What is it?
Health anxiety is an anxiety condition that is often housed within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) spectrum of disorders. Those affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea that they are currently (or will be) experiencing a physical illness. The most common health anxieties tend to centre on conditions such as cancer, HIV, AIDs, etc. However, the person experiencing health anxiety may fixate on any type of illness. This condition is known as health anxiety, illness phobia/illness anxiety or hypochondriasis.
Those who are affected by health anxiety/illness phobia are convinced that harmless physical symptoms are indicators of serious disease or severe medical conditions. For example, if a person experiencing health anxiety feels their chest is getting tight, they may believe that they are having a heart attack. Those with health anxiety frequently misinterpret physical symptoms of anxiety as a sign of an impending physical health problem.
DIY self diagnosis
If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by health anxiety.
During the last 6 months:
- Have you experienced a preoccupation with having a serious illness due to bodily symptoms that has been ongoing for at least six months?
- Have you felt distressed due to this preoccupation?
- Have you found that this preoccupation impacts negatively on all areas of life including, family life, social life and work?
- Have you felt that you have needed to carry out constant self-examination and self-diagnosis?
- Have you experienced disbelief over a diagnosis from a doctor or felt that you are unconvinced by your doctor’s reassurances that you are fine?
- Do you constantly need reassurance from doctors, family and friends that you are fine, even if you don’t really believe what you are being told?
Anxiety UK strongly advises that people seek further information and guidance from their GP who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.
How we can help
- One year’s free subscription to Headspace (worth approx. £60), more details
- Access to reduced cost therapy
- Access to specialist email and helpline support
- Subscription to Anxious Times magazine (worth £12 annually)
- Access to our Member’s area and free online resources
- Free copy of Understanding Anxiety booklet (worth £3.99)
Health Anxiety fact sheet
This fact sheet gives a detailed overview, as well as a look at some of the evidence based approaches to treating health anxiety.
Overcoming Health Anxiety is an excellent self help resource based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It provides information on a range of techniques to look at the thoughts and behaviours that keep health anxiety going. You can purchase this book from the Anxiety UK shop here.
Pain Control is a CD that offers suggestions to boost the immune system and raise the endorphin levels. You can purchase this book from the Anxiety UK shop here.