Health anxiety (or hypochondria) is when you become obsessed with the idea that you are – or will be – physically ill. Worrying about your health can lead you to miss out on experiences in your life and even develop physical symptoms.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, it is understandable to be more aware and wary of physical illnesses – however if you are experiencing so much anxiety about your health that you are struggling to focus on anything else, you may want to consider seeking help.
Health anxiety symptoms
You may be struggling with health anxiety if you:
- Visit/call your GP regularly
- Worry that medical tests and doctor’s examinations may miss something wrong with you
- Frequently check yourself for signs of serious illness and self-diagnose
- Constantly worry about your physical health
- Obsessively research health information online
- Avoid reading, watching or listening to things that talk about physical illnesses (e.g. medical dramas, case studies, etc)
- Live your life as if you were ill even when you’re not – taking sick days, avoiding physical activity, not travelling far from home
Physical symptoms of health anxiety
Health anxiety can also manifest in several physical symptoms brought on by continuous stress and worrying, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Panic attacks
- Dry mouth
- Racing heartbeat
- Aching body and muscles
Help with health anxiety
There are a few different ways you can manage your health anxiety
- Write down and challenge your thoughts – rather than letting worries build in your mind, jot them down along with some reasons why they might not be true e.g. “I’m getting lots of headaches which means there’s something wrong with me” leads to “headaches are often a sign of stress” which in turn leads you to question what’s causing stress and address it.
- Keep busy – when you feel the urge to check yourself or research illnesses, go for a walk or do an activity that keeps your mind distracted.
- Face your fears – if there’s a part of your life you’ve been avoiding (such as exercise or travel), start to introduce these back into your routine to gradually become more comfortable doing them and teach your brain that these activities aren’t dangerous.
- Talk to someone about your health anxiety – talk to a friend, your workplace mental health first aider or use services like our Breathe Café Online to get support from trained volunteers.
- Talk to a professional – if these self-help ideas don’t work to relieve your health anxiety over time, contact a GP or mental health professional for more support.
Anxiety of any kind is debilitating. It can destroy productivity and takes the joy out of life.
At Shawmind, we’re here to help you enjoy your life and perform at your best through support groups, mental health training and professional advice.