Health Anxiety Premium
Everyone worries about their health from time to time. The difference with someone who suffers from health anxiety is that they obsess over health worries to the point that they frequently believe they are in mortal danger . Health anxiety is a symptom of an anxiety disorder that is often associated with the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) spectrum of disorders. What happens is we have a worry thought or ‘what if’ about our health and we then obsess over the thought in a negative way. As anxiety sufferers, rather than immediately dismissing the unwanted thoughts, we latch onto them and attribute meanings to the thoughts. This then produces an emotional response and feeds the anxiety. In the case of health anxiety it leads to a belief that we have a serious health problem and that we are in imminent danger. You can check out the anxiety recovery tools in the members section as well as the GAD section in the members area to learn how to reverse your anxiety condition.
A very useful tool in dealing with the worry thoughts experienced in health anxiety is a process called ‘Thought Stopping’ also known as ‘Thought/No Thought’. Download the worksheet below and keep a record of the intrusive thoughts as shown.
The process for stopping the worry thoughts is as follows:
- Make sure you are in a comfortable setting and that you will not be disturbed.
- Pick an unwanted thought from your list.
- Close your eyes and start thinking about that thought (focus on any feelings, emotions, smells, sounds or images the thought produces).
- When the thought becomes vivid stay with it for a moment.
- Now in your mind shout STOP! This will interrupt the thought (some people prefer to use an elastic band around their wrist and ‘ping’ it against their skin).
- Now clear your mind and relax again.
- Now pick a pleasant thought from your list.
- Close your eyes and start thinking about that thought (focus on any feelings, emotions, smells, sounds or images the thoughts produces).
- Try and make the thought as vivid as possible (If you were thinking about being on a beach for instance you could feel the warmth of the sun on your skin).
Practising this technique regularly will allow you to do it in real world situations. What I mean by that is that whenever you experience an unwanted thought you can apply this process. Shout STOP in your mind and immediately replace the unwanted thought with a pleasant thought.
With a little practice you will quickly notice a reduction in the effect the unwanted thoughts have.
Health anxiety usually leads to avoidant or reassurance seeking behaviour e.g. avoiding exercise or constantly searching the internet for self diagnosis. To start your recovery from health anxiety you have to stop this behaviour. It is keeping you stuck in the same cycle of sensation/symptom – thought – feeling – action. You have to break this cycle. Live by the Rules for Recovery