Millions of people live in constant dread that they either have or will get a terrible disease. I am seeing increasing numbers of people for help with Health Anxiety, otherwise known as hypochondria. It can be a very distressing existence when you are often on the lookout for any pain or sensation that could indicate that you have an undiagnosed illness or disease. Any reassurance that you may be offered by your partner, your GP, the A&E department of your local hospital is likely to be fleeting.
15 Signs that indicate Hypochondria
- When there is a new virus making the news, you become preoccupied with getting it
- You frequently worry about getting cancer or dying
- You Google symptoms at least once a week
- You do a daily scan of your body to detect any new or abnormal symptoms
- Thinking about symptoms can bring on a panic attack or stop you sleeping
- You know many of the symptoms associated with diseases and illnesses
- Even when the doctor gives you a clean bill of health, you worry they’ve missed something
- If you are even just a little under the weather, do you see the doctor just to be on the safe side.
- You get preoccupied with having a major illness, often for weeks at a time
- You are obsessed with medical shows both fictional and real, or likewise, do your utmost to avoid them
- Your health worries interfere with your attendance at work or ability to do your job
- You are afraid that you may die early and imagine the impact your death will have on loved ones
- People tend to comment on you being sick al the time or just don’t seem to care when you say you are feeling unwell.
- You take often take pain killers for random aches and pains you have.
- When you have a pain or unusual sensation in your body, you find it hard to focus on anything else
This anxiety is all too easily fueled by the sheer amount of illness/disease information so readily available to us all on the internet. Before the internet, finding this sort of information took more time and more effort to seek out. Now, if you have chest pains or a headache, information about heart attacks and brain tumours can be there at the click of a button! If you do enough clicking around, you can easily find something scary and terminal to diagnose yourself with. The media have named this "cyberchondria" - the escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online.
My new web page on help for Health Anxiety can be found HERE.
It explains how the Thrive Programme can effectively treat hypochondria in a way that most other therapies fail to. My current client 'Ian' is half way through completing the Thrive Programme and had previously been through a full course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for his health anxiety. He found that his symptoms actually INCREASED when he undertook his homework task of writing down in a diary when he had his anxieties. This had the sole effect of drawing even more attention to his bodily sensations, worsening the symptoms! A hugely effective component of The Thrive Programme is an exercise where clients write down their POSITIVE experiences, drawing attention to those instead. This serves to increase their beliefs about what they are capable of doing, and how much control they are able to have over their thinking.
Help for hypochondria
The Thrive programme is completely different from CBT in that it doesn’t just focus upon giving you some isolated insights, tools and techniques to cope with the symptom or anxiety. These approaches are ‘fire-fighting’ – trying to control or reduce the anxiety AFTER we have already created it by our thinking. Often people tire quickly of having to maintain this level of effort into fending of negative thoughts. It is of limited value teaching you any sort of ‘positive thinking’ or CBT techniques unless you understand the component parts of your thinking and beliefs that continue to create the anxiety.
Thrive will provide you with amazing personal insight, allowing you to totally change any limiting belief systems that are adversely affecting your life. You will discover what styles of thinking are causing your hypochondria: Do you catastrophise? Do you obsess and ruminate about things? Do you always anticipate the worst case scenrio in forthcoming situations? It will also demonstrate what a huge part your imagination plays in both causing and resolving problems and symptoms. The Thrive Programme is about Thriving, and overcoming symptoms is just a part of that. It is about creating strong psychological foundations (eg, feeling in control over our mind) so that we are not creating anxiety in the first place.
Click HERE to read more about the Thrive Programme