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Being concerned about your health is not the same as having health anxiety. Concern about your health leads to healthier habits like eating balanced meals and regular exercise. On the other hand, health anxiety usually leads to sleeplessness, panic attacks, etc. Usually, people with health anxiety misinterpret benign physical symptoms as serious.
For example, if you accidentally rolled over your arm and it went numb, a person with no health anxiety will just shake it off and ignore it. However, a person with health anxiety will often panic that they will have a stroke. It’s a huge difference and a very serious one.
What is Health Anxiety?
Long story short, health anxiety is a mental health condition that causes a person to be overly paranoid about their health to the point of irrationality and, sometimes, self-destruction. However, people sometimes can’t distinguish between being concerned with their health and health anxiety.
If you’re confused, here are some signs of health anxiety.
- You have no symptoms but still fear that you’re sick.
- Their reassuring words don’t alleviate your worries when a doctor tells you otherwise.
- You find yourself constantly researching your supposed illness.
- You read about a disease somewhere, and you worry that you may have it.
- Your worries are constantly giving you difficulties living your life.
You may have health anxiety if you think you have one or multiple of these symptoms. In this situation, going to a professional would be the right decision. A professional will prescribe some medications if you need them and tell you some tips on coping with them. Speaking of coping, here are some tips on how to cope with health anxiety.
Change Your Attention
People with health anxiety often focus on a specific part of their body, especially one involved in a particular disease or disorder they’re obsessing about.
The more they focus on that part of the body, the more they’ll notice some details that fuel the fire. The discovery of these mundane details will trigger some worrying baseless thoughts that they will constantly obsess over.
Ironically, the added anxiety will trigger the additional physical sensation that will worsen things a bit more. You can see how this can be a cycle, which will probably escalate the more you worry about it.
That said, one thing that you can do is redirect your attention to something else. You can accomplish this by doing something to distract yourself, like chores, games, or TV.
Don’t Self- Diagnose
If you’re nervous about having some kind of disorder or disease, you may think that looking up more information about the condition can alleviate your anxiety. It can do the opposite.
It’s like filling up holes in your theories, which can worsen your anxiety. While the internet can be a helpful tool, it can often lead to rabbit holes, which can be hard to dig yourself out from.
If you look hard enough, you’ll eventually find something that you have, which will further give you triggering thoughts, such as self-diagnosis. Instead, you can talk to your doctor about this and let them diagnose. Doctors can prescribe you some medications for the symptoms you’re having.
Not only that, if you get diagnosed, they can even help you pick plan quotes so that you don’t have to add the stress of your finances to your health anxiety.
But can you switch if you didn’t like the initial plan? Of course! And they can help you with that too. But remember that you can only make changes twice per year, so think about the plans you’re considering first before committing.
Focus on Relaxing
One of the effects of having health anxiety is stress. It sure is stressful since you keep going through a cycle of misinformation and self-diagnosis. That said, one thing you can do is focus on relaxing when you think you’re going into a searching spree on Google.
You can do this, for example, by listening to music. Music can help people relax a lot, especially soothing music. However, people tend to go on autopilot, making them prone to triggering thoughts. The key here is to avoid those thoughts, so what you can do is focus on the lyrics. By focusing on the lyrics, you’ll distract yourself and allow yourself to fully immerse in the music.
Challenge Your Worrying Thoughts
Thoughts are not facts. They are just your own words that are usually not based on reality, especially when we’re dealing with health anxiety. When we contemplate, our minds often wander around possibilities that can sometimes be irrational and baseless.
When you’re having triggering thoughts like, “I have a heart condition” or “I have cancer,” instead of searching for information supporting your claim, you can tell yourself that it’s all in your head.
This is called cognitive defusion. It’s a way for you to challenge your thoughts by reframing them. For example, let’s take the previous statement, “I have a heart condition.” Instead of saying it like that, you can say, “I’m only telling myself that something’s wrong with my heart, and that’s completely baseless.”
Like other types of anxiety disorders, health anxiety can be debilitating, interfering with our daily lives. Luckily for us, there are many coping techniques that medical professionals can teach us. Doing these tips and leading a more optimistic outlook on life can significantly reduce your health anxiety over time.