How to Handle Anxiety About Your Health
You get a headache and immediately search for information about brain tumors. Or perhaps you feel dizzy one day and spend the whole night worrying about it. Even if a doctor tells you everything looks fine, you still cannot shake the feeling that you may have or develop a serious illness. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Some experts estimate that 12%-24% of Americans live with health anxiety. People with health anxiety obsess over every sensation in the body and worry it could be the sign of a serious illness. This worry can even cause some symptoms, such as increased pulse and high blood pressure. Even without health anxiety, many people can worry about their health from time-to-time. While patients await blood test results or deal with serious illness, it’s only natural to feel worried about the outcome. Whether you’re dealing with health anxiety or a health scare, learning a few coping techniques can get you through it.
Step Away From the Search Bar
If you’re worried about your health, it can be tempting to conduct an online search to learn more about what could be going on in your body. However, this is rarely–if ever–a helpful endeavor. Instead, most people who do this end up more afraid than they were before. It’s important to remember that everything on the internet is written to spark interest. A story in which everything turns out fine and there was never anything wrong with the main character isn’t one worth writing or reading. That’s why you’re bound to find several articles on how a simple headache ended up being brain cancer and few about a headache being nothing significant, even though brain cancer is rare. It’s important not to let the fears of a changing world affect your anxiety.
Get a Doctor You Trust to Discuss Your Health Anxiety
Nobody on the internet can diagnose you or rule out any disease. However, a doctor can. That’s why it’s essential to find a doctor who you trust to tell you the truth and run the tests you need. You should also be able to be honest with your doctor about your health anxiety. If you don’t feel comfortable with your current doctor, feel free to find another. If you know that you can trust your doctor, you are more likely to believe them when they tell you that everything is ok. Furthermore, you can know that your doctor took your concerns seriously.
Question Your Assumptions About Risk
If you have health anxiety disorder, you may feel like every change in your body is a threat to your well-being or even your life. For example, you may vomit and immediately wonder if you’ve caught a deadly virus like Ebola. While vomiting is a symptom of Ebola, it is also a symptom of so many other issues. If you find yourself assuming the worse, stop and ask yourself if the worst-case scenario is the most likely. For example, are you more likely to be the first person in your region who contracted Ebola or is it more likely that the restaurant you just dined in cooked your food wrong? While you should still talk to your doctor either way, a quick reassessment of your situation can help you stay calm while you wait for answers from your doctor.
Practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Therapy can be an important tool for anyone who is dealing with a health crisis or chronic health anxiety. CBT is a type of therapy that gives patients healthier coping mechanisms and change their thinking patterns. At LifeStance Health, we help patients with all types of anxiety, including worries about health. If you feel worried about your health, our therapists can help you work through those anxieties.