What is Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety is persistently worrying about a person’s health status, even if there is not clear evidence that something is wrong. We all worry about our health at times. Worrying about our health is useful in ensuring that we go to the doctor when we are ill and live a healthy lifestyle. However, it is not helpful when the worrying is persistent, lacking in evidence and interferes with daily life.

Symptoms of Health Anxiety

A person with health anxiety may experience a number of symptoms such as:

  • Worrying excessively about health
  • Making dramatic lifestyle changes
  • Physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and gastrointestinal disturbance
  • Seeking reassurance from friends, family and health professionals
  • Constantly checking the body for any symptoms of illness
  • Avoidance of things that may cause or remind you of illness

Some of the most common triggers are:

  • Stress
  • Experiencing serious illness
  • Observing someone you know who has a serious illness
  • Reading or learning about a serious illness
  • Extra responsibility (e.g. having your first child)

As with all anxiety problems, health anxiety can be maintained by the way you think and behave.

With health anxiety, the anxiety is often maintained by misinterpretation of physical symptoms. Everyone will experience fluctuations in their physical state throughout the day and may notice aches, pains or other sensations if they look for them. The problem is the way in which these symptoms are interpreted.

Someone with health anxiety will perceive most physical symptoms as threatening, as they see them as indicating a serious illness. When we perceive a threat, the anxiety response is triggered, causing physical changes in the body. Often, these physical changes are also perceived as threatening, which sets off a vicious cycle.

With health anxiety, the following behaviours may be unhelpful in the long-term:

  • Checking behaviours and increased focus on the body
  • Frequent visits to health professionals
  • Reassurance seeking from family and friends
  • Spending a lot of time finding out about illness
  • Avoiding everything to do with illness
  • Acting as if you are seriously ill

We have partnered with Silvercloud to offer you free access to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) self-help programme, designed by clinical experts using proven methods for helping people, all with the aim of empowering you to think and feel better.

This programme is based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT consists of two key steps to feeling well:

  1. Understanding what’s going on inside you
  2. Making changes to feel better

The key idea behind CBT is that your emotions, thoughts, behaviours and physical sensations are connected, and affect each other.

Simply choose your programme on SilverCloud. When prompted to sign up, you will need an access code to enable you to create your account and use this resource. The access code is kwnelselfhelp

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