I don’t spend too much time thinking about the state of my health but I’m sure I am probably not alone in occasionally ‘googling’ to find out about whatever currently ails me! Could it be that access to websites found in Google searches have contributed to the rise in illness-related anxiety? Health anxiety or hypochondriasis is very common and occurs equally in both men and women.
I am sure we all have fears, especially around illness or death but ironically it has been proven scientifically that fear and anxiety can be harmful to your health as it stimulates the sympathetic nervous system putting your body at risk of disease. Unfortunately some media campaigns may help to intensify this type of anxiety.
Those affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea or the thought that they are suffering from a physical illness. They often misinterpret physical symptoms of anxiety as a potential threat of imminent physical health problems. Unfortunately many of the things that people do to cope with health anxiety actually serve to keep the fear going.
The causes of hypochondriasis are not always easily identified but there are certain factors which have been found to trigger the disorder; having a serious illness as a child, being around serious illness or being close to someone who themselves have health anxiety. If you find that you spend too much of your life worrying about the possibility of illness you may feel the time has come to find ways to reduce this anxiety.
Therapy is one way to explore the source of your anxiety but if that does not appeal to you then you may want to investigate other avenues of help. The NHS website has a really helpful ‘Coping with Health Anxiety’ download, offering exercises and strategies to help reduce health stress.
Anxiety UK is a charity offering support and information for those living with anxiety disorders. Their helpline is open Monday to Friday 9.30 - 5.30 Tel: 08444 775 774 or email email@example.com.