Health Anxiety as It Is: Briefly

Health anxiety (sometimes called hypochondria) is when you spend so much time worrying you’re ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life.

You may have health anxiety if you:

  • constantly worry about your health;
  • frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain;
  • are always asking people for reassurance that you’re not ill;
  • worry that a doctor or medical tests may have missed something;
  • obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media;
  • avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes;
  • act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities).

Anxiety itself can cause symptoms like headaches or a racing heartbeat, and you may mistake these for signs of illness.

Self-help for health anxiety

Keep a diary

  • note how often you check your body, ask people for reassurance, or look at health information;
    try to gradually reduce how often you do these things over a week.

Challenge your thoughts

  • draw a table with 2 columns;
  • write your health worries in the 1st column, then more balanced thoughts in the 2nd;
  • for example, in the 1st column you may write, “I’m worried about these headaches” and in the 2nd, “Headaches can often be a sign of stress”.

Keep busy with other things

When you get the urge to check your body, for example, distract yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend.

Get back to normal activities

Try to gradually start doing things you’ve been avoiding because of your health worries, such as sports or socializing.

Try to relax

Try this simple breathing exercise or visit a website for some relaxation exercises.

Non-urgent advice: See a doctor if:

Your worries about your health are preventing you from leading a normal life and self-help is not working.

If a doctor diagnoses you with health anxiety, they may refer you for psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or offer you medicine for anxiety.

More help for health anxiety

  • read more about getting help for anxiety, fear, and panic;
  • the mental health charity Mind offers more information on self-care for anxiety.

You can also contact our qualified medical expert and get an absolutely free consultation right away.