Coping With Health Anxiety
Whether you’re waiting for important blood test results or coping with challenging physical symptoms, it can be easy to get anxious about your health. Long nights looking up symptoms on the internet and obsessing over every physical sensation may be a sign of health anxiety disorder. Such patients may feel strange pain and immediately assume they have a serious disorder like cancer or HIV.
According to some experts, up to 24 percent of people may live with some form of health anxiety. However, some people feel worried about their health only after the doctor shows some concern. This type of worry may come as people wait for test results or after getting a serious diagnosis. It’s only natural to worry about the outcome in such situations.
Whether your anxiety is rooted in mental or physical health, there are coping techniques that can help you through these difficult emotions.
You're not alone.
Our providers can help.
Do Not Search the Internet for Answers
Perhaps one of the worst things someone with health anxiety can do is conduct an online search about their anxieties. This only feeds into the fears and deepens the anxiety spiral. The truth is that an online search about medical problems is unlikely to give anyone anything but bad news. After all, nobody writes articles about the time they had a headache that turned out to be nothing, even though that is much more common than a brain tumor.
Find The Right Doctor For You
There are many capable doctors in the country, but not every doctor will be right for every patient. If you have health anxiety, make sure you find a doctor that will take your needs seriously and give you honest answers about your health.
You should also feel comfortable discussing your anxiety with your primary care doctor. If they know how nervous you feel, they can take care to fully explain things to you and make you feel at ease.
Reassess Your Risk
When someone with health anxiety has an uncomfortable or painful sensation in the body, they often assume the worst. For example, you may have a slightly swollen lymph node and think about cancer right away. While lymph nodes sometimes get inflamed from cancer, this can also happen due to many common, benign illnesses as well.
If you find your mind racing to the worst possible scenario, take a deep breath and reassess your risk. Try to remove the fear from this assessment. Is it more likely that your lymph nodes are swollen because you’re fighting off an infection or because you suddenly developed cancer? While you should still seek medical care if you think you need it, reassessing your risk can help you remain calm until you have an answer.
Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Whether you’re struggling with chronic health anxiety or worried about a specific health issue, CBT can help. In CBT, patients meet with therapists about once per week, though the timeline can differ depending on the patient’s need.
During each session, the patient discusses their feelings and anxieties. Together, the patient and therapist identify unhealthy habits and thinking patterns. From there, they can work to reverse those patterns and create new habits. Therapists give CBT patients tools they can use any time they feel anxious about their health.
If you are dealing with health anxiety, you do not have to go it alone. LifeStance Health therapists are here to help. Our compassionate mental health professionals can help you understand and change your feelings.