Overcoming Health Anxiety/Hypochondriasis

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Worrying  Too Much About Health & Physical Symptoms

Health anxiety happens because people catastrophically misinterpret health related information.  e.g. a lump in the breast or testes MUST be cancer, forgetting someone’s name MUST be a symptom of dementia.
(N.B. Of course anyone who finds a lump in their breast or testes should consult their doctor to rule out cancer).
Health anxiety sufferers may become worried by:
  • reading articles or seeing programs about diseases
  • knowing someone who has a disease
  • things they observe about their own body, their physical symptoms, etc.

 

Hypochondriasis / health anxiety can lead to people

  • visiting their doctor far more times a year than is warranted, seeking reassurance about their symptoms
  • seeking multiple medical opinions for the same physical symptoms/conditions
  • suffering insomnia, having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep because of their excessive worrying
  • seeking expensive diagnostic tests which are not warranted and even undergoing diagnostic procedures repeatedly
  • developing unhelpful behaviours such as avoiding exercise, resting excessively, taking unnecessary drugs, avoiding medical information
  • making their health a major topic of conversation
  • annoying their friends and relatives by repeatedly seeking reassurance regarding their health
  • spending hours on the internet researching their physical and /or mental symptoms, possible diagnoses and treatments

 

Health Anxiety / Hypochondria Symptoms

  • Sufferers worry that they have a serious disease as they misinterpret their physical and/or mental  symptoms.
  • Health anxiety sufferers continue to worry even after consulting their doctor and being given reassurance.
  • Hypochondriacs suffer much distress or are impaired in their ability to function at work, or socially.
  • The excessive worrying about health has persisted for at least 6 months
  • The worrying about health cannot be attributed to another disorder such as: generalised anxiety, OCD, panic disorder, depression , separation anxiety etc.

 

Jacob’s story

Jacob, a relative, rang me because he was convinced he had testicular cancer. He based his self diagnosis on the fact he had pain in his testes. I googled testicular pain and found that there were over 100 possible diagnoses (some of them serious, some not).
One of the least serious diagnoses was a testicular infection so I suggested to him that perhaps he only had an infection. He went to  his doctor and found that he did in fact have an infection, however he was highly stressed and catastrophising that he had cancer until he was given the all clear from the doctor.
However, his relief was short lived, as then he started worrying that the doctor may have misdiagnosed him.
Names have been changed

 

How to Stop Being a Hypochondriac

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a Treatment Option.

Cognitive behavioural treatment involves:

  • Self monitoring
  • Identifying  and challenging negative thoughts
  • Modifying abnormal illness related behaviours. e.g. checking, reassurance seeking
  • Identifying and correcting core beliefs using  disputation and behavioural experiments

 

Attention training and worry postponement may also be part of treatment for health anxiety.

 

You can consult a psychologist for help.

If you have symptoms relating to Hypochondriasis consulting a clinical psychologists can help. For a Melbourne psychologist, call us at 03 9819 3671 and start feeling better.

 

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Please note, it is important to consult a qualified mental health practitioner such as e.g. a psychologist or psychiatrist to confirm any diagnosis you think you might have. You must not rely on the information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No assurance can be given that the information on this site will always include the most recent developments or research with respect to a particular topic.

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