Many people worry from time to time about their health and the health of their loved ones. You may be experiencing health anxiety, also known as illness anxiety disorder, if these worries begin to take up a lot of your time and attention. Other people with health anxiety may actually avoid the doctor, for fear that they will find out that something is wrong with their health. Individuals who have experienced a serious illness (e.g., cancer) or medical event (e.g., a heart attack, a pregnancy loss) may be more at risk for developing health anxiety. It’s important to know that having health anxiety does not mean that you are making up or imagining your symptoms. Sometimes people develop health anxiety because they have had difficulty obtaining an accurate diagnosis or appropriate treatment.
Health anxiety symptoms may include:
- Difficulty controlling worries about your health and/or the health of your loved ones
- Frequently checking or scanning your body for new potential symptoms
- Spending large amounts of time researching health symptoms or calling and messaging your doctor
- Seeking frequent medical tests to reassure yourself about your health
- Avoiding necessary check-ups or medical tests
In cognitive behavioral therapy for health anxiety you will learn to recognize and cope with extreme thoughts and beliefs you may have about your health. You’ll also learn tips for how to distinguish between normal aches and pains and symptoms that warrant follow-up with your doctor. Your psychologist can also help you confront your anxiety about seeking the medical care that you may have been avoiding using something called exposure therapy techniques.