Health Anxiety occurs when an individual is excessively focussed on having, or contracting, an illness. Health Anxiety may be focussed on one specific illness, or on many different ones. It also often moves from one area of the body/one illness to another; people with health anxiety report that just when they stop worrying about having one particular illness, they will start worrying about another.
Health Anxiety can have a substantial impact on an individual’s life as it can consume mental space and energy, impact sleep, and lead to avoidance of certain situations, activities or foods. It can lead to unhelpful cycles such as excessive internet research, or to “Doctor Shopping”. Health Anxiety frequently leads to excessive focus on sensations within the body, and hence prevents individuals from being fully present in their lives, which may impact their relationships and ability to function at their full potential.
Treatment of Health Anxiety aims to identify unhelpful (often “catastrophic”) thoughts and to learn how to better manage worry. Similar to treatment of Generalised Anxiety, treatment for Health Anxiety also involves helping clients build tolerance of uncertainty, as certainty around illness and health is not possible. We will also work to reduce our clients’ focus on internal sensations, and instead help them fully and presently live their lives.