, It is in your head, literally! We showed that there is real neural circuitry that connects cortical areas involved in movement, cognition, and feeling with the control of organ function. So what have been called psychosomatic disorders are not imaginary.
Boy, could I have used that reassurance 5 years ago.
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Not All Health Worries Indicate Health Anxiety
Being concerned about your health is not the same as health anxiety. It’s normal to be worried about your health from time to time. You may wonder if your stomachache is a sign of a more serious condition. If you have had a severe illness in the past, you may be anxious about an upcoming imaging scan.
“There is a difference at least medically speaking between a person who has no symptoms or minimal symptoms and is frequently worried and anxious about being or getting sick and a person who is worried about concerning symptoms,” says Dr. Scarella. However, he notes that anxiety about real health conditions can also become problematic.
People with health anxiety often misinterpret normal or benign physical symptoms and attribute them to something more serious. For example, if they were to compress an arm while asleep, instead of rolling over and shaking off the numb feeling, they might worry they were having a stroke. Symptoms produced by anxiety which can include muscle pain, chest pain, heart rate changes, headaches, and dizziness, among others can heighten existing anxiety about one’s health.
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:
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What Are The Types Of Illness Anxiety Disorder
Someone with illness anxiety disorder generally fits into one of these categories:
- Care-seeking: You spend a lot of time in a healthcare setting. You seek advice from multiple specialists and request medical tests.
- Care-avoidant: You avoid doctors and medical care. You might not trust doctors or you think they dont take your symptoms seriously. This can create more fear and anxiety.
Take A Test To See How You Feel
If youre unsure about the way you feel, take our anonymous online test to check whether your levels of stress, anxiety, or depression are within a healthy range, and see if one of our online programs could help.
What Causes Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety isnt caused by one specific thing. In fact, it most likely develops from a combination of different factors.
Theres good evidence that genes play a role in the development of anxiety in general. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families and having a parent or sibling with anxiety can mean that youre more likely to experience anxiety as well.
Your personality structure also influences how you feel. For example, being a worrier, some who tends to think negatively, or someone who likes to feel in control can increase your risk of developing health anxiety.
Stressful health experiences can also influence the development of health anxiety. Experiences like having a loved one get very sick or die, witnessing a traumatic accident, working in healthcare, or even being exposed to distressing health-related media can make you feel overly vulnerable to illness.
How To Deal With Health Anxiety
Effective treatments for health anxiety are available, including Psychoeducation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy , and medication.
Some things to remember when taking these medications are:
What is CBT?
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Health Anxiety / Hypochondria Symptoms
- Sufferers worry that they have a serious disease as they misinterpret their physical and/or mental symptoms.
- Health anxiety sufferers continue to worry even after consulting their doctor and being given reassurance.
- Hypochondriacs suffer much distress or are impaired in their ability to function at work, or socially.
- The excessive worrying about health has persisted for at least 6 months
- The worrying about health cannot be attributed to another disorder such as: generalised anxiety, OCD, panic disorder, depression , separation anxiety etc.
Challenge Your Worrying Thoughts
Thoughts are not facts. They are just thoughts and they dont have to be true or based in reality. However, when we ruminate, we begin to believe our thoughts reflect reality. For example, people with health anxiety may often worry about their heart.
They may think their chest or their heartbeat feels off, leading them to think, Theres something wrong with my heart. This can turn into, I have a serious heart condition. Eventually, they may even think, I have a heart condition and Im going to die. The problem here is not that they are seriously ill, the problem is that they think theyre seriously ill.
When we ruminate, our thoughts can represent our perceived reality. In other words, we accept our thoughts as facts. Instead, we need to adopt a practice known as cognitive defusion.
Cognitive defusion teaches us to identify and challenge our negative thoughts. Once a thought like, Theres something wrong with my heart has been identified, you can challenge and reframe it. For example, thinking instead Im only telling myself that there is something wrong with my heart. This process of identifying and challenging takes practice. It helps to work closely with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist to develop coping techniques.
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How Is Illness Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed
To diagnose illness anxiety disorder, healthcare providers refer to the criteria listed in the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , 5th edition. Your provider may make a diagnosis or they may refer you to a behavioral health specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
A persistent fear about having a serious illness or developing one is the top symptom of illness anxiety disorder. Your provider may diagnose illness anxiety disorder if you have health anxiety for six months or longer even after tests show that youre not sick.
How To Overcome Health Anxiety: 3 Helpful Tips
Health anxiety is an obsessive and often irrational worry about suffering from serious medical conditions. It is more formally known as illness anxiety, and used to be known as hypochondriasis.
Someone who suffers from health anxiety will obsess over their health: from their normal body functions to contracting illnesses and diseases. They may frequently visit their physician or spend large amounts of time reading about their symptoms and possible conditions.
In severe cases, health anxiety can become disruptive to a persons life. It can interfere with their daily activities, hurt their work performance, and even cause strain in relationships. Fortunately, there are ways that you can cope with your health anxiety, including:
- Changing your focus of attention
- Practicing mindfulness
- Challenging your worrisome thoughts
Read on to learn more about each of these coping techniques in further detail alongside treatment options for health anxiety.
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