Health anxiety, formerly known as hypochondria, is a condition that creates major symptoms of anxiety related to physical, mental, and psychological wellbeing. It is often described as, “a sensation of being held hostage in your own body.” Health anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder, which can be treated with therapy, specific medications, or both.
As a therapist, health anxiety is something that I have battled for the past ten years. In my mind, a headache may turn into a brain tumor; a menstrual cramp may mean that I have stomach cancer. These fears are not only very real, but also extremely frightening. I often ask myself, where do these irrational fears stem from? After doing research and hours of soul searching, I realized that the origin of my fear stemmed from my underlying fear of death.
Before I started seeing a professional counselor and doing my own research on the subject, I thought I was alone. I never realized that there was a medical term for my condition. The doctors that I went to did not understand, or even have the compassion, to get to know the real root of my fear toward them. You see, I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the doctor; I was afraid of the prognosis. This would often keep me from going to the doctor regularly. I would skip out on visits that were crucial for my mental and physical health.
Medical problems must be ruled out with a detailed physical exam because it is possible to experience anxiety with a medical condition. Once this is accomplished, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most effective treatment for any form of anxiety.
CBT is a therapy model that focuses on our cognition, the way we think, and our behaviors. The main hypothesis behind CBT is that our thoughts about a situation effect how we feel and behave. We tend to assign meaning to specific situations. We may think that tingling sensations means we have MS. It’s not the actual situation that causes anxiety, but the meaning – accurate or not. We give thoughts a lot of meaning; thus, a lot of power.
CBT aims to help you overcome fears by correcting irrational thoughts and changing problematic behaviors. By procuring a definite mindset, you can learn to approach anxious circumstances differently and learn to endure distress.
For more information on health anxiety, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues, we are here for you! Please do not hesitate to reach out to Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832-421-8714! We are all in this together!