Charlotte Grainger

What is Health Anxiety and How Can You Combat It?

what is health anxiety

Are you feeling under the weather? Making sure you’re a-okay is a smart move, but continuously worrying about your wellness could be an issue. Research suggests that the pandemic may have worsened people’s experiences of health anxiety. So, what is this condition all about and how can you do something about it? Here’s what you should know.

HEALTH ANXIETY, EXPLAINED 

First things first, what is health anxiety? Often categorised within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) spectrum, this condition is what it says on the tin. It’s a form of anxiety that causes people to worry excessively about their general health. When people are experiencing this issue, they will fixate on the idea that they are ill, or are about to become ill. Often enough, there will be a particular illness they fear getting. 

For example, someone who has health anxiety may be worried that they will develop a specific type of cancer or HIV. This concern will lead them to check for signs of that particular illness or disease repetitively, even to the point of injuring themselves. Of course, while people with health anxiety may be focussed on one condition, there’s a chance that they will worry about developing any range of illnesses or ailments at any one time. 

It doesn’t end there. Often enough, people who are experiencing health anxiety will become convinced that non-harmful physical symptoms are the cause of an underlying problem. For instance, they may find that they have shortness of breath and immediately presume that they have asthma instead of going to the doctors. Needless to say, these kinds of leaps lead to a whole load of self-diagnosing and, of course, misdiagnosing.  

what are the signs of health anxiety

SIGNS OF HEALTH ANXIETY 

Now that you know what health anxiety is all about, let’s take a quick moment to talk about the signs of this condition. While it’s normal to be concerned about your general health, there are some red flags that your worries run deeper. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the signs that you may be experiencing health anxiety: 

  • Worrying about having illnesses
  • Talking to people about feeling ill constantly 
  • Checking for signs/symptoms of conditions obsessively 
  • Reading information online about major illnesses
  • Believing that doctors have got things wrong 
  • Avoiding information on serious illnesses 
  • Avoiding certain things, like exercise, as you feel ill 
  • Headaches, stomach aches and general pains

Of course, someone with health anxiety may not experience all of the above symptoms. At its core this type of anxiety is about worrying an excessive amount about the idea of becoming ill. The major problem with that is that it could stop you from doing the things that you enjoy. You may decide not to go to a party, for instance, in case the food makes you sick. 

When health anxiety is affecting your everyday life, it’s time to take action and do something about it. Of course, one of your first steps may be to see your local GP and explain what has been going on. A trained healthcare professional will be able to give you the advice and support you need to move forward here. 

how to cope with health anxiety

HOW TO COMBAT HEALTH ANXIETY 

If you’re concerned that you’re experiencing health anxiety, there are some steps you can take to manage it. While there’s no ‘magic solution’ that will make your fears disappear, doing something about them could make a huge difference to how you feel. To help you get started, here are some simple tips that may be useful to you right now: 

Acknowledge your feelings 

One of the biggest issues when it comes to health anxiety is that a thought can spiral. When you notice a possible symptom of an illness, you may quickly presume the worst. Rather than allowing that to happen, acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself a moment to process them. Consider why you have jumped to this conclusion. 

Challenge negative thoughts 

When you notice a lump somewhere, you may immediately believe you have cancer. Take a moment to challenge that thought. While it’s certainly worth getting the lump checked out, understand that there’s a whole bunch of things that could have caused it. 

Keep a day-to-day diary 

If you find yourself constantly asking people for reassurance or looking up illness symptoms online, it may help you to keep a diary. Note down when you do these things and what you were feeling when you did them. You can use the log as a way to reduce these habits on a day by day basis. Noticing them could be the first step here.

ways to combat health anxiety

Stay off Google (if you can!) 

Are you always Googling serious illnesses? This can be a hard habit to break. However, chances are, the more you learn about these conditions, the easier it will be to convince yourself that you have them. Try to stop searching for them in your downtime. Equally, you’re going to want to avoid all those pesky clickbait articles too. 

Keep yourself busy 

Boredom can often lead to overthinking! If you’re spending a lot of time doing nothing, you may find that your mind wanders to dark places. To avoid this very problem, ensure that you are both busy and productive. You may want to start a new hobby or learn something. 

THE TAKEAWAY!

Managing health anxiety can be challenging, but it’s by no means impossible. If you’re experiencing this issue, it’s worth speaking to a medical professional and looking at ways to cope with it. Why not reach out today and take the first steps towards feeling better?