Some worry about our health is a good thing since it helps in keeping us healthy by participating in annual health checkup. However, for some people the anxiety about health can become overwhelming.
Health Anxiety, or Hypochondriasis, is characterized by preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious disease. People experiencing health anxiety misinterpret their physical sensations or minor physical changes as a sign of a serious disease. Examples include:
- A new sunspot on my arm may mean I have skin cancer
- My racing heart is a sign of heart disease
- A headache may mean that I have a brain tumor
The worry persists despite medical tests indicating that a person’s health is fine. People commonly report having anxious thoughts such as “my test results are not accurate”, “what if the doctor has made a mistake and did not detect the disease” or “I should go and get another doctor’s opinion just in case”.
If you are experiencing health anxiety, you may find yourself doing the following;
- Frequently checking and scanning your body for possible signs and symptoms of a disease
- You maybe spending significant amount of time researching medical information
- Seeking reassurance from family and friends
- Getting repeated medical tests done
- You might be avoiding doctors, hospitals, seeing medical information on TV, online or in books.
Treatment for Health Anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on the anxious thoughts or beliefs.