What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is an anxiety condition that is often housed within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) spectrum of disorders. Those affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea that they are currently (or will be) experiencing a physical illness.
The most common health anxieties tend to focus on serious conditions such as cancer. However, the person experiencing health anxiety may fixate on any type of illness. This condition is known as health anxiety, illness phobia/illness anxiety or hypochondriasis.
Those who are affected by health anxiety/illness phobia are convinced that harmless physical symptoms are indicators of serious disease or severe medical conditions. For example, if a person experiencing health anxiety feels their chest is getting tight, they may believe that they are having a heart attack. Those with health anxiety frequently misinterpret physical symptoms of anxiety as a sign of an impending physical health problem.
What are the signs?
Read the below questions, do you find yourself answering YES to most of the questions? If so, you may be affected by health anxiety.
During the last 6 months:
- Have you experienced a preoccupation with having a serious illness due to bodily symptoms that has been ongoing for at least six months?
- Have you felt distressed due to this preoccupation?
- Have you found that this preoccupation impacts negatively on all areas of life including, family life, social life and work?
- Have you felt that you have needed to carry out constant self-examination and self-diagnosis?
- Have you experienced disbelief over a diagnosis from a doctor or felt that you are unconvinced by your doctor’s reassurances that you are fine?
- Do you constantly need reassurance from doctors, family and friends that you are fine, even if you don’t really believe what you are being told?
Why do some develop Health Anxiety?
There are several reasons that could be involved in why someone may develop health anxiety:
- Genetic predisposition, shown in a family history of anxiety disorders
- Experience of trauma, including abuse, neglect or bullying
- Experience of stressful life events
- A recent death or serious illness in a loved one
- Experience of physical health problems
- Having concerns about your health from a young age
Managing Health Anxiety
Sometimes health anxiety can impact on your mood, how you see yourself and others, it is common for people who experience health anxiety to feel elements of depression. Health anxiety disorders can be treated with a combination of treatment and therapies. For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) supports you to reduce negative thoughts and assist in gaining a more proportionate perspective on the things that you worry about.
When health anxiety becomes debilitating and prevents you from doing things you previously enjoyed or are responsible for act and seek help. If your employer offers the Vivup Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) we can help you to address the underlying triggers and equip you with the skills to reduce the feelings of anxiety and increase your self-confidence and self-esteem. Visit vivup.co.uk for details.