If you worry about your health, you’re not alone. Around half of all people will experience some sort of health-related anxiety during the course of their adult lives.
In some cases, the fear is justified. Many times there are real problems with your body that you need to address. However, most of the time, issues are not serious – just minor medical annoyances.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how the mind sees them. The brain has an annoying habit of blowing things up out of proportion and catastrophizing. “What if it’s cancer?”
What Form Does Health Anxiety Take?
People with health anxiety generally believe that they are suffering from severe disease such as HIV or dementia. Their fear is that they will get an incurable condition and will be saddled with health problems for their entire lives.
What sets people like this apart is that they assume that even minor symptoms could potentially be something more serious. So, for instance, they might conclude that an ache in their stomach is cancer when, in fact, it could be any number of things.
People with health anxiety fear the impact that being seriously ill could have on their lifestyle. They tend to be go-getter type people who want to live life to the full. They don’t want their health to fail them.
Ironically, health anxiety can actually undermine the ability to enjoy life. Severe forms of the condition see people fretting about their bodies from the moment they get up until they go to sleep. They concoct all sorts of theories as to why they are feeling how they are feeling, and then confirm their suspicions on websites instead of going to a doctor.
When It Isn’t Health Anxiety
Suppose for instance, you’re involved in a serious accident and break your leg. If you go to a personal injury attorney and tell them what happened, it isn’t necessarily a function of anxiety. Instead, something obvious and easily-diagnosable happened that you need to sort out.
Likewise, it isn’t health anxiety when your physician tells you that you do have a serious medical condition. When you have sure knowledge, anxiety becomes grief, and you begin the process of accepting your limitations or mortality.
Health anxiety occurs when you don’t have any confirmation of a medical condition. You believe that you might have it because you fear the worst outcome, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
Treating Health Anxiety
The good news is that health anxiety is a treatable problem. It’s something that you can address with cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques.
Generally, it is not helpful to tell people with health anxiety that their symptoms are fake. It is much better to explain that it is a real psychological condition but leave the possibility that the sufferer may be genuinely sick open.
If you think that you might have health anxiety, consider your mental state. If you have symptoms, do you automatically believe that it must be something serious? Does this thought process cause you distress?
If it does, there are treatment options and medications available.