…you may be experiencing health anxiety.
Ask yourself the following questions:
· Do you worry you may have or will develop a serious medical problem e.g. cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s Disease, MS, a mental illness such as schizophrenia, a thyroid disorder, heart problem etc.?
· Do you worry that any bodily sensations/changes are a sign of a serious medical problem?
· Do you find it difficult to control or let go of your health worries?
· Do you mentally scan your body and/or mind for signs that something is wrong?
· Do you find yourself focusing your attention on your bodily sensations or symptoms?
· Do you physically check your body for symptoms and changes?
· Do you frequently visit health professionals (e.g., GPs, specialists) to discuss your health concerns and symptoms or to have tests performed?
· Or do you avoid health professionals because you are too worried about your health and/or test results?
· Do you continue to worry about your health despite your doctor’s reassurance or despite negative tests?
· Do you search for information about your symptoms (e.g., on the internet, in books, in pamphlets from health clinics)?
· Do you often find yourself discussing your symptoms with family and/or friends?
· Do you ever avoid people, places or activities that trigger off your health worries or particular physical sensations e.g. exercising, TV programmes or newspaper articles?
We can all worry about our health from time to time. Who hasn’t been concerned when we are waiting for some test results to come back, or had some worrisome thoughts about a new lump or bump that we have noticed? So, at what point does mild health anxiety become a problem?
Health concerns can become a problem when they:
• Are excessive,
• Are out of proportion to the realistic likelihood of having an actual and serious medical problem
• Are persistent despite negative test results and/or reassurance from your health practitioner,
• Lead to unhelpful behaviours such as excessive body focus, body checking, reassurance seeking (e.g., from doctors, internet, family, friends), or avoidance (e.g., of check-ups, doctors, health related information), and
• Cause you significant distress, or impair your ability to go about your day-to-day life.
Who develops health anxiety and why? There are many possible reasons why you might become over-anxious about your health.
· Being a ‘worrier’
· Feeling under a lot of stress at the moment
· Knowing someone who is seriously ill or may have died
· Reading or hearing about a serious illness in the media
· Having an illness yourself and continuing to worry despite your doctor saying you have been successfully treated
· Having a family member with health anxiety
Your therapist at the British CBT and Counselling Service will be able to help you understand why your health anxiety developed.