My friend has a severe case of health anxiety from which she is trying to recover.
She gets dizzy and worries that something is seriously wrong with her physically. Over the years she has been to doctors for various bodily symptoms only to get a clean bill of health. She even had an abdominal lump that turned out to be nothing.
Despite the reassurances from doctors, she continues to focus on physical sensations and symptoms that might mean something is wrong. My friend is not alone…
Overcoming health anxiety is a challenge faced by many. In fact it is one of the main reasons why people end up in emergency rooms in the US.
Someone with health anxiety may be convinced that a panic attack is really a heart attack, or that a bout of dizziness means a stroke is about to strike. A lump or a bump may be cancer. A stomachache that lasts for days is a sure sign that something is terribly wrong.
Many people with health anxiety have received clean bills of health from their doctors. And yet the worrying persists. The catastrophic symptoms persist.
What’s that all about?
The culprit is (surprise!) anxiety and all the hormones it releases into the blood stream when we are frightened. The symptoms of anxiety manifest in so many strange ways.
Palpitations, flushing, wanting to escape, and sweating are more common. A stomachache that lasts for hours or a headache that lasts for a week is not really as common and can be hard to believe that it’s brought on by the anxiety. But it is.
Our bodies respond to anxiety by tensing up and preparing for fight or flight. If our muscles tense up in the abdomen, it may very well feel like a serious stomach ailment. Tense muscles in the head give us headaches. And an already anxious person with frequent headaches may be convinced something physical is wrong- even if doctors have said otherwise.
In addition, an already anxious person may get a stomachache and think “Why do I always have stomach aches?” Constantly dwelling on the thoughts and symptoms only serves to keep your stomach in knots. And so you will continue to have stomachaches.
Recovery from health anxiety takes determination, but it certainly can be done. The sufferer needs to recognize that while the symptoms are disturbing, odd, and worrisome, they are in no way harmful. The sufferer needs to know and really believe inside that the body is fine and healthy.
And then they have to go about their day as usual- despite the disturbing physical feelings that will come. This is truly the way to permanent recovery. Recognizing that the symptoms are there but trying not to be too freaked out by them really does weaken the hold anxiety may have on you.
You must keep on doing what you need to do to go about your day and not focus in on the symptoms. Try to view them as background noise– irritating, like flies– but really harmless and not worth your time.
Is this a tall order? Yes of course it is. But this is exactly what you have to do in order to beat health anxiety.
Panic attacks and anxiety can make you feel sick – physically sick. And you may have medically unexplainable symptoms even after the doctor says you are fine and healthy.
That is when you must do your very best to do it afraid and press on, despite how crappy you may be feeling.
Because the more you stand up to anxiety, the more you knock the wind out of it’s sails, so to speak. So if you can try to just carry on as usual- consistently – you are calling anxiety’s bluff and basically saying:
“Ok, so I feel dizzy/nauseous/ faint/whatever. It sucks but it’s just anxiety. Big deal. I can stand here and do what I need to do anyways.”
And sure enough, the symptoms will eventually die down. They will run their course and your load will surely lighten.
Are you in recovery from health anxiety? Please share what works for you so we can all benefit.
I wish you peace,
Want to know how I’m doing so well after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for so long? I recommend and use Panic Away. Click on the link to get started today and reclaim your life from fear.