Health Anxiety: The Constant Fear of Illness

Understanding Health Anxiety

Ever laid there late at night Googling symptoms, convinced you've got the latest disease making headlines, even though your doctor tells you you're perfectly healthy? Hey, I’ve been there, trust me. Health Anxiety, previously known as hypochondriasis, is a condition characterized by a misconception that physical symptoms are indicators of a serious illness, even when there is no medical evidence to support the presence of an illness. Fear of being ill is a fear like any other; it’s the fear of the unknown. From my own experience, knowledge is power. Understanding this anxiety disorder can be the first step in managing it.

Causes of Health Anxiety

Honestly, I always wondered why I’d spiral down the Ioogle rabbit hole, worried one headache was a sign of the worst headache of all time. Was it because of that one time I had a fever? Or just my everyday curiosity getting the best of me? In fact, the causes and triggers of Health Anxiety are as varied and unique as we are. From a family history of health anxiety or other mental health disorders, to a previous serious health scare or excessive health-related Internet browsing (guilty as charged) - there is a wide range of causes for this mind-boggling anxiety disorder. Understanding these causes can help in figuring out coping mechanisms and ways to manage it.

Signs and Symptoms of Health Anxiety

I mean, who wouldn’t freak out when sore throat lasts longer than it should or a chronic headache emerged out of nowhere? Identifying the signs and symptoms of Health Anxiety is crucial - constant worry over health, conducting frequent self-examinations, constantly seeking reassurance from others, and regular doctor visits are just a few to name. If you're frequently checking WebMD or similar sites and always believe you have the diseases you're reading about, you may have Health Anxiety. Speaking of which, I once convinced myself I had an alien parasite – you know that evening Mabel fell asleep early, and I binge-watched all the 'Alien' movies. Trust me, that was one hell of a night!

Help and Support for Health Anxiety

I can't emphasize this enough - you are NOT alone. Since my 'alien parasite' incident, I became aware of the weight that acknowledgment, help, and support can carry. Circle the wagons, gather friends, family, a supportive doctor, and perhaps a mental health professional. There are numerous treatments available, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Therapy and medication for managing symptoms in severe cases. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a good laugh - have a friend with a great sense of humor? Stick close to them. A good mood can lighten the load.

Self Help Tips for Health Anxiety

But remember, while friends, family and medical professionals can provide valuable support, don't dismiss the power of self-help. I created a 'chill zone' in my house, and it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself lately. A spot where I put on soothing music, practice deep breathing, or simply focus on a good book or a light-hearted show. Consciously avoiding health-related programs, books, articles, or general media can also play a significant part in managing this lesser-known, but very real form of anxiety. Engaging in physical exercise and maintaining healthy sleep patterns has worked wonders too. And remember, stay hydrated!

Meditation and Mindfulness for Health Anxiety

Some days, when Mabel dozes off and the house is finally quiet, I dedicate some time for meditation. I can already hear some of you saying "Addison, how am I supposed to meditate when I think there's a ticking time bomb in my body waiting to explode?" I get it, but believe me, mindfulness and meditation can be magic pills. They allow you to focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress, improve concentration and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety disorders, including Health Anxiety. So, get those Yoga mats out, tune in to your favorite meditation app and just breathe in, breathe out.