What is Health Anxiety?

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Michelle Bass PhD RSW RCC

People with health anxiety worry constantly about their health. Health Anxiety is a psychological disorder characterized by irrational and obsessive fears about having a serious illness or being infected. Living with untreated health anxiety has adverse impacts on well being and relationships.

A person who struggles with this disorder
  • constantly checks their bodies for lumps, bumps, pain, moles, and bodily sensations

  • misinterprets bodily signs as evidence of some catastrophic illness

  • spends hours on the internet searching for information on their concerns

  • seeks reassurance from others as loved ones, friends, and doctors

  • is intensely afraid, and these fears preoccupy their minds and cause them significant stress and anxiety and negatively impact many areas of their lives

  • experiences symptoms of anxiety such as racing heart, sweaty palms,

  • may avoid regular check-ups or medical tests as they are convinced it will confirm their worse fears.

Common background histories of people who have this disorder?
  • Growing up with a parent who suffered from anxiety and often this anxiety took the form of preoccupation with body symptoms.

  • Having a parent or sibling who had a serious health issue

  • Having a serious illness themselves as a child

  • Dealing with traumatic and stressful life events

What can you do?

Psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective in managing Health Anxiety. Through psychoeducation and skill training, you can learn to about your triggers, deal effectively with intrusive and unhelpful thoughts about and gain skills in managing health anxiety and dealing with life’s uncertainties.

Significant others can also benefit from psychological support to better understand this disorder and how not be caught in the seeking reassurance trap that becomes so much part of their relationship.

Learn How Your Path Counselling Can Help with Anxiety.

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