“My blood clotted after I bumped my head on the wall. I might have internal hemorrhage.”
“My stomach aches. I might have stomach cancer!”
“I am constantly constipated. I might develop colon cancer.”
As outsider, you immediately notice that these worries are exaggerated and it’s useless to worry over things that are not there.
However, all of us suffer from health problems and worry about our health from time to time. But some people worry excessively about their health it becomes a problem itself. This is called health anxiety syndrome, also known as hypochondria.
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What Is Hypochondria?
Hypochondria is an excessive worry about your health that reaches the point where it becomes the cause of serious distress and affects your everyday life. Some people with health anxiety syndrome are also suffering from certain medical conditions which they worry about excessively. Others have medically unexplained symptoms including chest pains and headaches which they worry about too much even when doctors assure them. Other people may just permanently feel anxious about their health and worry they might get cancer or heart disease, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
Why Does Health Anxiety Exist? What Are Its Causes?
There are reasons why a person worries too much about his/her health. These include:
Stressful Period In A Person’s Life
A person may have hypochondria because he/she is going through a stressful period in his/her life such as experiencing the death of a loved one or illness in the family. Also work stress or issues in relationships can cause stress which leads to health anxiety syndrome.
You might be a worrier in general which would make you vulnerable to health anxiety syndrome. It is difficult for you to deal with emotions and conflicts, and you tend to “catastrophize” when you encounter problems in life. Certain pessimism as well as always thinking of the worst case scenario is very typical for you.
Mental Health Conditions
You may have hypochondria because you have a mental health condition you are not yet aware of. You might be experiencing depression or an anxiety disorder and you need to recognize it and address it properly.
What Are The Types of Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety can be categorized into two types, namely:
- Avoidant behavior – This behavior includes avoiding medical TV programs, doctor’s appointments, avoiding exercise or taking medicines, and anything else that can trigger anxiety.
- Constantly seeking information and reassurance – A person with health anxiety might obsessively research about diseases, overbook appointments with the doctor, or have frequent medical tests that don’t find any health problems.
None of these behaviors are helpful in dealing with health anxiety and should be immediately addressed to break the vicious cycle of health anxiety.
How Do You Know If You Have Health Anxiety Syndrome?
If you answer “yes” to most of the following questions, it’s possible that you are affected by health anxiety:
- Do you need constant reassurance from doctors, friends, and family that you are well or feel unconvinced even if they assure you that you’re fine?
- Don’t you believe your doctor over a diagnosis or feel unconvinced when your doctor assures you that you don’t have any health problems?
- Do you constantly feel the need to carry out self examinations or self diagnosis?
- Are you preoccupied with having a serious disease because of symptoms that lasted at least 6 months?
- Is this preoccupation negatively affecting your work, relationship, and social life?
How Can You Address Health Anxiety Syndrome?
If your answer to most, if not all, of the questions above is “Yes” and you feel excessive worry about your health, you might have health anxiety.
One of the most effective treatments for health anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy is done with a licensed mental health expert who helps you identify the emotions and thoughts you experience and cope with them. Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change the thought patterns that cause health anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy should help you develop ways to adapt with the symptoms of health anxiety, understand what makes the symptoms worse, and keep you more active despite the symptoms you have.
Cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective, but for some people it may not be the best treatment. Other form of treatments such as trauma-focused therapy or a psychotherapy may help address a specific psychological condition.
This is why you should go to your doctor first to understand your condition so you can know what the best treatment for your health anxiety is.
Only you can help yourself, not your doctor, family, or friends. There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself cope with health anxiety. Reading some self help guides can provide you with information about your situation, advice, and exercises that you can try. One of the most effective self-help programs is Panic Miracle, which has helped over 97% of its users. When waiting for the doctor appointment, you can start treating your anxiety yourself, making the recovery faster and easier.
Medications Such As Antidepressants
For some people, medications can be very helpful and can even work better that cognitive behavioral therapy. But before opting for medication, you should understand how they are used and the side effects that come with them. You should weigh the pros and cons of taking medication. If you can still bear with health anxiety and there are other options, don’t use medications to treat health anxiety.
Health Anxiety Can be Vicious Circle
If you constantly worry about a health problem that doesn’t actually exist, there might come a time when you develop a certain health problem. This health problem may be caused by other factors, but health anxiety might contribute to its inception. If you begin experiencing the symptoms of the real health problem, you might experience more anxiety, thus worsening your health anxiety. If you develop a more serious health anxiety syndrome, your symptoms might get worse which can even lead to panic attacks or depression.
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Hypochondria can be a serious psychological problem that can even lead to actual health problems and other psychological problems such as depression and panic attacks. Now that you know the signs of health anxiety and how to address it, health anxiety is no longer a mystery and you now know what to do. In any case, it is best to talk to your doctor before jumping to the conclusion that you are experiencing health anxiety syndrome.