By Elaine Ryan
Is anxiety making you ill?
Hypochondria, also known as Health Anxiety, needs to be taken seriously. This page is to provide a comprehensive guide to health anxiety, including an explanation of what it is, what causes hypochondria, and signs and symptoms. The content is to help you understand what exactly is happening to you, and why. The key to recovery, is understanding.
What is hypochondria?
Hypochondria is living in fear that you have a serious illness. You become very sensitive to sensations in your body. Your brain becomes expert on attending to mentions of illness from family, friends, on the news, in magazines and each mention of illness can strike fear in you, that maybe you either have the illness, or can contract it.
Signs and symptoms of hypochondria
- Checking and monitoring for potential changes in your body and health
- Googling symptoms you feel in your body ( or fears that you have.)
- Actual physical pain in your body
- Thoughts preoccupied with illness
- Attending doctors to be given a clean bill of health, but not feeling relieved. Scared that they have missed something.
- Needing reassurance
What causes health anxiety?
Hypocondriasis can come under the umbrella term of anxiety.
Worries about health, that can make you anxious
For many of us, it is the things that we do to ourselves, that can result in feeling anxious. Our self talk.
If for example, you hear a lot of coverage on the news of, lets say, cancer, this can filter through to your thought processes. You might start to think of people you know that have cancer. You might check it out on the internet and do some research.
The more time you give to this health worry, in your thought processes, the more likely you are to think about it again.
Your brain starts to pay attention. You will start to become finely tuned to anything related to cancer. Your attention is easily grabbed by it, and you may eventually start to worry about the possibility that you might either get cancer in the future or have it now.
These worries, in turn, will make you feel anxious or afraid. Your brain starts to pay more attention. Thoughts relating to cancer cause fear in your body. Your brain shall take note of this, as it may represent a threat for you.
Our brain takes careful note of anything that may cause us harm. If you ever accidentally burned yourself on the stove, your brain will make note of what caused you injury, to help alert you to the hot stove in the future, in order to prevent pain. Think of this as a better safe than sorry principle. This better safe than sorry principle shall also apply to thoughts that are creating feelings of anxiety or fear in your body, and they can start to be stored in your brain, with all the thoughts and feelings that you get when you think of cancer.
Each time you think of cancer, or hear anything about it, your brain can then give you all the thoughts and feelings of anxiety and fear that you have, that relate to cancer.
It is very easy then, for the initial fear of cancer to spread to other illnesses that may cause you harm, as your brain is already armed with knowledge to protect you from threat. Whether the threat is real or not.
Health worries start to create real physical symptoms in your body.
The more you worry about your health, the more anxious you start to feel. Anxiety creates real physical symptoms in your body. Some of these symptoms include
- muscles tightness and tension
- stomach problems
- blurred vision
- sweating, trembling
Your brain, by this stage, is on the alert for possible danger and it is then easy for you to start to misinterpret what is happening in your body. If your thought processes are concerned with serious illness, it will not make sense for your brain to think that symptoms you feel in your body may be the result of anxiety, that was caused by worries relating to your health. Better safe than sorry, your thoughts will be more like this.
What if it is a brain tumor?
Something is wrong with my heart
Your brain frantically searches to try to make sense of what is happening to you. You start to analyze all symptoms and sensations you feel in your body, which will be many at this stage.
You may well undertake some research on the internet looking for something to explain the symptoms you feel. And you will find many possible explanations and diagnosis for how you feel. Which frightens you more.
These thoughts and symptoms will start to interfere with your daily life. It is understandable, that if you are worried that something is seriously wrong with you, and you feel physical symptoms in your body, that you will want a medical work up. When the results come back clear and you still have the symptoms, you worry more, as you have not received an explanation that makes sense to you and accounts for how you feel. Nor are you able to get the thoughts and fears out of your head.
A vicious circle begins.
- Initial worry that something may be wrong with you
- Over time these worries create anxiety
- The anxiety results in physical symptoms in your body
- The physical symptoms then become a source of concern, making you more convinced that something serious is wrong with you, which in turn
- Creates more anxiety and more physical symptoms which you cannot get relief from, as the tests that you have undertaken show that nothing is physically wrong.
- You cannot get peace of mind that nothing is wrong as your body is experiencing symptoms for which the medical tests cannot explain. You try to find your own explanation by maybe researching on the internet, only to find several serious illnesses that appear to account for your symptoms, which further reinforces the vicious cycle.
Before long your life is consumed by hypochondriasis.
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