Being concerned about your health is normal and with the pandemic, it’s reasonable that your health worries would be on high alert. With the constant media stream of uncertainty and new virus updates, it is no wonder anxieties are at an all-time high. The tiniest cough could have you rushing to WebMD.
While it is important to take care of your health and be in touch with your body, sometimes paying too much attention can be an issue. Do you find yourself scheduling multiple visits to the doctor and ordering endless medical tests or maybe avoiding medical appointments entirely for fear of a diagnosis? Maybe you feel sick but are showing no signs of symptoms? Do you feel you could be suffering from every illness you see on the news? Is your search history a long list of possible side effects of every new strain of covid? If you answered yes to any of those hypothetical questions, you might be suffering from a disorder classified as health anxiety.
Health anxiety, previously known as hypochondriasis, is an anxiety disorder where your whole focus is on medical illnesses. It’s a hyper-awareness to any ailment, most people are constantly worried about being sick even if they are perfectly healthy. There are two types of health anxiety conditions: illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder.
Illness anxiety disorder is classified as someone who normally has no medical symptoms but has fears of getting sick or having a medical emergency. They often misread their own vitals (breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate) as threatening.
Somatic symptom disorder is when the person has symptoms that are very distressing to them. An example of somatic symptom disorder would be a person focusing intently on stomach pain and can be found obsessing over possible causes of the pain. This disorder can cause extreme anxiety and obsession.
First thing is to rule out possible health concerns by visiting your doctor. Make an appointment and see if it is just health anxiety, there might even be a medical issue so always good to rule out conclusions. It’s also okay to get a second opinion if you are worried about being misdiagnosed.
If you are physically healthy and your medical provider rules out all other concerns, then you might want to have an evaluation with a mental health professional. One of the best methods to combat health anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps people identify their thoughts and behaviors. It focuses on how we think and act in answer to our thoughts. It allows clarity to emotions and helps the person figure out which thoughts are healthy or unhealthy. CBT can help break the cycle of inaccurate thoughts and allow you to reshape the way you see health and illness.
If you or someone you love, feel like health anxiety might be a condition you're worried about, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you feel like CBT might be a good option to combat intrusive thoughts, then we are here to help.
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