Health Anxiety is a collection of behaviors closely related to OCD that involves the subject spending so much time worrying that are sick or going to fall sick that it takes over their life. (source: NHS) You might have heard of the closely related phenomenon called ‘hypochondria’ or ‘illness anxiety disorder’.
People with Hypochondria have an unrealistic fear that they have or are prone to certain illnesses. This involves misinterpreting typical bodily functions as signs of illness. (Source: Cleveland Clinic) Even with medical tests, there is the fear that tests might have missed something. In medical settings, the term ‘ilness anxiety disorder’ is used instead of hypochodria or health anxiety.
There are two categories that people with Illness anxiety fit into:
- Care-seeking: This involves the person spending a lot of time in a healthcare setting and requesting tests along with seeing multiple specialists.
- Care-avoidant: This involves the person avoiding medical care and mistrusting health professionals creating a cycle of more fear and anxiety.
Health Anxiety, how to beat it?
According to the NHS, here are the main ways to combat Health anxiety. Please note that if Health anxiety impairs your general functioning that it is recommended you contact your health provider at once.
- Keep a diary
Keeping a track of problematic behaviors (how often you check your body, ask others for reassurance ,etc-) can help you eventually reduce the prevalence of said behaviors.
- Challenge your thoughts
Picking up on problematic behavior and challenging those thoughts when they arise can be a big step towards recovery.
- Keep busy
Keeping busy can distract you from problematic thpoughts. Taking a walk or catching up with a friend can be a good idea to keep you busy.
- Get back to normal activities
If hypochondria has disrupted your routine, it can be helpful getting back to activities that once comforted you.
- Try to relax
Relaxation and meditation can be a great way of gaining control of your situation.
Handling health anxiety can be overwhelming and difficult, but acknowledging the problem is the first step towards wellness. Make sure you are always taking care of your body and not being too harsh on it.