Health anxiety

We will help you overcome your health anxiety

Health anxiety, also known as hypochondria, can preoccupy your every moment to the extent you stop being able to undertake or complete even minor tasks. Your mental health and wellbeing influences your physical health and maintaining good physical health and adopting healthy lifestyles has a positive effect on your mental health.

The specialists at Schoen Clinic have been successfully treating anxiety disorders for many years. We have the capability to offer you therapeutic and medical help to change negative and destructive thought patterns and preoccupation with your physical health.

What do we understand by health anxiety?

Health anxiety can present as the constant presence of worry that you are unwell or becoming unwell. This may have been triggered by a minor physical ailment like a cold, rash or generalised pain or numbness. People may experience a pre-occupation on this ailment to the extent they believe they may have a significant illness or even that they may die. This excessive worrying causes them to seek regular reassurance from those around them and numerous health professionals. Some may want diagnostic tests carried out when there is little indication they are required. 

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

Health anxiety can create a vicious cycle of ill health as the physical response to anxiety can in themselves cause distress and may be misinterpreted as physical ill health. The focus on your health may also bring about self-neglect, body tension and potentially cause you ill health. Minor physical conditions may also persist and become amplified as you focus more and more on the potential for a more debilitating physical illness being present.  

Physical symptoms of health anxiety

Experiences of health anxiety can vary and be affected by the severity of the anxiety or culture. Individuals with health anxiety often misinterpret the physical symptoms of anxiety as a sign of a serious physical health concern such as:

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

Psychological/Behavioural symptoms of health anxiety

  • Relatively constant state of worry that you are 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 yourself 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

Causes of health anxiety: Why someone may develop health anxiety?

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

Diagnosis: How we diagnose health anxiety

The nature of health anxiety is such that the person experiencing it is unaware that they have mental health needs; often it is those people around you who joke that you are a ‘hypochondriac’ or professionals that tell you there is nothing wrong and to stop worrying. Eventually, when people have made a large number of visits to their doctor and sought various diagnostic tests to seek reassurance or to try and validate their feelings. The fear of illness still persists even when results of investigations are returned suggesting there is nothing wrong.

In the case of health anxiety (hypochondria), fear of a significant health condition or death is the main concern; this can sometimes be confused with having a somatoform disorder. Somatisation is where a person has physical symptoms for which there is no explanation for them, and the causative factor is internalised anxiety and depression.

At Schoen Clinic, our specialists address your individual fears and disorders during the diagnostic phase. The clinical diagnosis can be supported by specific questionnaires. Further physical examinations are not usually necessary, but can be arranged, if required.

Managing your fears better

When health anxiety becomes debilitating and prevents you from doing things you previously enjoyed or are responsible for, we will work with you to address the underlying triggers and equip you with the skills to reduce the feelings of anxiety and increase your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Sometimes health anxiety can impact on your mood, how you see yourself and others it is, therefore fairly common for people who experience health anxiety to feel depressed. We will work with you holistically towards a full recovery. Health anxiety disorders can be treated with a combination of treatment and therapies.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation can support you to recognise the basis of your personal challenges with continuous worrying and feelings of stress. How these feelings impact on you physically and how that in turn can perpetuate and escalate those feelings is sometimes referred to as a ‘cycle of fear or anxiety.’

Relaxation techniques and mindfulness

Learning relaxation techniques and mindfulness help you regulate these symptoms and teach your body to change from a state of unease and tension to one of peacefulness and improved wellbeing. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) support you to reduce negative thoughts and assist in gaining a more proportionate perspective on the things that you worry about.

Meet our team

Our team of experts, consultant psychiatrists, nurses, psychotherapists/psychologists, family therapists and occupational therapists work together as a multidisciplinary team for the benefit of every patient in the treatment of health anxiety.

Our specialised clinic

Discover here our specialised clinic for health anxiety. Let our experienced team advise you now.