Is there a stigma to being a hypochondriac? I’ve been surprised how many people I speak to, think it’s not a real condition and who can name people who ‘fit into this category’, who are ‘obsessed about being ill’ and ‘making up health problems’ or ‘always at the doctors’. It’s therefore hardly surprising that some people are reluctant to admit they have this condition. Hypochondria (health anxiety) is real, and many people struggle with it, day to day.
This debilitating condition can result from an inaccurate ‘perception’ of a condition in the body or the mind, often in the absence of a medical diagnosis. Health anxiety is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment, and we can all relate to the fear of catching Covid. There is an increase in people with this health anxiety, due to Covid, who are watching the news continually and fearful of leaving the house. This is understandable some may say. So, I was thinking about what makes general and ‘understandable’ health anxiety into a ‘disorder’?
I see people with health anxiety (hypochondria), on a regular basis, even if they haven’t ‘labelled it’ (nobody wants to be labelled a hypochondriac ….right??). But living with anxiety of any form is incredibly difficult and frightening and this can include worries and fears about our health and the health of others. Many hypochondriacs have additional symptoms, such as panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), PTSD or depression and in addition, may experience physical symptoms like poor sleep, elevated blood pressure, IBS etc.
Imagine living with the constant fear that you are seriously ill, will become ill or may even die. This thought process could then lead to other fears and phobias. Hygiene often becomes prominent in a sufferer’s mind – carrying out excessive cleaning and disinfection.
Other common symptoms of health anxiety may include:
- Constantly worrying about your health and requiring reassurance from people that you are ok.
- Repeatedly checking the body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain.
- Regular visits to the doctor or worry that your doctor or medical tests may have missed something.
- Obsessive health researching on the internet.
- Avoiding anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes.
- Easily alarmed about health outbreaks.
- Avoiding people or places for fear of getting an infection.
Although there really is no exact cause, the following may be a factor.
- A family member who is also suffers health anxiety.
- The person has gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated.
- They may be going through major life stress.
- They have had a serious illness during childhood.
- They may already be suffering from a mental health condition for which hypochondria is part of.
People often feel that their GP doesn’t take them seriously, leading to even more anxiety. So, I want to share some alternative options that are readily available:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
- Behavioural stress management or exposure therapy.
- Medication such as anti-depressants, are sometimes prescribed.
- Learning stress management and relaxation techniques.
- Avoiding online searches for the possible meanings behind your symptoms.
- Focusing on activities such as a hobby you enjoy.
- Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs, which often increase anxiety.
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we can work to change your thoughts to a happier future and allow them to become reality. Hypnotherapy helps by relaxing your mind and teaching you how the brain works. From this, you can better understand why you feel like you do, how to change it and therefore reducing your symptoms and being more able to cope. Using psychotherapy and trance (a lovely, relaxed feeling), you will make a plan of how to take the next step to fulfilling your long-term goals.
Hypnotherapy details can be found on my website here:
If you feel hypnotherapy would benefit you, I am currently offering a free initial consultation, a contact form is available from my website here:
Sharon Mortimer HPD DSFH MNCH (Reg.) MaSFH MCNHC GHR Reg. GQHP