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5 Expert Tips On How To Get Rid Of Health Anxiety.

Health Anxiety – An Overview. 

Have you ever had a headache and assumed it was a brain tumor?  

Has a terrible coughing fit in the middle of the day convinced you that you have tuberculosis?  

Have you woken up in the morning feeling sore and achy and suddenly all you can think of is you have bone cancer?  

If your answer to any or all of these questions was yes, you quite possibly have a form of anxiety that is known as health anxiety.  

Here’s a promise – by the end of this article, you will know a lot more about health anxiety, its symptoms, and what can be done to cope with this debilitating condition.  

I want you to believe that this article is written to guide you along the way and show you that there is hope for you. 

If you are currently dealing with health anxiety, I want you to know that you are not alone.  

This article will serve as a support to you and I know that by the time you reach the end, you will not feel as scared, misunderstood, and alone as you currently do.  

What Exactly Is Health Anxiety? 

Health anxiety disorder or Illness anxiety disorder is a relatively new term to refer to what was previously known as Hypochondriasis.  

Essentially, individuals diagnosed with health anxiety often feel an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety when they experience normal bodily sensations.  

They interpret mild symptoms as life-threatening disorders which causes them to believe that they are sicker than they really are.  

In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all and yet the sufferer can manage to convince themselves that they are suffering from a serious disease that can result in death. 

If you are suffering from health anxiety, chances are that the people close to you are usually unable to understand your fears and may perceive them as irrational. 

However, these symptoms and concerns are very real to you.  

My goal here is to reach out to all of you that are currently dealing with this condition and I want to let you know that I understand precisely how you are feeling.  

Health Anxiety Statistics And Facts. 

The first thing I want you to know is that Health Anxiety is a fairly common disorder. 

Mentioned below are some important facts related to Health Anxiety – 

  • Health anxiety is known to affect approximately 4% to 6% of the general population. 
  • It affects approximately 1 out of 20 individuals. 
  • This type of anxiety might affect an individual once or multiple times throughout their lives. For some, this is a chronic illness. 
  • The average onset of this disorder is said to be in the early 20s. However, some individuals can develop this disorder well into their middle adulthood. 
  • As per research, women are more prone to developing health anxiety. It is said to affect women 3 to 4 times more often than men. 
  • An individual is more likely to develop this disorder if he/she has suffered from a serious illness in childhood. 
  • The intensity of this disorder can vary from person to person and from time to time.  

Can Health Anxiety Make You Imagine Symptoms? 

The short answer to this question is a big yes.  

The primary feature of health anxiety is that it makes it difficult for the individual to come to terms with the fact that they are perfectly healthy. 

If you suffer from health anxiety, you probably spend a lot of time exaggerating your symptoms and worrying about having an imagined illness.  

Quite possibly, this imagined illness has become a major part of your identity.  

For example, you may wake up with terrible nausea and an upset stomach one morning.  

The next thing you know, you are on your way to convince yourself that what you experienced is the first sign of stomach cancer. 

You may hop on Google and type “stomach cancer symptoms”.  

What you see next is a huge list of symptoms and as you scan the list, you are now confident that what you have is, indeed, stomach cancer! 

What you have not considered even for a second is that maybe the stale sushi from last night is to blame for your tummy troubles.  

I am well aware that a lot of people around you probably think you are faking your symptoms for attention or sympathy. 

But what you are experiencing is very real and extremely distressing to you.  

As defeated as you may feel right now, I want you to know that by following some of the tips mentioned below, you can effectively manage your disorder.  

Read on to find out more about this crippling disorder.  

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

How Does Health Anxiety Present Itself And How To Recognize It? 

Health Anxiety is a serious illness and should be approached thoughtfully.  

Recognizing what it really looks like and what its characteristic features are can help you cope with the illness effectively. 

Some of its symptoms are: 

  • Excessive health-related behaviors. (E.g. Constantly monitoring normal body symptoms, interpreting every mild symptom as a major illness) 
  • Experiencing unnaturally high levels of anxiety when faced with the slightest symptom. 
  • Second guessing your health care provider even after they have repeatedly reassured you that everything is fine.  
  • Constantly worrying about developing life-threatening disorders. 
  • Being highly preoccupied with your possible illness that you find it difficult to function. 
  • Constantly finding reasons to talk about your health and your possible illness.  
  • Repeatedly checking the internet for articles about your possible illness and convincing yourself that you have that illness. 

How To Stop Having Health Anxiety? 5 Useful Tips And Strategies. 

While these 5 highly effective strategies that I am outlining below do not replace therapy and they cannot “cure” an individual with health anxiety, they can definitely help you from spiraling out of control. 

