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Health Anxiety

About Health Anxiety

Health anxiety is the experience of thinking about a threat to your health, which consequently triggers your anxiety response.  Health anxiety can occur for people who are generally physically healthy, have real but undiagnosed medical symptoms, and people who have a diagnosed medical condition. Common triggers for health anxiety are: having experienced a medical condition, someone close to you experiences a serious illness, the death of someone close to you, having a parent/caregiver with health anxiety, and bombardment of negative information from the media. 

 

Note: Gastrointestinal symptoms, in particular, are often comorbid with generalized anxiety, health anxiety and depressive symptoms.  There is a strong connection between our gut and mental health.  

 

Take inventory of your symptoms. The following are common symptoms of health anxiety: 

 

  • Worry thoughts about your health are excessive or out of proportion to the realistic likelihood of having an actual and serious medical problem. 
  • Worry thoughts are persistent despite negative test results. 
  • Worry thoughts persist despite reassurance from your health practitioners. 
  • Worries lead to unhelpful behaviours such as excessive checking, reassurance seeking (e.g., from doctors, family, friends, or Google), or avoidance (e.g., of check-ups, doctors, health related information).
  • Worries cause you significant distress.
  • Worries limit your ability to go about your day-to-day life.
  • Hypervigilant checking of your physical health/bodily functions.
  • Triggering physical symptoms due to your health anxiety. 
  • Trauma symptoms related to the first or worst experience you had with your physical health problem.