Are you overly anxious about your health?
Worrying about your health is a completely normal experience. In fact, it is important to pay attention to your body to ensure that any medical issues that may arise can be dealt with efficiently. We are even encouraged to take charge of our own health, as this can be key in early diagnosis.
However, some people may experience worry that is out of proportion to what would be classified as a “normal experience”.
What is Health Anxiety?
This sort of worry or concern becomes an issue when a pattern of intense fear occurs, and the person can worry about their health in the absence of any symptoms – or catastrophically misinterpret small and benign symptoms that can present in day to day life. For example, the misinterpretation that a headache is caused by a brain tumour, or more recently, a simple cold is the much publicised coronavirus.
This type of anxiety can be a symptom of illness anxiety disorder or another somatisation disorder, but can take other names such as health anxiety, health-related anxiety, or hypochondriasis.
Moreover, excessive concern about your health can be a symptom of another psychological disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or a specific phobia.
For example, consider somebody who may have anxiety due to the appearance of moles on their bodies. Having a small level of anxiety is adaptive, as this will prompt you to check your moles semi-regularly, and seek help if something changes.
Somebody who may be experiencing one of the above types of anxiety may check their moles every day, have excessive worry about their moles being cancerous throughout their daily lives, and panic if they believe a change has occurred. This could also lead to loss of sleep, excessively checking “doctor Google”, avoiding sun exposure, difficulties concentrating, and physical discomfort due to the anxiety. These patterns of behaviour may occur following check-ups from your General Practitioner even if they do not indicate any concern, or this may only subside the anxiety for a short period of time.
Help for Health Anxiety
If the above resonates with you, and you fear you may be worrying excessively about your health, help is available.
Here at our Brisbane psychologist clinic you may request a Free Emotional Health Checkup to guide you to a psychologist with experience in health anxiety. Or, you could speak to your General Practitioner and let them know what is going on. If required, they can organise a Mental Health Care Plan to help cover the cost of seeing a psychologist under Medicare.
Author: Kaylee Spiller, BPsySc(Hons), MProfPsych.
Kaylee Spiller is a Brisbane psychologist working with adolescents and adults, using a client-centred approach. Her goal is to help each client make meaningful changes in their life, focusing on their personal goals and values.
Kaylee Spiller no longer offers appointments at our office. To book with an available clinician, try Online Booking or call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
- Abramowitz, J., Olatunji, B. and Deacon, B. (2007). Health Anxiety, Hypochondriasis, and the Anxiety Disorders. Behavior Therapy, 38(1), pp.86-94.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.