Worrying about our health is human. But worrying about it to the point where it interferes with daily life, may suggest that you are suffering from Health Anxiety. According the the Centre for Clinical Intervention, “Health anxiety is problematic when it is excessive, out of proportion to the realistic chances of having a serious problem, and persists despite negative tests and reassurance from health professionals.”

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to treat health anxiety, and how it can help individuals live a more fulfilling life.

Understanding Health Anxiety

Health anxiety, also known as hypochondriasis, is a condition where a person experiences excessive worry and anxiety about their health. This can show up in a variety of ways, including constantly checking your body for signs of illness, obsessively researching or googling medical conditions, and seeking reassurance from doctors and loved ones.

This condition often causes a significant amount of stress, and can increase physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, and insomnia – which for many sufferers, can be interpreted to mean that something is seriously wrong.

Some of the more common health related fears include having or developing cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, a mental illness such as schizophrenia, a thyroid disorder, or that you may have a heart attack.

How CBT can help with Health Anxiety

CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. This form of therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of conditions, including health anxiety.

CBT for health anxiety typically involves several steps, including:

  1. Psychoeducation: The first step is to understand what health anxiety is, how it develops, and what keeps it going.
  2. Identifying and Challenging Negative Thoughts: The next step is to try to identify negative thoughts and then begin to challenge them with more realistic and balanced ways of thinking. This involves examining the evidence for and against the negative thoughts and beliefs, to developing new ways of thinking.
  3. Reducing Unhelpful Behaviours: Certain behaviours are shown to maintain health anxiety, for instance seeking reassurance from friends or healthcare professionals, undergoing medical testing, looking up symptoms online, and body scanning or checking. Reducing or stopping these behaviours will help you to get unstuck from the vicious cycle that maintains your health anxiety.
  4. Developing Coping Strategies: The final step is to develop coping strategies for dealing with anxiety-provoking situations. This can include developing relaxation techniques, practicing mindfulness, and learning how to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way.

The Benefits of CBT for Health Anxiety

CBT for health anxiety has several benefits, including:

  1. Reducing anxiety: Yes! CBT works. It has been shown to be very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.
  2. Improved quality of life: By reducing anxiety and stress related to your health, you can start to enjoy life again.
  3. Increased self-confidence: CBT can help you build a tool box of coping strategies to manage your anxiety on your own, which can be very empowering.
  4. Long-Term Results: CBT is a form of therapy that can produce long-term results, which means that you can continue to benefit from the therapy long after it has ended.

If you or a loved one are struggling with health anxiety, consider speaking to your GP and / or a psychologist. You don’t need to struggle alone.


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