What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety is when a person experiences long-term preoccupation or excessive concern for their own health. They are typically convinced that a serious illness is imminent and tends to focus much of their attention on possible symptoms of the perceived illness. They also often misinterpret physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g. nausea, sweating, heart palpitations etc.) as signs of an impending illness.
Worrying excessively about health can lead to significant distress for the person and consequently, the person may feel compelled to relieve this distress through seeking reassurance from family or health care workers, or by researching books, magazines and internet sites. Although it can seem reasonable to attain reassurance from such sources, for people with health anxiety, reassurance seeking can be persistent and not offer actual relief from symptoms.
Continued checking of and focus on perceived symptoms can actually reinforce health worry and contribute to an increase in the experience of physical symptoms. In some cases, the person may visit several doctors and request more in-depth examination of symptoms. If no medical reason for symptoms is found, the person may then begin questioning the expertise of the doctor.
Common symptoms include:
- Constantly worrying about your health
- Frequently checking for signs of illness (e.g. looking for lumps, hyperfocusing on tingling or pain)
- Frequently asking others for reassurance that you are not, in fact, ill
- Uncontrollable worry that a doctor or medical test may have missed something
- Obsessively researching information related to symptoms or illness
- Acting as if you may have an illness (e.g. avoiding physical activities)
Adults suffering from health anxiety can benefit from attending psychotherapy with one of our experienced clinicians. We can help you manage your anxiety long term through various types of treatments and techniques. Please read our team bios or contact our admin team to discuss your needs and the best match for you.
As with most things that involve feelings of upset which impact our ability to live our lives in the way that feels most healthy, the best approach is to seek out help sooner rather than later. No matter how long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, it is never too late to start taking your life back from chronic anxiety. If any of the above sounds familiar, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to set up an appointment.