The digital age has given us unlimited information at our fingertips. Knowledge can be a wonderful thing and easy access allows for constant learning and information absorption. However, it’s easy to overanalyze and obsess about health symptoms you may be experiencing. A Google search for tension headache symptoms may have you convinced your symptoms actually fit those of a brain tumor. You become crippled by anxiety over your health.
If you are suffering overwhelming anxiety concerning your health, you may have an illness anxiety disorder or a somatic symptom disorder.
You may be experiencing physical symptoms and worry excessively about potential causes, You may also worry about your health but not be experiencing any physical symptoms.
If you are dealing with health anxiety, you worry about a simple ache or pain being a more catastrophic illness or condition. It goes to a much deeper level than general concern for your well-being.
Health anxiety has a direct effect on your quality of life for day-to-day living.
Health anxiety can be caused by several triggers. It can be caused by stress, a traumatic event, or even life transitions. Sometimes health anxiety is caused by actual physical or chronic health issues.
You may see your healthcare provider for symptoms you are experiencing and be reassured that there is no catastrophic diagnosis. You may feel relief for a time, but then the sinking fear of something else being wrong comes back. Or perhaps the fear of a diagnosis keeps you from your healthcare provider’s office. The fear can become cyclical and consume you.
If you are dealing with health anxiety, you could experience a variety of symptoms. Symptoms may vary for illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder.
Illness anxiety disorder symptoms include:
Lack of symptoms or experiencing mild symptoms.
Avoiding medical care due to anxiety.
Frequently seeking medical care despite repeated reassurances.
Hypervigilant about health and symptom checking.
Preoccupation with getting or being sick.
Anxiety is disproportionate to symptoms or risk of sickness.
Somatic symptom disorder symptoms may include:
Excessive anxiety about your health or symptoms.
Excessive time seeking medical care.
One or more consistent physical symptoms disrupt the daily quality of life.
Health anxiety can cause physical symptoms in both illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder. Physical symptoms may include:
Shortness of breath.
You may find comfort in knowing that you cannot manifest an illness by thinking it into existence. You may be consumed with the thoughts of something being wrong with you or the fear of a diagnosis. You can help take control back from your health anxiety in a few ways including:
Avoid health-related news — Take COVID-19 for example, our news and social media feeds are inundated with constant updates about COVID-19 and how it has been mutating and changing since the start of the pandemic. With an illness constantly in your face, you can convince yourself that your symptoms are more serious than they could actually be. Avoiding the news can help assuage your health anxiety.
Avoid Google — Google is not always your friend. A simple Google search can bring up worst-case scenarios for minor symptoms. Just because one symptom you’re experiencing is listed under a life-threatening disease, doesn’t mean you have that disease.
Seek additional help — If avoiding the news and Google searches doesn’t completely help alleviate your health anxiety, therapy may be beneficial for you.
The good news is health anxiety can be helped with therapy. The main goal of your therapy treatment will be to help improve your daily quality of life.
If physical symptoms are also present, your therapist will likely have a treatment plan which can also include medical treatments under your healthcare provider’s guidance as well as your mental health treatment.
It is likely your therapist will use cognitive behavioral therapy for your health anxiety treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a therapy model which focuses on reframing the way you think, behave, and act. It focuses on how your thoughts about a situation (potential diagnosis) affect how you feel (anxious and fearful) and how you have (checking for symptoms).
Cognitive behavioral therapy works to help you overcome your fears by confronting your irrational thoughts and changing any problematic behaviors. When you learn a new mindset, it helps you approach anxious situations with improved coping mechanisms.
Life is complicated and messy. When it comes to mental health, we believe there’s no one-size-fits-all. At Halcyon Therapy Group, we understand just how important you and your unique situation and perspectives are. That’s why we offer a suite of services tailored specifically to you and your needs. You deserve better, and we are here to help. Book your complimentary consultation today and start living the life you always dreamed of.