When you’re living through a pandemic, it’s natural to pay more attention to any symptoms that seem suspicious. However, if these concerns are interfering with the quality of your life, you may be experiencing health anxiety.
That’s the modern name for what used to be called hypochondria. It often starts in early adulthood and grows more serious as you age. You may be convinced that you have one or more major illnesses, even if lab tests and other evidence prove otherwise. Health anxiety varies in intensity. You may be able to put your mind at rest with some effort on your own, or you may need to seek professional care. Try this guide for understanding your options.
Medical Care for Health Anxiety:
- Consider counseling. Health anxiety is often connected to other disorders, including other forms of anxiety. You may benefit from cognitive behavior therapy or similar methods that can help you address your overall well being.
- Take medication. Talk therapy may be enough, or your doctor may prescribe drugs. That could include antidepressants and anxiolytics that reduce anxiety.
- Communicate clearly. If you tend to exaggerate your symptoms, it may be difficult for your doctor to assess your condition. Keeping a journal may help, or you could ask a spouse or partner you live with to share their observations.
- Explore family history. You may be more prone to health anxiety, if you or a family member had a serious illness while you were growing up. Let your doctor know if this could be a factor.
- Seek appropriate care. While many patients with health anxiety spend too much time at the doctor’s office, others go the other extreme. If you’re afraid of finding out you have an illness, keep in mind that early diagnosis can often give you the best possible outcome.
Self Care for Health Anxiety:
- Educate yourself. Maybe you perceive ordinary experiences as being more dangerous than they really are. Learning about common minor ailments could help you keep things in perspective, when you have a headache or an upset stomach.
- Limit online searches. On the other hand, maybe you’re overwhelmed from reading too many medical sites. Take a break and find other pastimes. Like you, I have Googled my symptoms when I felt unwell, and convinced myself it was time to get my affairs in order.
- Help others. Shifting the focus away from yourself is one of the most effective and constructive distractions. Volunteer at a food bank or animal shelter in your area. Start a community garden in your neighborhood. Find a cause you can get behind.
- Manage stress. Chronic tension can aggravate any condition, including anxiety. Try to think positive. Experiment with relaxation techniques to find what works for you. Listen to music, or book a massage.
- Be active. Do you avoid doing things you used to enjoy because you think you’re not strong enough? Encouraging yourself to stay engaged could lift your spirits and help you to be more realistic about your abilities.
- Sleep well. Anxiety interferes with sleep, and sleep deprivation leaves you feeling out of sorts. Make it a priority to stick to a consistent bedtime that gives you 7 to 8 hours of rest each night. Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially later in the evening.
- Breathe deeply. For fast relief, practice breathing exercises that can calm you down or give you energy.
- Build support. Let your family and friends know how they can help you. Talking with someone you trust may help you deal with emotional issues that could be contributing to your health anxiety.
If you think you or a loved one may be troubled by excessive and irrational health concerns, talk with your doctor. An effective treatment plan can help you to take care of your mental and physical wellbeing and enjoy life more. The next three posts will offer ways and tips to help family members with anxiety. Look forward to having you.
To Your Success,