The ideal way to deal with this disorder would be to see a mental health professional in order to get a diagnosis and a suitable treatment plan. 

Just like depression or generalized anxiety disorder, health anxiety is a well-recognized psychiatric disorder that deserves your attention.  

If you suspect you have health anxiety the first and foremost step that you need to take is to acknowledge the possibility that you are suffering from this disorder. 

I understand that for certain individuals, seeing a psychiatrist or going into therapy at the moment may not be a feasible option. 

You can adopt these 5 strategies into your everyday lives to effectively cope with health anxiety. 

  1. Work Up A Sweat. 

We have all been taught the importance of exercise for a physically fit body since a young age. 

However, exercise also plays a major part in an individual’s mental well-being, something that is rarely emphasized. 

It is a common misconception that in order to reap the mental benefits of exercise, it has to be strenuous and intense.  

Simply indulging in a physical activity that you enjoy is enough to get your heart rate going and pump more oxygen into your brain. 

This in turn aids the release of certain chemicals in the brain that can help you manage your anxiety.  

The activities you participate in can be something as simple as heading out for a walk with your partner or your dog, swimming, playing a sport that you enjoy, or just walking in the house while listening to an audiobook of your choice.  

I honestly understand that it may be difficult for you to exercise while you are preoccupied with concerns related to your health. 

However, religiously investing only 30 to 60 minutes in some form of physical activity each day can significantly help you manage hypochondriasis.  

  1. Resist The Urge To Self-Diagnose. 

While the internet is a blessing for most of us, it can feel like a curse to individuals with health anxiety. 

You can find a plethora of articles and self-assessment tests related to every illness imaginable to man.  

With just one simple google search, you may find a list of disorders associated with your symptoms. Most, if not all, of them wrong. 

Trying to self-diagnose every symptom that you feel is a sure-shot way to make your health anxiety a lot worse than it really is.  

You will do yourself a huge favor by simply staying off the internet and not reaching for your phone to diagnose your new disease, which most likely isn’t real! 

If the problem you are experiencing is causing you a lot of distress, the best solution would be to get it physically checked by your doctor. 

This brings us to our next point… 

  1. Trust Your Doctor Without Second Guessing Everything They Say. 

It may be a wise call to go for a second opinion in some cases but keep in mind, this is necessary in very rare situations. 

If you second guess your doctor’s diagnosis after each visit, you may find yourself in trouble eventually.  

For example, if your doctor suggests that your rash is most likely due to an allergy and not lupus, trust your doctor! 

More often than not, your doctor is right and your hypothesis about your illness is most likely unwarranted and exaggerated.  

Try to discuss your health anxiety with your doctor. Chances are, your doctor will be supportive and understanding of your situation and do a great job reassuring you that everything is fine. 

Avoid hopping from one doctor to another just because your doctor is not giving you the diagnosis that you desperately want to hear.  

You need to realize and accept that your health anxiety can often play tricks on your mind and changing your doctor each time is not going to benefit you. 

  1. Go Easy On The Caffeine. 

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system which in turn activates your fight-or-flight-response. 

In individuals with a history of health anxiety, this can prove especially triggering because caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious which can potentially result in a panic attack.  

Caffeine consumed in small amounts will not cause a major negative impact on your health anxiety. 

If you are someone who suffers from health anxiety and needs copious amounts of coffee to power through your day, limiting caffeine for a few days may drastically improve your anxiety.  

  1. Face Your Health Anxiety. 

Accepting your condition is the first step towards getting better.  

It may be beneficial for you to read books and resources that are specifically designed for individuals with health anxiety. 

Educating yourself on your disorder will benefit you in the short term as well as long term.  

Teaching yourself what hypochondria looks and feels like can help you stay rational and practical in your battle with this disorder.  

Each time that you choose to let your health anxiety take control of your mind, it grows a little stronger. 

And each time that you recognize that the symptom you’re experiencing is merely due to your hypochondria and is probably not real, it grows a little weaker.  

The goal you need to set for yourself is this – Acknowledge that you are dealing with health anxiety and the panic you are feeling is merely a symptom of your anxiety.  

So the next time you find yourself preoccupied with obsessive thoughts about having a certain illness, pause for a moment.  

Focus on your breathing and calm your mind.  

Do not give in to those obsessive thoughts and stick with the reality.

With a little practice, patience and focus I can vouch for the fact that you can effectively manage your health anxiety. 

Featured Image Source: Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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Please note that these techniques are not intended to replace the professional care of mental health practitioners. Please see your doctor if you believe you might be suffering with anxiety.

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