Are you often worried about your health?
You might feel slight discomfort in your body and your mind starts to go wild. You start to fear deeply about your health.
Then you start to get all panicky and try to look up online for the symptoms.
Oh, snap! All the symptoms seemed to match your condition perfectly.
You are not the only one!
All these anxious or intrusive thoughts revolving around health fall under the category of health anxiety.
What is Health Anxiety?
Health anxiety (or hypochondria) is when you spend so much time worrying you’re ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to heavily impact your daily life.
Common health anxiety symptoms are you are feeling extreme distress about your condition and constant in the fear of something worse is going to happen.
Even though you might have visited a doctor and gotten a health checkup and there seems to be nothing wrong with you at all. You still can’t stop worrying!
You feel skeptical about the results and came back home, starting to doubt that maybe the problem lies in another part of the body.
Since you don’t have any professionals next to you, you start to turn your research online again, and… now, with all the medical terms and illnesses bombarded at you…
Your anxiety just heightened to a new level.
You just fell into the vicious cycle of health anxiety.
How Did the Cycle of Health Anxiety Form?
Health anxiety can start forming with existing emotional stress. Your stress in day-to-day life can fuel and trigger the whole loop of obsessional behaviors and thoughts. Let’s break down the problem a bit further.
1. Long-Accumulated Emotional Distress
Some of our daily lifestyles or mindset could lead us often have emotional distress. For instance, as an introverted and highly sensitive person myself, my emotions can be triggered more easily by the external environment.
If I do not pay attention to my emotional self-care, there can be a lot of stress and negativity accumulating in the back of my mind without me noticing them.
At the same time, as a highly sensitive person, I can be also more sensitive toward my body’s sensations and feelings, which tend to enlarge any discomfort in the body.
2. Lacking Physical Self-Care
Physical Self-Care is the most basic and fundamental form of self-care. It involves activities that improve your physical health including diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep.
If you have been living in a stressful state for a while, you probably overlook your physical self-care as well. Lacking sufficient rest or exercise would also make you feel less confident about your health and overall well-being.
This will increase the tendency to pay attention to any discomfort or slight difference happening in the body.
3. Cognitive Bias
We tend to have a cognitive bias when searching online and looking for answers. Our brain works in a way that simply a large amount of information by filtering those that align with our personal experiences and preferences.
This means we have a natural tendency to think that a vague description applies to ourselves.
Especially when we are searching online for our symptoms, we are likely to see symptoms that are matching to us and instantly came up with a conclusion.
Once we see something that is fitting, our fear is going to enlarge.
How to Break the Cycle of Health Anxiety?
Let’s first start with what NOT to do:
1. Stop Searching Online For the Answer
If you are feeling unwell and it’s bothering you, simply go for a medical checkup and consult with professionals.
Trust the professionals. If you are suspecting the results, talk to the doctor about your potential concerns.
Let professionals’ words be the guide and decision. Clarify all your concerns with the doctor and move on.
2. Learn to Relax
We can see from the cycle that the trigger for health anxiety is a long-term accumulation of negative emotions and a stressful lifestyle.
You need to learn to relax and let your negative emotions find a way out.
Too many negative emotions accumulating will lead to you getting burned out and also fuel potential mental health concerns. Regardless of how busy you are, mental health should be a priority.
3. Change A Lifestyle
Instead of worrying about your health, direct your attention to self-enhancement activities.
For instance, do some cardio exercise or have a more regular sleep schedule.
Re-examine your lifestyle.
Did you get sufficient sunlight daily?
Did you have enough rest?
Did you have a balanced meal?
Are you drinking plenty of water?
Did you have some exercise daily?
Put your attention and energy into building a new healthy lifestyle and self-care routine.
If you start to divert your attention to these activities, both your mental and physical well-being will see a drastic improvement.
When you caught yourself worrying about your health and start checking online again, remember the 3 tips today and start to practice them. Nothing is as bad as it seems.
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