Health Anxiety

Health anxiety is the constant presence of worry that one is unwell or becoming unwell. It is the fixation on any aspect of physical illness, including visible signs (e.g. lumps, bumps), any feeling of illness, or excessive worry of developing a serious illness.

Overview

Health anxiety is the constant presence of worry that one is unwell or becoming unwell. It is the fixation on any aspect of physical illness, including visible signs (e.g. lumps, bumps), any feeling of illness, or excessive worry of developing a serious illness.

Causes & Symptoms

Causes of Health Anxiety

Health anxiety can begin at any age, however it commonly develops in adolescence or in young adulthood. Health anxiety can either be long lasting or fluctuate depending on various life stresses.

There are several reasons that could be involved in why someone may develop health anxiety:

  • Genetic predisposition, shown in a family history of anxiety disorders
  • Experience of trauma, including abuse, neglect or bullying.
  • Experience of stressful life events
  • A recent death or serious illness in a loved one
  • Experience of physical health problems
  • Having concerns about your health from a young age
  • Having a generally anxious temperament

Health anxiety can be a vicious cycle, as when one begins to look for symptoms of an illness it is easy to notice little things that may have been previously ignored, and when you become preoccupied with these they last longer and become amplified. Furthermore, the physical symptoms experienced as a direct result of the anxiety make one even more anxious, as these are misinterpreted as being physically unwell.

 

Health Anxiety Symptoms:

Experiences of health anxiety vary and can be affected by the severity of the anxiety or culture. Below are some symptoms that may be experienced:

Physical:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Muscle tension

Individuals with health anxiety often misinterpret the physical symptoms of anxiety as a sign of a serious physical health concern.

 

Psychological / Behavioural:

  • Relatively constant state of worry that one is ill or becoming ill.
  • Preoccupation with a certain condition(s).
  • Belief that (harmless) physical symptoms are signs of a serious condition.
  • Worrying that medical tests or professionals may have missed something.
  • Frequent physical checks on oneself for any physical sign of illness.
  • Frequently seeking health information.
  • Avoidance of any themes of serious illness (e.g. medical TV programmes).
  • Impact of anxiety on daily life (e.g. less social outings, less productivity at work).
  • Behave as if you are unwell and unable to do certain activities.
  • Asking for reassurance from others that you are not unwell.
  • Intrusive thoughts or images.

Treatments

The treatments and support we provide

We provide a very comprehensive and holistic range of interventions and support. This means we are able to find the mechanisms for recovery, which will be different for each patient. Everyone will have a highly personalised treatment programme. 

The programme is reviewed every week by the patient’s multi-disciplinary team (MDT), encompassing the different professionals involved in their care. Our MDT consists of: consultant psychiatrist, psychotherapist/psychologist, family therapist and occupational therapist. The MDT is at the centre of our approach, ensuring all the progress made across the programme is understood, built upon and applied. Our model provides consistency and continuity. 

Individual programmes are tailor-made to each patient’s needs and progress. The following provides a guide to the typical building blocks of our day treatment programmes, all of which include a number of weekly 1:1 sessions with members of the MDT.

  Full-day Programme Half-Day Programme
Days  Monday to Friday Monday to Friday
Hours 7 - 8 hours per day 4 - 5 hours per day
Programme length Up to 4 weeks Up to 4 weeks
Detailed group therapy 5 - 6 sessions 3 - 4 sessions
Daily meals Lunch/snacks Lunch/snacks

We provide the following therapies and interventions. These may be delivered on a 1:1 or group basis by members of the MDT.

Psycho-education Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) Mindfulness
Relapse prevention Self-esteem / resilience  Movement
Peer Led Support Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Food preparation / cooking
Applied relaxation Art / drama Interpersonal therapy
Social issues Family therapy Schema

Treatments are available at the following locations

Schoen Clinic Chelsea

Our Address
Schoen Clinic
Centre for Mental Health Chelsea
13a Radnor Walk
Chelsea
London SW3 4BP
General Telephone Enquiries
0203 146 2300
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Specialists

Dr James Woolley

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Dr Samantha Cobb

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Dr Niraj Arora

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Dr Werner Kierski

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