Health-related anxiety: signs you may have it and how to treat it explained


We all care about our well-being, but these concerns can easily spiral out of control and become a real problem if we are not careful.

It’s natural to worry about our health from time to time, but for many, these concerns can easily turn into an all-consuming fear.

While it’s natural to worry about our health from time to time, for many these concerns can easily turn into an all-consuming fear that can quickly become debilitating.

So where is the line between a reasonable level of concern for our well-being and genuine health-related anxiety?

In many cases, problems arise when someone misinterprets minor or normal bodily sensations as symptoms of a serious illness, despite reassurance from medical professionals.

In short, health anxiety — also known as illness anxiety — is obsessive, irrational worry related to serious illness.

Want to get the latest health news straight to your inbox? Sign up for the Mirror Health newsletter HERE

But I’m worried about my health – is it health anxiety?

Absolutely everyone worries about their health from time to time – if your body is giving you signs that you’re sick, it’s natural for you to feel anxious.

But health anxiety is markedly different from that, as it manifests as an unfounded belief that you have a symptom or symptoms of a serious illness.

This feeling can be so strong that you can be consumed by it, which can be very debilitating.

If you are worried about your health, it is always wise to consult your doctor who will reassure you.

But with health anxiety, you’ll often feel acute distress about real or imagined symptoms, even after medical test results come back negative and doctors reassure you that you’re healthy.

Health anxiety is characterized by going far beyond a conventional concern for your health and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, including their ability to:

  • Operate on a daily basis

  • Work in a professional or academic setting

  • Create and maintain meaningful relationships

Excessively Checking Your Symptoms On The Internet Can Set The Stage For A Health Anxiety Issue


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Why does someone develop health anxiety?

According to the American medical site Health lineexperts disagree on the exact causes, but it is believed to be influenced by the following:

  • You have a misunderstanding of illnesses, bodily sensations, or both. You may think that a serious illness is causing these bodily sensations, when in reality this is usually not the case. To corroborate this, people with health anxiety frequently search for evidence confirming that they have a serious illness, usually by turning to the internet – which can unnecessarily both ‘prove’ and ‘disprove’ any illness. you are looking for.
  • You have a family member who is excessively worried about their health or yours.
  • You faced a serious illness as a child, so as an adult you are naturally hyper-aware of any disturbing physical sensations.

At what age does it usually strike?

Health-related anxiety usually begins in early to middle adulthood and can often worsen with age.

In older people, it is very common for health-related anxiety to manifest as a fear of developing memory problems. Other risk factors for health-related anxiety include:

  • Have a worry-prone personality

  • Experiencing the possibility of a serious illness which, fortunately, turns out to be not serious

  • Being abused in childhood

  • Having a serious childhood illness or having a parent with a serious illness

  • A stressful event or situation

  • Overchecking your health on the internet

Going to the doctor can help reduce any fears you may have about your health



How is health anxiety diagnosed?

The actual term “health-related anxiety” is not listed in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Healthline states.

Nowadays, people with the problem could be classified as having:

  • I Anxiety Disorder of Illness: whether the person has no physical symptoms or has only mild symptoms

  • S symptomatic omatic disorder: especially when the person has symptoms that are perceived as distressing or if they have multiple symptoms

To be diagnosed with a generalized health anxiety disorder — which is increasingly common due, in part, to the wide availability of symptom checking on the internet — your doctor will perform a physical exam to rule out any health issues you may have. you might fear.

If you are found to be in good health, you may be referred to a mental health professional, which is very important to understand and not have to fear. These people are there to help everyone when they need it.

If you must attend such an appointment, they will probably be:

  • Complete a psychological assessment, which includes questions about your symptoms, stressful situations, worries, family history, and issues affecting your life

  • Asking you to complete a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire

  • Find out about your use of alcohol, drugs or any other substance

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the anxiety disorder of the disease is characterized by:

  • Concern about having or contracting a serious illness

  • Have no physical symptoms or have very mild symptoms

  • Excessive concern about an existing medical condition or a family history of a medical condition

  • Concern about having an illness for at least six months

  • Not attending doctor’s appointments to avoid being diagnosed with a serious illness

  • Check online what you think are the symptoms of the disease

  • Screening your body for disease again and again

Psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in the treatment of health-related anxiety, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)



How to best treat health-related anxiety?

Treatment for health-related anxiety generally aims to improve your symptoms and restore your ability to function properly in daily life. Usually, psychotherapy is an initial form of treatment, with medication sometimes used.

Psychotherapy can be particularly helpful in the treatment of health-related anxiety, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), as it teaches you valuable skills that can help you manage your disorder.

Some of the benefits of CBT include:

  • Identify your concerns and beliefs related to health anxiety

  • Learn other ways to look at your bodily sensations by changing unnecessary thoughts

  • Raise awareness of how your worries affect you and your behavior

  • Respond differently to your body’s sensations and symptoms

  • Learn to better manage stress and anxiety

  • Learn to stop avoiding situations and activities because of physical sensations

  • Avoid examining your body for signs of illness and repeatedly seeking assurance that you are healthy

  • Boost your functioning at home, work or school, in social settings and in relationships with others

  • Check whether or not you have other mental health conditions, such as depression or bipolar disorder


If psychotherapy alone seems to improve your symptoms, then that is usually all that will be used. However, some people don’t respond very well to it, so your doctor may recommend medication.

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often prescribed for health-related anxiety. Some of these medications have potentially serious risks and side effects, so it’s essential to carefully review treatment options with your doctor.

What is the long-term outlook for someone with health anxiety?

Generally speaking, health anxiety is a long-term medical condition that can fluctuate in severity over time.

For many people, it seems to get worse during times of stress or as we get older.

But if you seek help and stick to a treatment plan, you should be able to significantly reduce health-related anxiety symptoms.

Read more

Read more


Comments are closed.