What is health anxiety?

Asked 13-Jul-2023
Updated 18-Jul-2023
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Health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety disorder or hypochondriasis, is a mental health condition that causes excessive worry about having a serious illness. People with health anxiety may have no physical symptoms, or they may misinterpret normal body sensations as signs of a serious illness. Even after medical tests show that they are healthy, people with health anxiety may continue to worry that they are sick.

Health anxiety can be a very debilitating condition. It can interfere with work, school, relationships, and other aspects of life. People with health anxiety may spend a lot of time worrying about their health, and they may avoid activities that they enjoy because they are afraid of getting sick. They may also seek reassurance from doctors and other healthcare providers, but this reassurance is often short-lived.

What is health anxiety

The exact cause of health anxiety is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics: Some people may be more genetically predisposed to developing health anxiety.
  • Life experiences: Traumatic life experiences, such as the death of a loved one from a serious illness, may increase the risk of developing health anxiety.
  • Personality traits: People who are more anxious or worrywarts may be more likely to develop health anxiety.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for health anxiety, but there are a number of effective treatments available. These include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT):** CBT is a type of therapy that helps people to change their thinking patterns and behaviors. In CBT for health anxiety, people learn to challenge their negative thoughts about their health and to develop more realistic beliefs about illness.
  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps people to face their fears. In exposure therapy for health anxiety, people are gradually exposed to situations that trigger their health anxiety, such as going to the doctor or reading about illness.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be used to treat health anxiety. Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

If you think you may have health anxiety, it is important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. They can help you to assess your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Here are some additional tips for managing health anxiety:

  • Educate yourself about health anxiety. The more you know about this condition, the less likely you are to misinterpret your symptoms.
  • Avoid health websites and forums. These can be a trigger for health anxiety, as they can be full of information about serious illnesses.
  • Focus on the present moment. When you start to worry about your health, take a few deep breaths and focus on your surroundings. Remind yourself that you are safe and healthy right now.
  • Seek support from friends and family. Talking to people you trust can help you to feel less alone and can give you reassurance.

If you are struggling to manage your health anxiety, there are many resources available to help you. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, and they can help you to find the right treatment for you.