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Health anxiety, hypochondria, and obsession with symptoms

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What is the best way to beat health anxiety??

its taken over my life and I keep telling my therapist that it’s the physical symptoms that effect me the most.

i know that the physical impact the mental and it’s a vicious cycle but how does one deal with the mental when the physical can’t be explained by a doctor???

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I am not sure if this qualifies as health anxiety, but I get intrusive thoughts about my symptoms usually when they are happening. Sometimes, its just the actual name of the symptom that floats through my head. For example, if I notice I am struggling to stand up my mind will automatically think "difficulty standing" or "what the heck why is this happening to me again" As if I wasn't already aware that I was having this difficulty, my mind has to remind me of this. I am trying not to react to these thoughts at all--it feels at this point in time, my only option is to just let these things run through my mind. This "nonreaction" has been made much easier by being emotionally numb right now. If I were able to feel emotionally connected to my thoughts at this point in time, I think I would not be able to get out of bed at all.


I do also struggle with health anxiety a bit--generally, I obsess over where I am right now and how good my life was a year ago, and how the heck I could get so sick over the course of a year. I also struggle to direct my focus away from my suffering into something more productive or distracting, especially when I am in a really bad mood and unable to access my sense of humor, intellect, etc. Today was tough, I was with my mother and cousin and just feeling so ill and unable to socialize, I did not know how to engage and kind of got irked about my inability to engage and inability to access my personality. 

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On 5/18/2017 at 12:06 PM, Kittygiggles said:

Hi everyone,





I was requested kindly by a moderator to reproduce my post on a thread here. I've edited it only slightly as I've had time to reread it. I also want to direct people prone to health anxiety to a useful book, which challenges sufferers to embrace the scary things that really worry them, like death, serious illness, and the uncertainty of health (Overcoming Health Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (Overcoming Books) Paperback – November 26, 2009):- 











Here's my largely unedited post: 






"I am not a clinical psychologist or licensed CBT practitioner. However, I am a sufferer (albeit recovering) of health anxiety. I suspect you have health anxiety and tackling it will make everything easier to deal with. Earlier in your thread you said 






"I know I think about things obsessively." Health anxiety overlaps with OCD a great deal, it is a form of obsession. Understandably but in common with OCD, you are seeking reassurance that your health is okay. Seeking reassurance feels great when you receive it but it is addictive and actually makes health anxiety worse. It is okay to check important symptoms with a doctor but health anxiety makes it almost impossible to discern what is worth troubling yourself and a doctor with and what isn't. 






You need to recognize anxiety as something that leads to panic, and whilst both of them feel like they are continuous, they do actually end after a predictable period. When you are anxious or panic, it lasts up to roughly an hour, often 15 to 45 minutes. These numbers aren't that important and are probably not particularly accurate (but they are not wildly inaccurate either), what is important is that once you come down from a panic or anxiety episode, your faulty obsessive thinking kickstarts another episode straight after it. Being in this state repeatedly is exhausting, as I am sure anyone reading this will agree with. Being anxious or panicking is so tiring physiologically but also psychologically, which makes breaking free of it difficult.






If you break the cycle just once, you will feel better immediately! Learning to recognize when you are anxious and quelling it with breathing and calming exercises, as well as rational cognition, will fix health anxiety permanently. Each time you break the cycle, you get better at it until it becomes second nature. The goal of this is to feel serenity in the face of uncertainty about your frightening symptoms. 






You also said in your thread:






"This is more than health anxiety." Don't underestimate health anxiety! As you probably know by now, it can be terrifying, leading to panic and thoughts that you are about to go crazy, lose consciousness, or die. Usually, when you have severe health anxiety, the last thing on your mind is that you have it, instead you're preoccupied with the fear of your symptoms. These symptoms are real to the sufferer but non-sufferers often fail to appreciate that, preferring to dismiss health anxiety as trivial and often using the old moniker of hypochondriasis to describe it.






You should always see a doctor if you have symptoms that are inexplicable and could be serious. However, next time you go to the doctor with any symptom that worries you try to take notes (yes by writing them down) of how you felt before the appointment, during it, then afterwards. You should notice that your anxiety and/or panic levels fluctuate. This is your first clue that your problem could just be health anxiety and not a symptom that you need to worry about excessively.






The goal is not to stop you seeing a doctor or researching data from reputable sources about your symptoms, which you should whenever you think it is justified. The first step is to get you to make, wait for, and attend appointments calmly, having eliminated your anxiety: this will give you clarity during your appointments and in some cases, make you realize that an appointment may not be necessary. You can always cancel them if you find a symptom has diminished or isn't as serious as you thought. The same applies to researching symptoms: do so when you are calm and reacting not from anxiety but out of rational curiosity. Eventually, you'll be like most people: making occasional appointments calmly, without anxiety driving any aspect of your decision. You will be able to manage your symptoms and avoid the horrors of a relentless panic spiral. 






Recovering from health anxiety takes time and work, but the CBT that treats it starts working immediately. I am not 100% yet (I'd say about 90%) but I am so much better. I have avoided so much worry and agony, as well as needless appointments with specialists and doctors, and hundreds of hours of researching symptoms, thanks to health anxiety-focused CBT. Without it, withdrawal would have been impossible to get through.






