Managing health anxiety
Do you regularly examine your body for physical symptoms, even though you are in good health?
Are you always consulting Dr. Google for medical advice, and then fixating on the worst possible scenario?
If you answered 'yes' to both of these questions, then you might be struggling with health anxiety.
Symptoms of Illness Anxiety Disorder
According to the DSM-V, symptoms of illness anxiety disorder may include:
- Preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness
- Worrying that you have a serious illness when you experience minor symptoms or body sensations
- Disproportionate worry about a specific medical condition, or the risk of developing a condition because it runs in your family
- Experiencing a high level of anxiety about your health
- Getting easily alarmed about your health status
- Constantly checking your body for signs of illness or disease
- Frequently searching the internet for causes or symptoms of possible illnesses
- Visiting the doctor regularly for reassurance - or avoiding the doctor because you're afraid of being diagnosed with a serious illness
- Finding little or no reassurance from doctor visits or negative test results
Some Treatment Options
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment option for health anxiety. CBT can help you change the way you think about your health, reduce maladaptive checking behaviors and the need for constant reassurance, and teach you skills for coping with/responding to stress and anxiety. Book an appointment now.
CBT will target the vicious cycle that accompanies health anxiety (see below).
Some medications, including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, might work. Get in touch with your healthcare provider to discuss your options.
Stress management techniques can also help. We offer a number of workshops that can help you reduce stress, worry, and anxiety. Click here to read an article about our workshops in The National newspaper.
Some self-help tips include:
Relaxation techniques, including progressive muscle relaxation. Click here for an excellent guided breathing exercise that is suitable for beginners.
Physical activity. Start small and work your way up.
Staying connected at home and/or work. Social support and taking part in activities can help.