Health Anxiety

Health Anxiety

Most of us will worry about our health from time to time, but for some people this worry becomes constant and problematic. Health anxiety, also referred to as hypochondria, is classified as obsessive worrying about your health, to the point where day-to-day functioning is affected. For example, someone with health anxiety may become very worried that a headache is something more serious, even possibly something life threatening.It is not uncommon for people with health anxiety to have several unexplained physical symptoms.  It is also well documented that conditions such as back pain, IBS and skin rashes get worse with stress and anxiety.  When physical symptoms are made worse this then creates more anxiety and worry, which again worsens the symptoms leading to a vicious cycle.


In order to deal with the anxiety the person will seek out reassurance from family, friends, the Internet and doctors.  However, any comfort they receive from the reassurance is likely to be short lived, so the worry begins again leading to seeking more reassurance and so on and so on.This is not the only way someone exhibits health anxiety. Another way someone may show signs of health anxiety is through avoidance behaviours. This means the person avoids anything that may trigger the anxiety such as the TV, Internet, and doctor appointments.

Causes of health anxiety

Reasons why someone develops health anxiety is not always identifiable but some common factors can be:

Going through a stressful time or experiencing prolonged stress.
It may be a symptom of a mental illness such as anxiety or depression.
May have experienced a childhood trauma.
May have experienced a trauma event in adulthood.
May have been predisposed to anxiety if you have a family member who has anxiety.
May be vulnerable to health anxiety if you are known to be a worrier.

This means that when seeking treatment it is not just about working with the anxiety but also about addressing what is causing it and finding alternative ways of coping and managing.