It’s important to pay attention to your mental health, but what if that attention becomes unhealthy and starts to cause emotional stress and anxiety? There is such a thing as health anxiety, and Bloom, together with health partner, Momentum Health4Me, explains how to deal with this particular type of anxiety. Discover more about this condition and what you can do to alleviate the symptoms.
What is health anxiety?
Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety and formerly known as hypochondria, is a condition characterised by excessive worry that one may be seriously ill. The condition is often long-lasting and fluctuates in severity based on the individual. Even if they have no physical symptoms of the particular condition or disease, people who suffer from this type of problem become convinced they are indeed very ill.
Minor body sensations, like muscle spam or general fatigue, are interpreted as signs of the illness. They will often insist on a battery of medical tests to prove a diagnosis. Another characteristic of health anxiety is the tendency to experience extreme emotional distress and avoidance behaviour, which can become extremely disruptive to daily life.
A very similar condition is somatic symptom disorder. While hypochondria tends to revolve around excessive worrying about having or developing a severe medical condition, somatic symptom disorder involves excessive worry about perceived symptoms, like dizziness, and is not necessarily linked to a particular disease.
Health anxiety symptoms
The key thing to remember about health anxiety symptoms is that it involves worry about symptoms that are usually normal bodily sensations. Some of the signs to look out for include:
- Preoccupation with getting or having a severe medical condition, like cancer or meningitis
- Concern that minor body sensations are a part of the perceived illness or condition, especially hereditary conditions
- Experiencing alarm and emotional distress
- Experiencing little to no reassurance or resolution after a doctor’s consultation or from medical tests
- Constantly checking for signs or symptoms of a certain type of disease
- Undergoing and frequently requesting doctor’s appointments or medical tests to confirm a diagnosis
- Avoiding people, places or certain activities in the belief it could cause an illness
Frequently checking the internet and conducting online diagnosis in order to confirm a particular medical condition
Somatic symptom disorder symptoms
People who experience this disorder often become preoccupied with different sorts and types of pain. However, other symptoms could include any of the following:
- Excessive worry about an illness
- Interpreting physical sensations as a sign or confirmation of the illness
- Obsession with very specific sensations, like fatigue, headaches or shortness of breath
- Preoccupation with single symptoms or multiple symptoms of the same nature
- Believing that medical evaluation and treatments have been inadequate
- Frequent healthcare visits or medical tests
- Unresponsive to treatment for the symptoms
- Being sensitive to the side effects of the medication
Why do some people develop health anxiety?
Although experts are not sure what causes a person to develop health anxiety, it’s thought to have a lot to do with having a poor understanding of the body and diseases. Other risk factors include some of the following:
- Having had a family member develop a severe medical condition, like diabetes or cardiovascular disease
- Having experienced a stressful event or situation regarding disease
- Having experienced a severe childhood disease
How to deal with health anxiety: effective methods to treating the condition
It’s important to receive an evaluation from a healthcare practitioner, as symptoms could be related to a condition or disease. However, if one’s doctor or GP believes that you’re actually suffering from health anxiety, there are a number of things you can do to help alleviate the stress associated with this problem. Some of these include the following:
- Challenge your thoughts. Adopt a cognitive defusion approach by telling yourself that thoughts are not facts. When you have an intrusive thought, like “I must have brain cancer,” remind yourself that there is no physical evidence to support this notion.
- Redirect your focus. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to occupy your mind with something else. When you feel an anxiety trigger, turn your attention to a distracting activity, like exercising, housework, or completing brainteasers like crossword puzzles or sudoku.
- Practice mindfulness. If you can’t find a useful activity to occupy your thoughts, it helps to consider the practice of mindfulness to reduce stress. This involves paying attention to your thoughts in a purposeful manner.
- Listen to soothing music. Focus on the lyrics or the tempo to immerse yourself in the experience.
- Start meditating. Meditation is the art of releasing our thoughts in order to achieve a state of relaxation. This exercise is extremely useful for those who are experiencing anxiety or stress.
Get health insurance cover from Bloom
Now that you know how to deal with health anxiety, you will agree that good physical health is an important factor for healthy living. However, worrying about your health unnecessarily is not healthy, especially if these concerns are causing your mental and emotional distress. Bloom encourages members to use the tips provided, or to seek professional counselling if necessary. Get affordable and comprehensive medical insurance by contacting our office to set up an appointment with a trained consultant.
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