Health anxiety is a condition that is led by an obsessive or irrational fear of becoming ill from a serious medical disease. A person suffering from this condition might imagine experiencing symptoms of an illness like HIV or even cancer when in fact they are completely healthy. It is sometimes also referred to as illness anxiety.
It is important to know when your fear of developing a certain illness enters the bounds of irrationality. Being concerned about your health is normal and getting a regular health check-up is normal too. However, believing that you are sick from a disease that you tested negative for two weeks ago might be indicative of health anxiety.
If you are suffering from this condition, you will find yourself taking the test of a specific disease repeatedly. You may spend hours at the doctor’s clinic convincing a medical health professional that you are ill. You may be extremely anxious because you believe you have a life-threatening illness. This will affect your behaviour towards yourself and others. Your quality of life will be affected, including your day-to-day work, daily chores and even your relationship with your loved ones.
You would also regularly seek health information online and if you come across a new disease, you might think that you are suffering from it. Essentially, you may believe you are suffering from illness even though you are not experiencing any symptoms.
The exact cause of health anxiety is unknown but there are behaviours or factors that may put you at risk of developing health anxiety. Anxiety also tends to worsen with age as older people develop the fear of having memory issues. Some of these factors include:
Other behaviours and factors include a stressful event that you may have recently encountered or are encountering, facing the possibility of a serious illness that turned out to be a minor treatable one, having a personality that causes you to naturally worry about situations, being a victim of abuse in your childhood years, and excessively checking for health issues online.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be very effective in treating health anxiety. It can help you manage this disorder by helping you come to terms with the fact that you are not ill and that you are experiencing health anxiety. This therapy can help you be mindful of your worries, including your body sensations and symptoms, and how to look at them differently. You can avoid going for repeated checkups. Relationships with loved ones will improve as you realise and are aware of your disorder.
Behavioural therapy is another form of psychotherapy which may help you manage this disorder.
If your condition as examined by your doctor seems worse, then you would be prescribed medicines coupled with CBT as a form of treatment. Your doctor would suggest anti-depressants in order to regulate your mood and anxiety.
Health anxiety is a real condition and needs to be taken seriously. Its symptoms may worsen over time, and therefore, diagnosis at the right time may help eliminate a lot of issues including the disruption of relationships and deterioration of mental health.
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