Health Anxiety

 

It is normal to worry about our health. Often this will lead to beneficial lifestyle choices, for example deciding to stop smoking or exercising more often. Health anxiety is charatcerised by a preoccupation with health related worries, even when there is limited medical evidence to support these concerns. Often these worries will relate to a serious life threatening illness (e.g. cancer, HIV, leukemia etc). For some, they will also feel consumed by to a fear of death. People can find these worries so overwhelming that they invest a lot of time into seeking evidence that their health is not at threat. This can be through a variety of different way's, including seeking reassurance and checking for health symptoms. 

Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Common symptoms

There are a variety of different symptoms related to health anxiety. The symptoms you display will relate to the particular worries you have. Here are some common behaviours that those suffering from health related worries may engage with: 

  • Body scanning for lumps, bumps, bruises, moles, changes to body exterior etc.

  • Regularly checking body temperature and/or blood pressure. 

  • Checking for symptoms online.

  • ​Visiting the GP on a regular basis (it is not uncommon for people to feel that their GP is 'fed up 'with them seeking treatment).

  • Regularly asking for reassurance regarding your health from friends, family and professionals.

Treatment for health anxiety

The evidence-base (research and results from clinical trials) recommend a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of health anxiety. This will involve first identifying the beliefs and behaviours that maintain your worries, and secondly learning techniques to help you overcome the problem. 

For most, a course of between twelve to eighteen therapy hours, will be enough for people to feel that they can control their symptoms. However, some may need a more intensive and prolonged treatment, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

At NOSA we will take time to asses your individual needs and work in collaboration with you to recommend a treatment package that best meets your goals.

Helpful resources

https://web.ntw.nhs.uk/selfhelp/leaflets/Health%20Anxiety.pdf

Helpful leaflet explaining more about the specific symptoms of health anxiety, including some self help techniques. 

https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Health-Anxiety

Australian website including free access to self help workbooks for health anxiety. 

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