SA has a lot of resources to help you identify symptoms that may be caused by withdrawal. Your medication will also tell you of dozens of symptoms you may encounter as you continue taking it. These are commonplace and mostly do not need medical intervention. 






To those overwhelmed by health anxiety and panic, even to the point of crisis, as I have been, I recommend the abovementioned book, a licensed and reputable CBT practicioner, and/or this crisis website: "No Panic" (https://www.nopanic....k/panic-attack/). Withdrawal sufferers have enough to deal with, we don't need health anxiety making our life harder! 






I hope you all feel better soon and I hope I made some sense  :)"




This is a brilliant post!  This is everything that got me started on lexapro the first place that let me to such dark times with not sleeping.  I feel like I am WAYY better now then I was, because all of my symptoms went away with the medicine or I just didnt care as much and I felt great.  It showed me that all my symptoms were in fact health anxiety and not some funky disease.  Yeah I do have IBS but its way worse once I get anxious and nervous.  When I was on lexapro it went away completely.  I think it shows us that we need to deal with the problems better and accept that sometimes this is the way we are (like anxious or nervous sometimes).  


The key is not to google the symptoms and get down a path that we need to solve everything.  So I still feel strong the cure is acceptance.  However, some of that obsessive thoughts has cured many issues in my life, but it also made ALOT more problems.  I went to a doc for heartburn and he gave me omperazole.  The root cause is I didn't have enough acid and not too much, so sometimes it is good to figure out yourself but not obsessive over it.  And if you do have the problem just accepting it and dealing with it a day at a time.  My problem is I wanted everything fixed and I was impatient and I would obsessive over it finding the solution.   You cant just take a pill and a supplement and its all gone.  I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on supplements.  I am truely happy digestive supplements and probiotics and eat healthy.  

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Posted (edited)

Some helpful resources:






Resources:  Centre for Clinical Interventions (PDF modules that you can work through, eg:  Depression, Distress Intolerance, Health Anxiety, Low Self-Esteem, Panic Attacks, Perfectionism, Procrastination, Social Anxiety, Worrying)



Edited by ChessieCat

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What can sometimes happen is anxiety about the symptoms can make things worse and add more to our worries - distraction can help with this I think.

I have another physical health condition and it is stressful, have learned to try and let things come and go a bit and observe, rather than worrying too much. As it can need surgery if it gets worse. I think stressing just makes the symptoms (and definitely pain) worse, so it can get into a kind of vicious cycle. To stop this I try and notice this and just do other things, swim, read for example. Practice, with time gets you used to doing this rather than just responding as you used to. It's not easy though sometimes. Have had lots of CBT and mindfulness support to deal with things.

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On 3/18/2014 at 10:35 PM, mammaP said:

I think many of us can relate to this. The suffering is real but tests always come back fine.

It would be a  relief knowing there is something that can be fixed, or an explanation to give

people for why we are so ill. It's an awful thing to go through.


I found it much easier when I knew that my symptoms were caused by the drugs and withdrawal.

Just knowing that meant that I could be sick in peace on bad days and know that it will eventually

get better. It took a long time to sink in and believe it and I have Alto and this site to thank for 

teaching me.  Acceptance is the key here, once we accept that it is drugs/withdrawal  we can 

learn to ride the bad times knowing they will end.  It isn't easy, especially when there are people

to look after or a job to go to, it's a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone. except the pharma bosses

and shrinks of course, It would be good if every one of them had a taste of withdrawal ! 

@mammaPThere are two psychiatrists in the U.K who were on ssri’s. One was Peter Gordon who tried to come off Paroxetine and developed psychosis. No history of mental health issues as he took it for headaches. https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/truthman30.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/heroes-scottish-psychiatrist-peter-gordon/amp/

The other practises in East London. 


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it is hard not to obsess about something as intrusive and terrible as tinnitus, especially on a day its screaming.    this came on for me at a time when I was not on a med, however in between them and had other issues going on - dental work, antibiotics, stress, etc.   so I cant say meds did it, but they mess with it for sure.   that and my messed up CNS.  So my question would be, how do not obsess about something physical that is real ?  this crap is terrible. :( especially when you have good days and think that maybe just maybe its gone.  and then its back again next day.  does this mean there is healing going on?


maybe its not health anxiety but anxiety of a real health concern that you feel is debilitating? 

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It’s a chicken or the egg problem. But most often it is due to symptoms but it occurs in a subtle and quick way.


the symptoms of mood or agitation and anxiety appear and the mind explains it with thoughts. The feelings preceded the cognition.


i have found it seldom I get anxious thoughts or anxiety that occurs before a initial physical symptom in the brain, CNS etc. the mind just puts context to it by either creating a frightening thought or trying to explain the symptom.


physiology preceeds psychology. But because we are often unaware of WD symptoms emerging we are only conscious of our thoughts that are triggered by it.

without symptoms there are no frightening thoughts. What is going on in our physiology becomes our mood and our thoughts.

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