“When You’re Overly Concerned About Every Bodily Feeling, You’ve Lost Control Of Your Life.”
Health anxiety, or hypochondriasis, or hypochondria, is a type of anxiety disorder that involves excessive concern about one’s health. Sometimes the limiting thoughts and bodily feelings can subside quickly, other times the ‘snowball’ that started as curiosity quickly turns into a battle for sanity and bodily control.
An episode may begin with a health anxiety sufferer looking at something that is not ‘normal’ on his/her body. It may be any possible thing, there may be a patch on the skin that is darker or lighter than other area; one arm may appear a little more swollen than the other; or there may be minor tingling sensations.
Sufferers from hypochondriasis will find some co-relation, and convince themselves that something is definitely wrong with them.
After noticing the minor difference, sufferers will search Google about the pigmentation, etc. symptom (watch this video if this is you). Google ends up throwing answers that inform the sufferer about the worst possible scenarios. After reading through the different answers and associated symptoms of varied diseases with pigmentation, etc., people with health anxiety will begin to experience those new symptoms themselves, and eventually convince themselves that they are suffering from a more extreme disease than thought of before Googling.
The reasoning behind all of it is that since they are allegedly experiencing all the symptoms listed, there was no way that they could not be suffering from the disease
Hypochondriasis can sometimes rise to such a crescendo that sufferers may break into debilitating panic attacks. They may visit different doctors for checkups, often multiple times a day, only to be informed that they were in good health and that nothing was wrong with them. But health anxiety sufferers refuse to believe the doctors, I know I did for 6 years of my life!
Health anxiety sufferers may be aware deep down that the symptoms may not be real, but they continue the process of convincing themselves of some severe underlying ailment till they find something else that is allegedly more worrying and stressful.
Soon they have convinced themselves that every little sensation may be a symptom of something seriously major. Sufferers are aware of this vicious cycle and how it affects them in a incapacitating manner, but they do not know what needs to be done to overcome the devastating cascade of unrelenting thoughts about one’s ill health.
Here’s the usual cycle for health anxiety/hypochondriasis sufferers:
Stage 1 – Curiosity: Something in the outside world (a comment, an image etc) or the inside world (a feeling or heightened emotion) creates curiosity within the person as to what it could mean. The health anxiety sufferer at this moment has been conditioned to be concerned, because a part of them has attached being overly concerned with keeping them safe. The idea of letting it slide, not paying it attention or focusing on something else isn’t possible because it gives them a feeling of concern to give up that much attention.
Stage 2 – Negative Automatic Thoughts: The thoughts begin coming in fast and relentlessly, as one connects to the next. The imagination kicks in and the worst possible scenarios come to the forefront of the persons mind. When this is the case it becomes more and more difficult to use rational thinking and logic, the fight or flight system and the part of the brain responsible for emotion has overtaken other parts of the brain. Survival is at risk (at least that’s the concern).
Stage 3 – Reassurance, Avoidance, And Fleeing: In stage 3 the sufferer does everything they can to feel differently. Asking a support person for reassurance, avoiding the immediate plans they had, or fleeing wherever they may currently be are a few actions that are taken during this sensitized state.
Two of the most powerful tools a sufferer must begin conditioning into their daily lives are:
#1) Recognizing when curiosity starts, and using counter statements (countering the original irrational thought with one that is based around facts and evidence, more rational), counter questions (questions that spur on internal dialogue that forces the person to see through his fears), state breaks (cold showers, dirty joke, anything that gives the brain something different then whats been the norm). Using your physiology in ways that counter the bodily response you want to take will also help in this stage. Such as fixing posture and breathing exercises.
#2) Mapping this video explain mapping in detail). Many of our current RIC life coaches who are now helping other anxiety sufferers worldwide have been adding Mapping into the sufferers plan for desensitization. A very powerful tool that can on its own, eliminate all doubt and fear.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been proven to work wonders for health anxiety sufferers. Below you’ll also find a very important video on why you must not give up on yourself. Take the 5 reasons below, and please understand them at the deepest level. If you’ve already seen this video do me a favour and share it with a health anxiety sufferer or group that needs it…