What is health anxiety?
Health anxiety is a psychological disorder that results in the individual worrying excessively about their health and fearing that they have a serious physical illness, often when there is no reason to think this. This excessive worry about one’s health can cause great distress and affect everyday life. Some people with health anxiety have a medical condition about which they worry excessively whilst others might have medically unexplained symptoms. Others may just be persistently worried about their future health.
Some of the symptoms of health anxiety are:
- A constellation of unexplained physical symptoms and frequent visits to the GP to check if these symptoms represent an undiagnosed medical condition
- Fear of getting sick or experiencing symptoms of illness in the absence of current symptoms
- Residual fear about the possible reoccurrence of a disease or illness
- Fear about catastrophic outcomes that might occur if one were to contract an illness
- Fear of heightened vulnerability or susceptibility to disease or illness
- Engaging in a range of behaviours such as consulting multiple doctors, undergoing diagnostic procedures, researching possible explanations of symptoms, engaging in frequent hand washing and other safety behaviours
Treatment for health anxiety
Once a physical cause for your current symptoms has been excluded your GP, a psychiatrist or psychologist in liaison with your GP could give you the diagnosis of health anxiety. The most effective treatment approach for health anxiety is cognitive behavioural therapy. The psychologists at The Chelsea Psychology Clinic have experience in CBT and the treatment of health anxiety.