Samuel had visited the doctor for the 15th time in 20 days. He had a belief that there is something wrong with his health. He had a constant worry about his health. Samuel was most likely going through illness anxiety. In this article, we focus on this worry about health risks. We also look at what to do if you worry you’ve been exposed to health risks.
What Is Health Anxiety or Worry About Health Risks?
You can experience distress due to this worry. Apart from this, you can waste a lot of time on hospital visits or medical checkups. This worry can lead to disturbance in normal life. The person suffering from this can waste a lot of time researching the health risks.
Symptoms You Experience When You Worry About Health Risks
- Constantly worrying about getting a disease or having one.
- Becoming alert by minor body symptoms
- Even tiny sensations worry you.
- A person may visit a doctor for minor problems again and again.
- The person can not carry out personal tasks due to this worry.
- Their mind is always occupied with thoughts of diseases.
- Additionally, their distress can lead to much cautious behavior. These behaviors are unnecessary.
- The person will check their body again and again for signs of illness.
- The person will avoid public places and people due to health risks.
- They will keep taking health precautions because of this worry.
- The person will constantly talk about health and illness to others.
- The person will either book several doctor’s appointments or avoid them as they fear news of health risks.
Factors Affecting Health Anxiety
- Past experiences: A person who was severely ill in the past can have a deep-rooted fear. Probably they had gone through a lot of pain which left a trauma. This leads to constant worry even at the slightest sensation in the body. A serious illness in childhood can also lead to a fear of becoming sick.
- Family reactions: If the parents or elders worry a lot about health, the child can catch that worry. Children learn from their parents. Therefore, when parents show extreme concern for any changes in the body, the child will learn that reaction.
- Beliefs: You may have trouble with uncertainty. When you don’t have sure answers for what is happening in your body, you may become uncomfortable. This is why you may browse your symptoms to get answers for your condition. Additionally, due to experience, you may have a belief system about health. This is why even minor problems can make you uncomfortable.
Risk Factors for Health Anxiety
- If a person has been ill for a very long period in the past.
- If a person has suffered childhood abuse.
- Personality types such as borderline personality disorder.
- Some personality traits such as being a worrier.
- Constantly using the phone for browsing for health concerns.
Effects of Illness Anxiety
Illness anxiety affects a person in many ways. It affects their physical, mental, and social well-being. Let us see how:
- A person may use a lot of financial resources. This is because of the countless doctors’ visits and diagnostic tests.
- The person may not attend social events out of fear of health risks. Moreover, they also remain absent from work due to health concerns.
- Their family life is disturbed as they frequently talk about health or diseases.
- Excessive worry can lead to depression or other mental disorders such as compulsive behaviors.
- Friends get tired of hearing frequent health complaints.
- The person may waste a lot of time surfing about any illness.
How to know what a person who has frequent worries about health is going through? When a person frequently visits a doctor to worry about health risks, the doctor has to be alert. If they see that there is no cause for concern, they may identify that the person is going through health anxiety.
Most people who worry about health risks are unaware that they are going through a mental condition. It is only when they visit their doctor again and again, that the doctor may see there is a problem. The doctor will probably rule out several conditions, before reaching this conclusion. They will conduct tests like MRI, CBC, or a scan. after having found nothing, they will take a detailed case history. In many cases, the person will be referred to a psychologist. They will take important histories such as childhood history. They will see if there is any preoccupation with health risks. The psychologist will then conduct appropriate tests to confirm their diagnosis.
Tips to Handle Worry About Health Risks
1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy: The focus of this therapy should be to work on the negative core beliefs of the person. Various stress management techniques such as relaxation and breathing techniques are taught. These help a person with illness anxiety. A thought diary to record the symptoms, feelings, and thoughts is used. This helps the person to monitor their thoughts.
2. Medical Help: A person who has anxiety can benefit from medication. After visiting a psychiatrist. These medicines help the person in reducing the symptoms of anxiety.
3. Lifestyle Changes: Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting good sleep. These measures are all good for a healthy life. A person with anxiety can include them in their routine. This can help them feel good about their health.
4. Yoga: Yoga involves many stress management poses and techniques. These work on the well-being of our mind and body. Yoga also makes use of breathing techniques. Deep breathing reduces anxiety.
5. Mindfulness Meditation: This can help you label the bodily sensation that you feel. Once you learn to be aware of the present moment, you become conscious of your body. This also helps you understand that minor sensations in the body are a part of normal functioning. Overall mindfulness-based practices aim to reduce anxiety by helping the person focus on the present.