It’s normal to worry about the signs and symptoms of illness. We are only human, after all – we’re not indestructible. But, when does a natural concern for your health become something more serious, causing real anxiety problems?
What is health anxiety?
Someone with health anxiety will find themselves worrying a great deal about their health and may think they’re unwell when they’re not. They might check their body regularly for signs of illness, including unusual lumps, pains or other physical sensations. They may also be perpetually frightened of dying.
If you’re constantly completing self-scans of your body or checking parts of your body that particularly worry you throughout the day, this can be extremely draining. Your fear is so severe that you can’t overcome the compulsion to act upon it. This is why health anxiety is often compared to OCD.
Health anxiety can often cause people to check their symptoms online and/or worry about illnesses reported on in the media. It can lead to constantly asking for reassurance from friends, family and even their doctor. But, it can also mean that, even if you are given reassurance from your GP or another medical professional, you do not achieve peace of mind.
What causes health anxiety?
Everyone is different. You may remember an obvious trigger that caused your health anxiety, perhaps a serious illness during childhood or a family member who worries excessively about their health. Or, you may not understand where your anxiety first came from.
For some people, health anxiety can be misdiagnosed. Particularly if your behaviour exhibits symptoms of other mental health problems, such as an eating disorder.
In the following video, lifestyle blogger Kate Murnane shares her journey with health anxiety.
What does health anxiety feel like?
Whatever the reason or cause, health anxiety has a serious impact on a sufferer. Living in constant fear, worrying about your health and checking for new signs and symptoms can all takes their toll, leading to stress-related symptoms.
Anxiety itself can often cause physical symptoms, including a fast heartbeat, chest pain and headaches. Someone with health anxiety may, therefore, mistake these symptoms for illness too and worry they are seriously ill.
Living with this type of anxiety means you’re in a constant state of worry. Despite your logical mind telling you that you’re OK, the anxiety forces you into a feeling of panic. Hypnotherapist Sue Jeffery explains this in her article, ‘Exhausted by anxiety?’
“Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.”
What treatment is available for health anxiety?
There are several different therapeutic approaches that can help with health anxiety, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy for health anxiety may even incorporate CBT techniques and/or neuro linguistic programming (NLP).
The important thing to remember is that your health anxiety may never go away completely – it’s not something that can necessarily be ‘cured’. What various treatment methods can help with, however, is providing you with techniques to get through particularly bad episodes of your anxiety. Some people refer to this as a ‘tool kit’, which can help you to live with (not in fear of) health anxiety.
How can hypnotherapy help?
The aim of hypnotherapy for health anxiety is to bring you a change of perspective. A hypnotherapist can work with you to remove the fear of your health being in danger and replace it with a different, more positive suggestion.
One particular type of hypnotherapy, hypnoanalysis (also known as analytical hypnotherapy), is helpful for discovering and resolving the root cause of certain problems. For this reason, it can be particularly useful for addressing long-standing issues, such as health anxiety.
To find a professional offering hypnoanalysis, use our search tool. Enter your postcode then, in the ‘types of therapy’ drop-down menu, select Hypnoanalysis/Analytical Hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy can also help you to learn relaxation techniques, which can help to calm your mind when anxiety pops up. Often, hypnotherapists will recommend self-help techniques too, such as breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis.
Hypnotherapist Becca Teers shares some simple steps to alleviate anxiety in her article, including exercise, journaling, avoiding alcohol, spending time with loved ones and focusing on a goal. Self-help techniques can help you make the most of your hypnotherapy session, continuing the work outside of the therapy room.