Physical Symptoms of Health Anxiety
Health anxiety also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondria is a mental health condition characterized by excessive worry and fear about having a serious illness. People with health anxiety often experience intense anxiety and distress related to their health and may engage in behaviors such as frequent checking of symptoms seeking medical reassurance and avoiding situations or activities that they believe may increase their risk of getting sick. While everyone experiences worry about their health from time to time health anxiety can be a persistent and overwhelming problem for some individuals. In this article we will discuss the causes symptoms and solutions for health anxiety.
Causes of Health Anxiety:
There is no single cause of health anxiety but it is thought to be influenced by a combination of genetic environmental and psychological factors. Some of the most common factors that contribute to health anxiety include:
Family history: People with a family history of anxiety disorders including health anxiety may be more likely to develop the condition themselves.
Trauma or stress: Traumatic experiences such as serious illness or the loss of a loved one can trigger health anxiety in some individuals.
Beliefs and attitudes about illness: Individuals who hold beliefs that illness is always serious or that they are more susceptible to illness may be more likely to experience health anxiety.
Attentional bias: People with health anxiety may have a tendency to focus more on bodily sensations or changes leading to heightened anxiety and worry.
Symptoms of Health Anxiety:
- Health anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways and may differ from person to person.
- Some of the most common symptoms of health anxiety include:
- Constant worrying about physical symptoms or changes in the body
- Obsessive checking of symptoms or seeking reassurance from medical professionals
- Avoiding activities or situations that may be perceived as risky or increase the chances of getting sick
- Engaging in excessive hygiene or cleanliness rituals to prevent illness
- Feeling intense anxiety or panic attacks related to health concerns
Hypochondriasis or preoccupation with physical health concerns despite negative test results or reassurance from medical professionals.
It’s always important to take care of oneself using all the principles of good health. Regular check-ups proper nutrition and healthful living all enable one to keep on top of their health in a careful yet reasonable way. Often one becomes overly concerned with health issues and caught up in a cycle of health worries. One health issue is reconciled when another immediately pops up to take its place. These worries become all encompassing and exhausting after a while.
Eventually the individual realizes that this cycle of health anxieties has intruded upon the quality of their life. A dark cloud always hovering over daily living this intrusive form of anxiety has to be addressed. One begins by determining why this is occurring what purpose does it serve and how to interrupt this behavior.
Reason for Health Anxiety
Health worries actually serve a purpose and this purpose is not difficult to detect if one looks deep enough into this pattern of behavior. Often this pattern involves the brain distracting from specific emotions which the individual finds difficult to address.
Many emotions are so overwhelming such as anger grief or fear that the brain looks for ways to distract. Health worries fit the bill because when one worries intensely about their health there is little room to address an upsetting emotion.
Health worries blanket every other thought and this WORKS. This is the perfect distraction from unsettling emotions. When one worry is reconciled another takes it place to veil the unaddressed emotion. Each health worry has a strong purpose as it masks the true upsetting emotion which is much more difficult to face in the long run.
Recognition and acknowledgment of the Health Anxiety habit one worry quickly following another in a noticeable loop that never ends. Awareness of this cycle is always the first step to reconciliation of the issue.
Determining if this health worry is a true physical problem by visiting one’s primary physician and ruling out a definite physical cause for the difficulty. Always rule out a physical cause before assuming it is merely health anxiety.
Noticing that these health worries settle down when you become intensely interested in another topic or swept into a new relationship job or cause.
Identify your patterns. Do you experience twinges of symptoms that often jump from one area of the body to another? Do you find yourself overestimating physical intrusions and instantly jump to the conclusion that they signify danger or warrant the attention of an alert?
Find interests that involve your entire being. Lose yourself in things that allow you little time for inward thinking. True illness does not surface through boredom as do these behaviors. True health problems do not generally follow the same time table as health anxieties do. Health worries are stronger during times of boredom and when one lacks interests. An intelligent mind requires challenges and goals.
Activity is an important therapeutic tool against health worries. Exercise and movement invigorate and stimulate the mind and body in a positive way. Endorphins are released and Serotonin levels are boosted naturally when activity is a part of a daily routine. Moderate walking jogging tennis swimming and dancing are all helpful activities that bring forth positive results.
Nutrition is also essential to good health which in itself helps eliminate the strong habit of negative thinking often concerning health worries. When eating properly Serotonin levels are naturally boosted and blood sugar levels remain stable. This helps settle down an over-reactive mind leading to a lessening in health anxieties.
Talk back to the brain by firmly telling it to stop when health worries enter the mind. Shift into a more positive mode of thinking because you always have a choice in what you think about.
The mind will respond by quieting down as negative thoughts subside. The brain caught red handed in this behavior is instantly embarrassed causing it to suspend this cycle of negative thought. This is comparative to a child being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Embarrassment at being caught stops this intrusive behavior.
Be aware of “what if” thinking. If the majority of sentences you think begin with “what if” then this is proof of a strong health anxiety habit. Change “what if” thinking to “so what” and watch the cycle break.
Most of all understand that worry solves nothing. Health worries in particular will only serve to exhaust and deplete both mind and body. Consciously make a concerted effort to change the way you think and you will succeed in changing your life. You will go from self victimization to freedom from the intrusive habit of fearful worry.
Solutions for Health Anxiety:
While health anxiety can be a debilitating condition there are a variety of treatment options available to help manage symptoms and overcome fear of illness. Some of the most effective treatments for health anxiety include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It has been found to be particularly effective in treating health anxiety by helping individuals learn to recognize and challenge irrational beliefs about illness and develop coping strategies to manage anxiety.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): MBSR is a type of meditation-based therapy that can help individuals develop awareness of their thoughts and emotions and learn to respond to them in a more mindful and compassionate way.
Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to situations or activities that they have been avoiding due to fear of illness. This can help individuals learn to face their fears and reduce anxiety over time.
Medications: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms of health anxiety particularly in cases where the condition is severe or significantly interferes with daily functioning.
Lifestyle changes: Engaging in regular exercise practicing good sleep hygiene and reducing stress through activities such as yoga or meditation can all help to reduce symptoms of health anxiety.
Health anxiety is a common mental health condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. Understanding the causes and symptoms of health anxiety is the first step in seeking help and overcoming fear of illness. Treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy,