Health anxiety is a type of anxiety that describes a person’s constant and intense worry about their health and fear about getting seriously ill when there is no reason to think this (for example absence of symptoms). In some cases, people might worry excessively about an existing condition that is disproportionate to the actual situation, others might fixate on medically unexplained symptoms or some might feel overwhelming preoccupied about the possibility of getting seriously sick in the future. Regardless of the reason behind the constant worry, health anxiety impact significantly on a person’s emotional wellbeing and day-to-day functioning.
Some common symptoms of health anxiety include:
- Excessive preoccupation with having or acquiring a serious illness
- Absence of physical symptoms or if present mild in intensity
- You might engage in excessive health-related behaviours (such as repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness, consulting health professionals, undertaking diagnostic tests and/or procedures, researching possible illnesses online)
- You might exhibit avoidance behaviours (such as avoiding doctor appointments and hospitals, avoiding anything related to serious illness such as medical TV programmes)
- Excessive reassurance seeking from others that you are not ill
- Constant worry that doctors or medical tests have missed something
When to seek help
Health anxiety can be debilitating causing extreme distress to the person suffering. Therapy / counselling can help manage health anxiety in heathier ways and deal with its impact on your life.
Dr Maria Pournara, Chartered Psychologist, has experience dealing with health anxiety and offers therapy / counselling online for health anxiety.