Health Anxiety – What are the Signs and Symptoms

It’s very normal to be both mindful and conscious of our health and wellbeing. It’s also natural to worry, to google our symptoms and to seek medical advice. Yet where the worrying becomes compulsive, where advice is overlooked and where attention becomes fixated on symptoms, health anxiety will be a concern.

Health anxiety is a type of anxiety which is heavily linked to OCD. It can be caused by ill-health, by an unpredictable or traumatic death, or by poor/negligent healthcare experiences. Signs and symptoms can also amount due to genetics, stress, anxious temperaments, poor mental health, and abuse.

Displayed through constant worry over health and wellbeing, the inability to accept medical clearance, the need for second opinions, and the need to frequently check oneself, health anxiety can be an overbearing illness.

For those who are diagnosed with health anxiety, symptoms can range from mild to chronic. For some, they can be controlled, similarly, to generalised anxiety disorders. For others, anxiety, worry and paranoia can turn into regular panic attacks, the inability to lead day-to-day life, and isolation. It’s also ironic that health anxiety can cause a rebound effect of poor, deteriorating health, which can aggravate symptoms even more.

Possible to develop into a very serious, crippling disorder, health anxiety should be diagnosed and treated through professional means. Here’s how here at Step One Recovery, along with some more insight into health anxiety – what are the signs and symptoms?

What is health anxiety?

Anxiety is a mental health disorder which heightens worry, alertness and disrupts the usual flow of internal messaging. It can place someone who’s suffering, on edge, known to aggravate through specific triggers.

For someone with health anxiety, anything to do with healthcare, wellbeing, illness, or lifespan are found to trigger intense bouts of worry, panic, and compulsion. Symptoms can become crippling and can cause physical and mental illness.

In some instances, health anxiety can be episodic, meaning that signs and symptoms display through triggers. Yet for some people, especially those with chronic and long-term anxiety, episodes can be re-occurring, meaning that average responsibilities, tasks, and decisions can be difficult to complete.

What are the main causes of anxiety?

There are various causes, known to trigger anxiety. Generalised anxiety disorder is an overarching diagnosis for heightened and uncontrollable anxiety. Anything from poor mental health, unmanageable stress, trauma, genetic weaknesses, high-pressure environments, and threatening relationships can induce anxiety.

As there are different types of anxiety, causes can be even more specific. For example, health anxiety can be caused by a traumatic event, linked to healthcare. Whether that’s negligent care, incorrect treatment, prolonged symptoms, mistreated conditions, unpredictable death, or serious diagnoses, such as cancer, triggers can be personal and very sensitive.

It’s very important to be aware of the cause of anxiety, to make sure that it can be treated properly. Some signs and symptoms can fall closely to panic disorders, whilst others of compulsive and comparable natures. Awareness will make sure that treatments and therapies are effective through anxiety rehab.

Signs and symptoms of health anxiety

Health anxiety can display through physical and psychological illness, changes in behaviour and expression, and adaptations to energy, personality, and actions. As health anxiety can result in chronic illness, due to the pressure that it can place on the body and brain, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Through a professional diagnosis, clinical assessments will be available to understand the cause, severity, and type of anxiety you’re experiencing.

Here’s some insight into ‘health anxiety – what are the signs and symptoms?’ to offer greater awareness.

Signs and symptoms of health anxiety are closely linked to those of a generalised anxiety disorder. Yet they will likely intensify whilst exposed to personal triggers. For example, insomnia, nervousness, high blood pressure and fatigue are all common signs of anxiety which can be experienced daily. Once a trigger has been experienced, such as exposure to ill-health or healthcare services, panic, hyperventilation, a lack of control and compulsive behaviours can develop as a response to threat. Both will need to be managed in order to recover.

Common signs and symptoms of health anxiety include:
– Constant feelings of worry over health and wellbeing
– Self-diagnosing through Google
– Fixating on symptoms and completing physical checks at a frantic rate
– Asking for reassurance
– Always needing medical advice
– Overlooking medical advice
– Ill-health, due to excess worry and pressure
– Physical signs of anxiety such as dizziness, digestive issues, and palpitations
– Psychological signs of anxiety such as panic, intrusive thoughts, and uncontrollable nerves
– Ongoing belief that serious health conditions are amounting
– Fixating on certain conditions
– Comparing oneself closely to someone who is unwell
– Worrying about death
– Worrying about the health of others
– Isolating and withdrawing behaviours
– The inability to shift symptoms, making it difficult to lead everyday life
– Avoidance of healthcare services
– Using negative and unhealthy coping strategies
– Developing additional mental health disorders, such as social anxiety

As health anxiety can be both manageable and crippling, it is important to receive a diagnosis, followed by suitable treatment.

Ways to cope with anxiety

Whether it’s day-to-day symptoms or episodic mental health crises, there are some self-help tips for dealing with anxiety. They include:

– Mindfulness: Very helpful to ground oneself and to be fully aware of the present moment
– Deep breathing techniques: Used to slow the body and mind down, and control symptoms
– Physical exercise: Acting as a distraction, whilst helping to produce happy and motivating chemicals
– Self-care: Any form of care which helps to alleviate symptoms will be recommended
– Yoga/meditation: Recommended as relaxation therapy, to focus on feelings, balancing the mind and experiencing clearer thoughts
– Healthy and balanced lifestyle choices: Balance can help to stabilise the body and mind, whilst offering a structure to follow
– Awareness of personal triggers: Triggers can be avoided, prevented, or worked around with awareness

In the event of health anxiety, as it is a rebound condition, which depletes wellbeing, professional support is an important consideration. Although difficult to face up to, if symptoms are unmanageable through the above techniques, treatment and medication may be required.

Health anxiety treatment and management

Health anxiety will be treated through a rehabilitation process. Offered through inpatient rehab and outpatient rehab here at Step One Recovery, a range of anxiety treatment services can be completed.

Before treatment can begin, signs and symptoms of health anxiety will need to be assessed, to deliver a full clinical diagnosis. With full insight, effective and niche treatments and therapies can be recommended.

Treating health anxiety will be possible through a range of talking therapies, exposure therapy sessions, mental health treatment and lifestyle management. Cognitive behavioural therapy is the most recommended treatment, to understand, digest and reduce the negative associations of threat and health. Positive outlooks will be aimed for, resulting in mindful actions.

Lifestyle management will also be important to increase the quality of choices surrounding exercise, nutrition, sleep, and relaxation. As health anxiety can deplete wellbeing, treatments will focus on improving physical and psychological health.

Prescription medications are commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders. Yet based on the risks of side effects, recommendations will be on a per-client basis. For someone who is struggling with physical triggers, side effects may induce a compulsive response, relapsing recovery.

To manage anxiety, self-help tips, regular therapy sessions, relapse prevention planning, support groups, healthy intentions and mindfulness are all recommended. They will be touched on through anxiety rehab as educational and management sessions.

For our help, to access health anxiety treatment, reach out today. Alternatively, if you are worried about any compulsive behaviours, reach out for further guidance on ‘health anxiety – what are the signs and symptoms?’.