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Health is one of the most important sources of security in life, affecting our ability to care for ourselves, our family and home, and our work. It is not surprising that many people experience anxiety concerning their health or the health of loved ones. It may be triggered by experiences such as everyday symptoms (a skipped heartbeat, a headache), a threatening experience such as finding a breast lump, or coping with illness or death of a loved one. It may also be triggered by stories about health issues in the community or media.Some individuals may worry about a specific illness or body symptom, while others worry about many.
Conviction about actually having a serious disease may be part of the picture. Health anxiety is often associated with high levels of worry, excessive focus on bodily symptoms, checking for symptoms and signs related to health concerns, and frequent efforts to obtain reassurance. Individuals with high degrees of health anxiety often have high levels of health service utilization. Others may avoid health care professionals because of fears about being diagnosed with a serious disease or because
of dissatisfaction with previous health care experiences.
Like other forms of anxiety, health anxiety is a multifaceted phenomenon, consisting of distressing emotions, physiological arousal and associated body sensations, thoughts and images of danger, and avoidance and other defensive behaviours. Health anxiety ranges from mild and transient to severe and chronic.
Health anxiety varies in the extent to which it is adaptive versus excessive or maladaptive. Virtually all of us have experienced health anxiety at times in our lives. Often the anxiety is adaptive because it motivates us to seek appropriate medical care. Worry about chest pain in a person with a history of cardiac disease, for example, can lead him or her to promptly summon an ambulance when the pain occurs, thereby reducing the risk of mortality. Health anxiety is maladaptive if it is out of proportion with the objective degree of medical risk. Low anxiety in the face of high risk or high anxiety in the face of low risk can be maladaptive. Lack of worry about the health risks of smoking, for example, can have deadly consequences. Conversely, excessive worry about minor, harmless bodily changes (e.g., spots or rashes) or bodily sensations (e.g., muscle twinges) can cause undue suffering and impairment in social and occupational functioning.
Health anxiety can be extremely debilitating and receiving appropriate evidence based health anxiety treatment can potentially make a great difference to a person’s functioning and ability to live a life that is outward looking and values based.
Contact our specialists for evidence based health anxiety treatment in Sydney, Australia.
2 Warwick Avenue, Cammeray,
Sydney, NSW (2062)
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