Health Anxiety Disorder. Why I’m always unwell, Why?

Venture towards anybody undertaking some sort of activity or job at a desk with a computer and notice the telltale signs of health anxiety disorder (HAD).

For one thing you’ll notice everything on the desk is reasonably tidy and easy to find, there’s a distinct lack of coffee or tea stains from cups on the table and there may be a little bag of wipes for cleaning around the desk area nearby somewhere. If you look on the desktop you see Google is open on the NHS site or similar containing advice on a medical condition of sorts.

People living with health anxiety disorder very often do a body scan to check in with how they’re feeling, tracking in to make sure they’re OK physically and mentally. They’re looking for self-assurance that they are in control and by keeping on top of things all will be well. They just need to find the answers to their questions. Briefly people will health anxiety disorder just don’t feel safe; they need to protect themselves and are indeed in protective mode.

The exact cause of health anxiety is not yet known, but researchers believe that it may be due to a combination of factors. According to medical journals people who experience severe illness during childhood, have parents or siblings with a serious medical condition, or have other outside conditions such as general anxiety disorder and social anxiety are at risk of developing health anxiety.

Health anxiety can be due to a combination of factors including learned coping patterns, genetics, temperaments, personality traits, childhood and family history, chronic stress and traumatic events. People with health anxiety may also tend to misinterpret physical symptoms as a sign of serious illness, which can lead to further anxiety and worry. It’s worth noting that while HAD has been on the increase several years now it has increased even more post COVID-19.

Hypnotherapy is a gentle and relaxing therapy for the treatment of the differing anxiety groups. With the more pronounced types of anxiety, its effectiveness brings excellent results by helping patients into a nice dreamy relaxed altered state of mind or trance state as it was known for years. During hypnotherapy patients are able visit their fears in a variety of different scenarios feeling safe and relaxed in a gently exposed non-threatening way but sensitised manner. This helps them to realise that the fear can be rationally contained, and several solutions can be shown to counteract the fear.  Anchors can be embedded in hypnotherapy to allow the patients to use when their anxiety starts to take hold. Practicing an anchor can invoke clients with feelings of calmness and ease of mind, by using and practicing their anchor. A good follow on from hypnotherapy is the information retrieved and be explored in psychotherapy and exposure therapy. EMDR is also and successful therapy to reduce root causes of anxiety when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and hypnotherapy.

Exposure therapy is a type of behavioural therapy that helps people confront their fears and overcome anxiety. Graded exposure involves gradually exposing the patient to the source of their fear by going up the ladder one step at a time. Systematic desensitisation involves helping the patient relax and get comfortable with each step of the process. It’s important to note that exposure therapy is highly individualised and should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Health anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are two separate mental health conditions with a distinct symptom. Whilst there are some overlapping symptoms between the two disorders, they are defined as separate disorders. According to OCD-UK health anxiety is a condition that exists over preoccupation with having a serious illness or a fear of developing a serious illness. People with health anxiety may believe they already have an illness or are in imminent danger of developing one despite receiving reassurance from health professionals. People with health anxiety may continue to worry excessively about their health.

OCD, on the other hand, involves having repetitive upsetting intrusive thoughts (obsessions) I’m feeling the need to address those obsessions with rituals (compulsions), 40% of OCD sufferers use this as a coping mechanism. 60% of OCD sufferers on the other hand employ their obsession with Intrusive thinking.  It is mostly unlikely that the majority of people live with just one issue, as usually we have more than one which stems from a knock on effect, hence, it is possible for someone to be diagnosed with both OCD and mental anxiety however, they are defined as separate disorders with one significant difference worth noting. Those with OCD have better insight into their problems compared to those with health anxiety who honestly believe they have a serious illness.