Health anxiety seems to affect a lot of clients I see. It can present itself in various ways and impact physically, emotionally and mentally. With the recent introduction of coronavirus, it seems lots of people are especially anxious when it comes to their health and the health of loved ones. The below may help in identifying health anxiety in yourself and others.
How do I know if I have health anxiety?
1) You may have a constant worry that you’re ill. Worrying about your health may be all-consuming and take up a lot of your thinking time.
2) You may look for a lot of reassurance from others that you’re not ill. Getting this reassurance and having this dialogue may be of comfort and feel as if its soothing your anxiety.
3) You may look for physical symptoms or signs in your body that you’re not well. This may be pain in the body or lumps. This may become very frequent or quite obsessive. It’s also worth noting here that the anxiety itself can give physical symptoms such as soaring heart rate, headaches or nausea. You may have these ailments as a result of the anxiety, which in turn may unfortunately worsen the anxiety as it becomes a vicious circle.
4) You may act obsessively when it comes to information gathering. This may be by looking online about illnesses or seeking out medical appointments for reassurance. It is also common to feel that health professionals have got it wrong with their diagnosis, advice or given you incorrect test results.
What next? If you think you’re suffering with health anxiety there are things you can do to try and ease this. Firstly, it may be a good idea to reach out for professional help by visiting your GP or seeking help from a Counsellor or Psychotherapist.
It may be useful not only for you, but also for a professional, to keep a list of your worries or the things that you are focusing on such as information in the news or seeking out friends to unburden upon. This will give a clearer picture of the frequency of, and any patterns to, your actions and thoughts. With this information you could try and challenge your thoughts. Make a note of your health concern such as “I always feel sick, I have a terrible illness” and rebalance with a different viewpoint such as “ I probably feel sick as I’m very anxious today” or “I feel sick, am I hungry?”. This may take some practice as your automatic, negative thought will probably be strong and overriding to begin with. If you can stick with this and commit to trying to challenge your thoughts, you may have success in reducing anxiety.
In times of high anxiety, try and have a list of activities to turn to that works for you in calming and clearing your mind. This may be fresh air, exercise, reading, watching a film. Anything that feels good and acts as a healthy distraction.