Is Health Anxiety a Form of OCD? Health Anxiety Is Ruining My Life

Written by: Arooj Paulus – B. Sc (Applied Psychology)

Last updated date : March 01, 2023

Fear about getting ill can be quite stressful, especially in today’s world. This fear can create a cycle in which you can get stuck. For instance, a person who takes precautions, washes hands and cleans surfaces frequently, visits a doctor, or gets medical tests often are signs of health anxiety. It can start to hinder your life and you may think that health anxiety is ruining your life. Because you spend most of your time thinking about getting sick. As it becomes a repeating thought, so, is health anxiety a form of OCD?

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Chapter 1:

What Is Health Anxiety?

Some people have a fear of health that they may get severely ill. This fear is so intense that people start to think excessively about it and spend most of their time worrying about their health or getting a fatal illness. People usually misunderstand their body symptoms for something severe. Such as they may think of headaches as a sign of a brain tumor or think that they might have cancer if they feel any lump in the skin. This fear is known as health anxiety or hypochondriasis. A person who may overstate the body symptoms of sickness may have this condition.

Chapter 2:

Health Anxiety and OCD

While health concerns and OCD sometimes appear to be the same thing. But health anxiety is not a form of OCD. Health anxiety is classified as an illness anxiety disorder. While OCD is a mental disorder that involves obsessions and compulsions. We all have health concerns now and then, but if it affects your daily life, then it is time for you to get help. Let us look at the contrast between health anxiety and OCD.
Health Anxiety Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
It is an irrational and excessive fear to develop a severe illness.

It can have features of other anxiety disorders such as panic or OCD.

Example: A person may fear that a doctor or medical test may have missed anything serious. He may excessively search the internet for health information and anything that has to do with severe diseases

OCD involves repeated, and unwanted thoughts (which are obsessions) and the urge to confront those obsessions by actions (which are compulsions).

Examples of themes can be checking, order of things, fear of harm or contamination, etc.

Example: A person who has fear of contamination may frequently wash or avoid certain situations where there is fear of contamination.

However, it is also likely that OCD may have a theme of contamination in which a person has repeated thoughts and actions over cleanliness and germs, mainly due to a fear of being ill.

For instance, actions in OCD include
  • a lot of handwashing
  • a lot of cleaning

While actions related to health anxiety may include

  • seeking assurance from a doctor if everything is alright with them.

The theme of OCD may also be related to harm such as, you may feel compelled to repeat a prayer to “guard” yourself against disease or death.

Chapter 3:

Is It Health Anxiety or OCD?

You may be in search of answers to your health concerns as health anxiety can be ruining your life. While it can make your life difficult. So to make a diagnosis, look for the following signs for each disorder. OCD also comes under the category of anxiety disorders but health anxiety is classified as a somatoform disorder according to DSM-5.

Signs of Illness Anxiety Disorder

  • People who have it show no physical signs, but constant worry to get a serious disease (for at least 6 months).
  • They are concerned about their health.
  • They regularly monitor their body for signs of sickness.
  • Frequent doctor visits to seek medical help.
  • Or avoid doctor’s visits in an unhealthy way.
  • They are prone to panic attacks when it comes to their health.

Signs of Somatic Symptoms Disorder
  • People who have it suffer from severe distress as a result of one or more body symptoms.
  • They have inflated thoughts about body symptoms.
  • They spend a lot of their time and attention on health issues.

Signs of OCD
  • They have obsessions which are repeated disturbing thoughts.
  • They engage in compulsions, which are repeated actions performed in reaction to an obsession.
  • Obsessive thoughts and compulsions take up a lot of time.

However, consult a health expert to better diagnose and treat you if you have health concerns.

Chapter 4:


Common body symptoms, such as swelling, are often mistaken as serious in those with health concerns. The human body is very complex as it creates a wide range of body symptoms that are often unpleasant and unusual but are not harmful. Concern about your health is a medical problem. It appears to increase with time or during stressful times in many people. So if health anxiety is ruining your life, you can seek help at Epsychonline. Getting therapy helps whether you have health anxiety or OCD. All these disorders are treatable, with treatment being the first line of defense.

Cognitive therapy (CBT) is usually helpful in treating health concerns as the condition involves irrational thoughts. For instance, if you think “it is ruining my life”, you are focusing on the negatives in life. You can look at your positives in life and enjoy it more while don’t waste your time stressing over extra things.

It is a good idea to take some medications advised by a doctor. However, you may make use of some of the self-care tips, such as

Take care of your basic needs by having proper rest, eating a balanced diet, and exercising daily to stay healthy. Spend quality time with family and friends. Take part in a support group, whether it is online or in-person. Reduce your stress and engage in calm activities such as meditation or writing.

Chapter 5:

Call to Action

As you now know the difference that health anxiety is not a form of OCD you can read more about “Hypochondria – Illness Anxiety Disorder” at Epsychonline, to manage your concerns related to your body.

Next, you can start a course “Managing IBS” or “Chronic Pain” Epsychonline, to manage your irrational beliefs and reduce stress. We hope to be a help to you. Join right away!

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount