I must admit, it took me quite some courage to finally write this article.
Health anxiety has been a real pain to me for a long, long time and it’s one of the biggest anxiety triggers that I would rather avoid talking about because… Well, it’s never comfortable to talk about your anxiety triggers, ain’t it?
But just because I have had it for so many times, I have found quite a few tips & realizations that I believe can be helpful to anyone who struggles with health anxiety. I know there are a lot of you, ShineSheets readers, who get this uncomfortable type of anxiety very often and I know how you feel guys. I really do.
So with this symbolic time of the year (the last few days of it), let us do something important for ourselves. Let’s improve this health anxiety problem to make sure it’s not so frequent, or maybe even gone for good. Some things that I’m going to talk about have been a HUGE game-changers for me so they might as well have a big impact on you (and that would be awesome!).
Before I begin listing things that can help you deal with health anxiety, I want to talk a little bit about different variations of health anxiety you may have. This is not an official list, but it can help you understand a few important differences.
Health Anxiety Triggers Are Different For Everyone
First of all, you might have health anxiety about an actual illness or condition you have. Something that was checked by your doctor and diagnosed. Something you might have to wait out or even deal with for a very long time.
You may also have health anxiety about any kind of new symptom you got. For example, you’ve noticed a new ache or pain that was never there before and you’re feeling anxious about it, because you don’t know what it is.
You might even “diagnose yourself” with a ton of different illnesses and diseases, even though you don’t have any medical proof of you having it. This is called hypochondria and it’s especially prominent if you tend to see a lot of illness-related news on TV or online. It’s like someone is having measles and you suddenly start to feel all those symptoms they just listed.
Last but not least, you may have health anxiety about someone you love and who is having health issues.
No matter what kind of health anxiety you have, remember that it’s totally normal to feel worried about your health. It’s not like other people never worry about theirs. But health anxiety does a little more mental and physical damage than just a typical worry and that is why it’s important to not give in to it.
The tips I’m going to talk about can help with all types of health anxiety. And just in case you’re interested – yes, I’ve experienced all of them, many times before.
How To Deal With Health Anxiety: 6 Truths I Wish I’ve Realized Long Time Ago
1. Stop Googling Your Symptoms
This is the most important thing to do if you want to deal with health anxiety successfully – stop googling those symptoms! The internet is WILD and full of information that:
- Is plain false;
- Is outdated;
- Is written by people who don’t have any medical background;
- Is exaggerated.
Therefore, you can’t trust this information and googling your symptoms will only make your health anxiety worse because you may find a ton of new illnesses “you have”.
If you really, really need to check something about your symptoms online, look for credible sources like official health organizations’ websites.
Also, please note that just because a few of your symptoms match any diseases, it does not mean you have it until it’s medically confirmed! A symptom can be caused by various things, including both real illnesses and non-dangerous things as well. Sometimes, even simple things like vitamin deficiency can cause scary symptoms, even though the reason is not scary at all.
So don’t google!
2. If You Can’t Relax, Get It Checked
Some symptoms may simply come and be gone in a day or two. Our bodies are wonderful, always-working machines and it’s not surprising if it sometimes feels a little rough. In fact, if you really tuned into your senses, you might feel hundreds of small little aches all the time!
Unfortunately, people who have health anxiety are more sensitive and they’re more prone to clinging to any unusual feeling in their body. And the more they cling on it, the more they feel it!
If you feel unwell, the best thing you can do is simply get it checked. Not only can it help you find the reason you feel this way, but it will also help your health anxiety subside because you’ll know that you’re doing everything you need to get better.
Plus, consultation and care from your doctor can help you feel that things are being taken care of by a professional.
Moreover, your doctor may confirm that there’s nothing wrong with you at all, which has the power to disable your health anxiety faster.
3. Looking For Confirmation Feeds Your Health Anxiety
Some people have a tendency to look for confirmation from others. It can be your doctor, your friends, or family members – anyone who has to listen about your health problem over and over again.
If you find yourself constantly looking for affirmation that what you’re feeling is normal or not dangerous, you’re feeding your health anxiety. I used to do that all the time!
I go to the doctor, get a treatment plan, start to do it, don’t get fast relief, and then call the same doctor to ask whether it’s normal to not feel relief yet.
“Hey, but you should follow the treatment plan for 10 days… It’s been only day 5!”
Of course, checking in with your doctor if you feel something serious is a rational thing to do. But if you’re calling your doctor / mom / friend over and over just to get a small reassurance every single time, it’s not rational – it’s just another way to feed your health anxiety because you’re giving it what it wants – constant attention.
4. Some Symptoms Are Just Pure Anxiety
Another helpful realization that can help you deal with health anxiety is understanding that anxiety itself can cause physical symptoms. It can cause new symptoms, or exacerbate the existing ones and make you spiral out of control.
I have written about anxiety symptoms before, and if you’re someone who is prone to anxiety, please print it (there’s a free printable at the bottom of that article) and have it somewhere near.
Whenever you’re having a new, scary symptom, ask yourself – have I been stressed or overworked lately? Have I been worrying about anything? Am I eating well?
Do my symptoms feel like anxiety? If so, try to do a few calming activities, talk to someone you love or trust, and see if your symptoms have improved. If they did, it may be a sign that your symptom is caused by stress and tension in your body and you can start focusing on better self-care right away.
5. Your Body Is ALWAYS Healing Itself
Some people tend to forget that our bodies are always, always working to achieve a perfect balance and health. Yes, there are certain situations when our cells get confused and work against us, but even then the rest of your body is working in harmony to achieve the best possible state of health.
When you’re sick, the best thing you can do is to help your body heal itself. You can do it with the help of your doctor and it is always a good idea to check what keeps you worried. But you should also remember that everything, every process in your body runs smoother when you’re CALM and allowing your body to heal.
Try to relax as much as you can whenever you’re dealing with a health issue, health anxiety, or a health scare. Allow your cells to do their job, without overwhelming them with unnecessary stress that comes from your mind.
6. Be Patient
Last, but certainly not least, remember that it takes time for your body to heal. It doesn’t matter if it’s an actual illness, anxiety-caused symptoms, stress, fatigue – you name it… It takes some time for your body to recover.
It took me a year to recover from a TMJ (a certain jaw joint disorder), even though I was expecting it to go away in a month. It didn’t, but I tried to be patient and eventually it DID go away. Also, what works for one person, might not work for another. You might need a different medication, more time, or less time, you might need more checkups and sometimes, your doctor may tell you that there’s nothing wrong with your body at all, even if you DO feel something weird.
Our bodies change and get older day by day. If you’re expecting to be healthy all the time, it’s just an unrealistic mindset. Expecting to get better very fast, is also unrealistic and unhelpful. Be patient with your body.
I hope these tips will help you to deal with health anxiety easier. Health anxiety requires constant work and things like CBT journals can be extremely helpful. Whenever you’re stuck with a new health scare, think of it as a new opportunity to practice your resilience and take better self care (and maybe get a checkup, which never hurts).
Do you have health anxiety right now? Share in a comment down below.