What to do When Health Anxiety is Out of Control

L.A. Strucke

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Has the pandemic made you anxious about your health? You are not alone. Many people panic with every ache and pain they feel. Here are signs that your health anxiety is out of control.

Every ache and pain scares you

A while ago, if you had an ache or pain, you attributed it to a past injury or something minor. Now you fear every ache and pain indicates you have a terminal disease. You are either constantly making appointments to find out what’s really wrong with you, or you take the opposite approach and put off seeing doctors at all. You’re deathly afraid to go to the doctor because you fear discovering you have a terminal disease.

In both cases, your fear has spiraled way out of control. You frequently search the internet about your symptoms to see what’s wrong with you. It’s never the simplest illness with you; you always think it’s something fatal.

What now is called health anxiety used to be commonly referred to as hypochondria. Many things can trigger it. If a close friend or relative has died, you are enduring tremendous stress, or there is a pandemic raging, it could cause you to worry and obsess about your own health.

If you suffer from health anxiety, you fear getting sick even when you don’t have any symptoms at all.

You fear leaving your home

You spend most of your time at home to the point of being agoraphobic. You can’t risk being outside near people and possibly catching a virus or acquiring a contagious disease. You won’t leave the house to even social distance with people. Not even a mask makes you feel safe. The only living things you’ve seen lately are your pets. And if you could get your dog to wear a mask in the house, you would.

Life is like a prison for you because of your crippling fear. You are not living life anymore, just waiting for the end to come.

You’re terrified of germs

You wash your hands constantly and are afraid to touch surfaces, even in your own home. You’re constantly bleaching every surface in sight. You’ve taken the fear of germs to an extreme level.

If someone near you is sick, you are terrified you will catch it. Every cough around you plunges you into a panic. You avoid all the people you associate with because you don’t want to catch anything. You don’t believe them when they say it’s just allergies.

All you talk about is illness and death

Every conversation with you is about your aches and pains. You won't stop talking about death and dying, and fatal illnesses. Every time someone else brings up another topic, you steer the conversation back to illness. You talk about your sore knees or migraine headaches (that you fear is a brain tumor,) your operation, or every single celebrity that’s passed away in the last week.

You dwell on illness day and night. There are never any peaceful moments, and you've forgotten how to relax and enjoy life anymore.

Friends feel uncomfortable being near you, because you’ve become so negative, and only focus on illness all the time.

You switch doctors because they say there’s nothing wrong with you

When most people go to the doctor for a health issue, they are so happy when their tests come back normal. But this isn’t the reality for a person suffering from health anxiety.

Every time you go see a doctor, you can’t believe it when the tests come back normal. You know there is something wrong, and you’ve convinced yourself that all the medical professionals are completely clueless. You keep switching doctors in search of the one that will tell you what you want to hear.

You know whatever you have is dire. The doctors just haven’t found the problem yet.

You can’t sleep at night

You are awake for hours in the middle of the night terrified that you will die in your sleep. No one will find you. Every small pain that bothered you that day is magnified at night. It has to be something fatal — you know it.

Late at night, you waste hours when you could be sleeping scouring the internet to look up your symptoms. Every time you find some new disease you could potentially have, you immediately think you have it.

Some ways to cope with health anxiety

Being in fear of illness is a terrible way to live. It can ruin your joy of living.

Start dealing with your feelings, and the reasons why you are now living in fear. Did someone you know get diagnosed with cancer? Did you lose someone you loved to a fatal disease? These are reasons a person could suddenly start obsessing about illness.

If you are genuinely sick or in pain, make an appointment with a doctor, and get treated for it. Don’t panic, and automatically assume you have an incurable illness. Most of the time, it's something minor.

Start focusing on building your good health instead of sickness. Start a doctor-approved exercise program, eat healthy food, and cut out junk food. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or anything else that could cause you to panic.

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Calm yourself by focusing on deep breathing. Spend time meditating. You can find guided meditations on YouTube. Becoming more peaceful and spiritual can only help your mental health.

Be sure to get enough sleep at night. Studies show constant sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mental health. If you are anxious, lack of sleep only makes it worse.

Avoid reading health-related news or watching doom and gloom programs on TV. it's time to focus on other, more positive things to do in your life. Stop yourself from looking up diseases. You have much better things to do.

Realize that the pandemic will soon end, and things will be back to normal. Many people are vaccinated now and places are lifting many restrictions. Soon you will able to go out into the world and mingle with people.

Most important, don’t fear getting counseling or professional help for this problem. There’s no shame in getting help. It’s not your fault. you became so fearful. The pandemic has been difficult for everyone.

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