Alarming health issues are rampant these days. Every time you turn on the news, there’s another story about some new health threat that will affect us all. It’s enough to make anyone a little paranoid about their health, and it’s understandable.
But it might be time to address your irrational health fears if you visit the emergency room more frequently than usual or make unnecessary doctor’s appointments. This is because you may be dealing with health anxiety or what they used to call hypochondriasis. It’s a genuine psychological condition that can cause physical symptoms.
People who suffer from this condition would often catastrophize about their health. They might believe that small pain in their chest is a heart attack or a headache is a brain tumor. This can cause them a great deal of anxiety, leading to more physical symptoms like sweating, racing heart, and difficulty breathing. If you think you may be suffering from health anxiety, here are some tips on managing it.
1. Stop searching about your symptoms online
One habit that people with health anxiety have is googling their symptoms. This is because they want to know if what they’re feeling is normal or not. But the problem with this is that you will usually only find worst-case scenarios when you search for your symptoms online.
When you search about headaches, you’d probably see that it is a sign of a brain tumor. This is where your anxiety begins to snowball because the more you search, the more you’ll find alarming information. So, to ease your anxiety, stop searching about your symptoms online.
Searching for your symptoms would only validate your fears. And you know how it will end: you’ll either find out that you have a rare disease or that your symptoms are nothing to worry about. The internet is vast, and you will never know what you find. So, to save yourself from anxiety, stop Googling your symptoms.
2. Consult a medical professional
If you’re genuinely concerned about your health, the best thing to do is to consult a medical professional. You can start by speaking with your primary care physician or a specialist to rule out all the diseases you’re worried about. This way, you’ll get reliable information about your condition. And if it turns out there’s nothing wrong with you, you can stop worrying. You can seek help from a mental health professional if your anxiety persists.
For example, just visit your trusted dental clinic for a regular dental check-up instead of constantly worrying about developing tooth decay. They will be able to tell you if your teeth are healthy or not. If you’re concerned about a headache, see a doctor. A medical professional can determine if it’s just a simple headache or something more serious.
Medical professionals can also explain why you don’t have the disease you think your symptoms manifest. For example, suppose you’re worried about developing cancer. In that case, a doctor can tell you it’s highly unlikely because you don’t have any risk factors. This way, you can allay your fears and focus on more important things.
3. Don’t compare your health to others
You tend to compare your symptoms to others when you have health anxiety. And usually, you’ll find that their symptoms are much worse than yours. This only fuels your anxiety and makes you think you will also experience the same fate.
What you need to remember is that everyone experiences different symptoms. Just because someone else has severe flu doesn’t mean you will. And even if you have the same condition, it doesn’t mean your symptoms will be as bad. So, refrain from comparing your health to others and focus on your own well-being.
4. Manage your stress levels
Did you know that some people experience somatic symptom disorder where their anxiety manifests as physical symptoms? This is because stress can cause various physical symptoms like chest pain, headache, and dizziness. What happens is these people would worry about their symptoms, and this would only worsen their condition.
It’s essential to keep your stress levels in check to manage your health anxiety. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. You can also try deep breathing exercises to calm yourself down. Your stress levels can affect how severe your anxiety-related symptoms are, so it’s important to manage them.
5. Challenge your thoughts
Lastly, challenging your thoughts is one of the best ways to manage your health anxiety. When you have negative thoughts about your health, try to find evidence that disproves it. This way, you can start to change your thinking patterns and ease your anxiety.
For example, if you’re constantly worried about developing cancer, try to find evidence that disproves it. You can look up the statistics of people who develop cancer and those who don’t. You can also talk to someone with cancer and ask about their experience. This can help you see that your fears are unfounded and that you’re much more likely to be healthy.
Challenging your thoughts can be difficult, but it’s crucial to managing your health anxiety. Once you start to question your negative thoughts, you’ll realize that most of them are irrational. And this can ease your anxiety and help you live a healthier life.
When it comes to your health, you have to be informed and proactive. However, it is also important not to let irrational fears take over your life. By following the tips above, you can learn how to manage your health scares healthily and productively. Don’t let your fears control you — take charge and take care of yourself.