Health Anxiety

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.

  1. Have you been preoccupied with having or developing a serious illness for at least six months?
  2. Have you had repeated reassurance from a doctor that you are not suffering from a serious disease?
  3. 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?
  4. 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: