Feeling overwhelmed by health anxiety? It may seem like there’s no way to stop worrying. But we’ve got tips to help!
Read on to learn how to reduce the power of health anxiety attacks and get back in control. Simple techniques await!
Do you suffer from health anxiety? It is a state of constant worry or fear of illness. If left untreated, these attacks can worsen. Fortunately, there are ways to help manage health anxiety.
This guide will explain how to reduce the severity of health anxiety attacks and improve your well-being.
Definition of Health Anxiety
Health anxiety is also known as hypochondria or illness anxiety disorder. It is an intense, lasting fear of having a severe physical illness. People with health anxiety think they have a sickness or will become ill, even if there is no proof.
They are fixated on physical ‘symptoms’ that don’t fit any serious medical condition.
This unease can be especially bad when fear-avoidance behaviors happen in regard to visiting the doctor. This can result in long delays in the diagnosis or treatment of any actual medical issue.
Those who go through this may have irrational fears about their health that disrupt everyday life and relationships.
Symptoms of Health Anxiety
Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety disorder, is characterized by intense fear and worry about having a serious illness. People who suffer from it may experience physical symptoms too, like a fast heartbeat, tightness in the chest or throat, heat or cold sensations, feeling faint, nausea, and dizziness.
Symptoms of health anxiety include:
- Fear of being sick despite medical reassurance that you are healthy
- Worrying that minor physical issues could be a sign of a serious health issue
- Googling symptoms to find out what’s wrong
- Going to the doctor for reassurance
- Being unable to focus on everyday activities due to thoughts of health
- Excessively worrying about test results even after good results
Causes of Health Anxiety
Health anxiety, or hypochondria, is a growing problem. It’s essential to understand its causes and triggers.
One cause is a lack of control. People with health anxiety obsessively focus on symptoms and illnesses, feeling out of control. They may research medical conditions and seek medical attention for minor ailments, to gain control. This leads to more anxiety.
Another cause is perfectionism or unrealistic expectations of physical health. They worry excessively about minor ailments or failures in physical performance, as they can’t be perfect all the time.
Experiences such as having family members who suffered from chronic illnesses or growing up surrounded by fear-driven messages can also contribute to health anxiety. Other risk factors include personality traits like neuroticism, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. An unwillingness to accept uncertainty around one’s own bodily concerns can also lead to preoccupation with physical well-being and worries when seeking medical attention.
Coping Strategies for Health Anxiety
Health anxiety, aka hypochondria or health phobia, is a worrying state which is disabling and long-lasting. It affects your physical and psychological well-being. It’s hard to cope but there are strategies that may help.
- Get Professional Aid: If feeling overwhelmed by health anxiety, seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist. They can give you tools & strategies to manage anxieties in a healthy way.
- Address Fears: Identify the specific fears related to health anxieties. Then find ways to proactively address them instead of avoiding them. Talk back to negative thoughts & challenge them logically.
- Relaxation Techniques: Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, meditation, reading or music. These help to reduce stress levels & calm mind & body.
- Distract Yourself: Develop alternative methods to calm during episodes of panic attack. Engage in physical exercise or mental activity such as crosswords, art therapy, playing video games etc. This will keep your brain occupied with something other than worrying thoughts.
Professional Treatment for Health Anxiety
Professional help for health anxiety can include different services. It’s important to get a trained mental health professional with experience in treating health anxiety.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that is time-limited and skills-focused. It helps individuals understand how thoughts affect feelings and behavior. It also helps resolve unhealthy beliefs that lead to anxiety attacks.
Biofeedback uses monitors to display respiration, HRV, and other physiological measures. It teaches individuals how physical activities can reduce stress related to health anxiety.
Relaxation techniques use physical and psychological strategies to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. They reduce stress caused by fear of ill health.
Counseling works on personal issues related to past experiences or current relationships that may cause health anxiety symptoms. A therapist will explore any underlying issues and provide strategies for coping.
Self-Help Techniques for Health Anxiety
Health anxiety is both physical and mental in nature. It is often accompanied by worry or fear about one’s own health or the health of those around them. Though self-help techniques can help, long-term relief may require seeing a doctor or therapist.
To manage symptoms during acute distress, try:
- Learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, and guided imagery.
- Doing something to distract from worrisome thoughts, such as taking a walk, listening to music, or reading.
- Accepting the thoughts, instead of resisting them. Working with a therapist to develop healthier thought patterns can also be beneficial.
- Practicing good sleep hygiene and eating habits. This maintenance can help manage physical and mental stress symptoms.
Taking the time for health anxiety can help reduce it. It is important to focus on both the mental and physical aspects of a health anxiety attack. Breath, beliefs, thoughts and sensations can be managed through mindfulness-based practices. These can reduce the intensity of an episode.
Additionally, healthy lifestyle habits can help. These include healthy routines, balanced meals, enough sleep, regular exercise, medication if needed, and managing stress. Being aware of strategies to calm yourself can make it easier to manage anxiety attacks.
With self-awareness and control, the frequency and intensity of health anxiety episodes can be reduced over time.