Health anxiety is a form of anxiety that causes an individual to be preoccupied with symptoms within their body and constantly fear deadly and harmful diseases. Individuals with health anxiety often feel helpless with their symptoms and even after being told they are fine by a professional, they have an issue believing it is true.
With health anxiety, an individual has repetitive, recurring thoughts about illness. These thoughts are challenging to get rid of. A common myth about hypochondriacs, or someone who suffer from health anxiety, is that they are constantly going to the doctor. Some hypochondriacs fear the doctor and worry about the possible diagnoses they will receive.
The White Plains Anxiety and Phobia Center created a list of 6 principles to help those experiencing health anxiety
- Learn the truth about yourself—the particular physical symptoms you characteristically develop, over and over again, in the face of stress. For example, fatigue, back pain, panic attacks, palpitations, etc. These accustomed complaints are not likely to reflect some new physical disorder.
- Confront your fears. Thinking the unthinkable diminishes fear. (This is an allusion to the “Nightmare Fantasy” in which patients are asked to imagine, in detail, the worst-case scenario of their fears. It is possible to desensitize to a fear of illness and death by fantasizing.)
- Avoid checking and the search for empty reassurance. (Patients are not allowed to ask the same question twice.)
- Think of the odds against being desperately ill rather than the stakes. (“Wouldn’t it be awful if I died suddenly from a ruptured aneurysm?” “Yes, but what are the chances of that happening?”)
- Do not seek absolute certainty or safety.
- Live in a healthy way. (Including principles of eating properly and exercising.)
Clark, David A.; & Radomsky, Adam S. (2014). Introduction: A global perspective on unwanted intrusive thoughts. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. Available online 18 February 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.jocrd.2014.02.001 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211364914000128