(Read Time: 5 minutes)
To be concerned about your health is a natural part of the human experience. However, just like with everything else, obsessing over every health concern can be damaging and debilitating.
If you’re having panic attacks over health issues, or you’re starting to notice that you’re losing sleep and peace of mind due to frightening Google search results, you might have health anxiety. Although a lot of people are starting to feel the relentless pangs of healthy anxiety, not everyone fully understands how serious it can be. What is health anxiety, and how can you positively deal with it?
What Is Health Anxiety
Health anxiety – commonly referred to as hypochondria – is a healthy person’s misinterpretation of bodily sensations as dangerous, and life-threatening. People with health anxiety can get overly obsessed and irrational when dealing with health unknowns. Those suffering from health anxiety experience excessive worry, and intense concern that they’re ill and dying.
Although often considered extreme, the increase in an epidemic, and the raging pandemic experienced by the world make health anxiety a widespread concern. I’ve had strong, wise clients who also fell in this difficult path. We all love our well-being and our health, and when something feels wrong, it’s easy to worry too much.
When health anxiety strikes, it can manifest signs and symptoms similar to a typical anxiety attack including:
Intense thoughts of death
Feeling physical signs that one is ill
Inability to focus
Extreme checking of the body for lumps, bumps, fever, or painful areas.
Wanting to visit the doctor often
Shortness of breath
Frequently scouring the internet for answers
What Triggers Health Anxiety
What causes such extreme, almost debilitating worry over health? Like other kinds of anxiety, health anxiety is triggered by stress – either from witnessing a loved one suffer or die from a certain chronic disease. The emotional, mental, and physical stress that comes with the fear of the same thing happening to them can trigger health anxiety.
Not understanding clearly how chronic illness deals with the body is another reason.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve talked to several people and most of them expressed their health anxiety. One of the most common reasons why they are worried is because they don’t want to leave their loved ones alone and suffering. The effects of health anxiety compounds when you’re a parent, a child, a spouse, a companion, a caretaker.
How to Positively Deal With Health Anxiety
When asked how they feel about their health anxiety, those experiencing its effects call it “exhausting.” When you’re perpetually worried about your life, it can feel disheartening. But the good news is health anxiety can be cured.
The most common treatment for illness anxiety, or health anxiety, is a treatment called psychotherapy – also known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT rewires your brain to positively deal with health worries and concerns. With CBT, health anxiety is treated through:
Identifying your body’s worries and beliefs
Changing the way you perceive the body’s sensations
Understanding how worry affects your body
Learning how to cope with stress effectively
Encouraging you to stop searching for “symptoms” all-around your body
Introducing reassurance that you’re healthy
Checking if you’re suffering from other mental challenges.
The effects of health anxiety like disrupted routines, emotional roller coaster, and feelings of hopelessness can also be avoided with CBT.
Another way to support health anxiety, and often in addition to CBT is through Intuitive Energy Healing and Reiki. A handful of my clients have been receiving CBT for years and but wanted to try something different to support their current state so they have been exploring Intuitive Healing and Reiki sessions with me. They have shared that in the effects of energy healing have been very beneficial and their family members have also voiced how much calmer they’ve been with each session compared to receiving solely CBT. They don’t feel the immediate need to spiral into anxious states as much, and in some cases, they don’t spiral at all anymore, even when keeping up with the coronavirus updates around the world.
If you don’t have access to any medical help as of the moment, it’s essential to practice mindfulness especially with dealing with what you can deal with at the moment. Knowing that you have control of how you would react can pacify feelings of hopelessness.
Health Anxiety Support
Health anxiety support is crucial to helping people with hypochondria cope better. If your loved one is suffering from health anxiety, make sure you make them feel you’re there for them. When you’re wondering how to support someone with health anxiety, just know that it’s important to:
Not underestimate what they’re going through
Listen to them when they’re emotionally scared and overwhelmed.
Not fill them with super positive dialogues.
Help them navigate through their worries
Provide an assuring voice in their life
Discourage them from using Google
Be a factual voice
Offer practical views of doctors’ appointments
Make them feel they’re not alone.
If you’re someone suffering from this challenge, you can know how to overcome health anxiety by:
Finding a support group
Believe the doctor’s words.
Stop seeking for illnesses in you
Find someone you can talk to
Openly address your health concern
Express your concerns.
Be mindful and deal only with what you can control – the now.
Health anxiety is not easy to deal with. It can cripple even the strongest of people. But knowing how to deal with health anxiety positively, and having an amazing support group can help a lot in the journey.