Health anxiety (sometimes called hypochondriasis or illness anxiety disorder) is a preoccupation with the idea that you have a serious illness or a fear that you might develop a serious illness and the fear persists despite you having been given medical reassurance.
Only a health professional can diagnose you but if you answer yes to the following questions, then there is a good chance that you may have health anxiety.
- Have you been preoccupied with having or developing a serious illness for at least six months?
- Have you had repeated reassurance from a doctor that you are not suffering from a serious disease?
- Does your preoccupation with your health cause you great distress? Or does your preoccupation interfere in areas of life such as work or family and social life?
- Do you repeatedly check your symptoms on the internet or in books; examine yourself or ask others for reassurance
Health anxiety shares some similarities with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder. It does not necessarily mean that you will be spending a lot of time at the doctors, as some people with health anxiety will tend to avoid seeing a medical professional. It can be successfully helped with specific cognitive behaviour therapy that targets areas such as avoidance, checking, reassurance seeking, self-monitoring, misinterpretation of bodily sensations, and catastrophic images.
To find out more about health anxiety and it’s treatment you could consider reading the book I co-wrote with Dr David Veale called ‘Overcoming Health Anxiety’, published by Constable and Robinson: