Health Anxiety is a hot topic at the moment. That’s why our Eastbourne chiropractors have written this blog to share some tips and advice. If you’d like to find out more then read on.
Chiropractic treatment is most famous for treating muscle and joint aches and pains. As well as using hands-on (manual) techniques (like massage and manipulation) we use a range of other approaches to help when needed.
For some people, lifestyle advice and reassurance can also be really helpful, especially if you’re suffering with tension and the inability to relax.
Firstly, What is Health Anxiety?
Health Anxiety is a state of hyperfocus and hyper-awareness (being overly preoccupied) about your own body. This is distressing and can lead to excessive and compulsive checking. The sufferer becomes almost convinced they have an underlying serious disease. This, in some cases, can lead to a break down in their lives and relationships.
Health Anxiety can manifest after an accident or illness in the family, watching or reading about illnesses, or googling their symptoms. Health Anxiety about a muscle wasting terminal disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS skyrocketed after the ice bucket challenge in 2014. Sufferers of the anxiety became fixated on their muscle twitches, dropping things and weakness/heaviness in their arms and legs, which ironically are also common symptoms of anxiety. As they got more anxious, these symptoms increased, causing a vicious cycle that fueled their fears.
One of the worst things a health anxiety sufferer can do is Google their symptoms. This can bring up the most serious causes of your symptoms, either because of sensationalist news headlines, or online content that is simply not correct, or is over-exaggerated. Examples of headlines could be “X dies after complaining of a headache.” Usually, dying after a small complaint, like a headache, is exceedingly rare. Headaches are extremely common and usually have no serious causes other than tension or postural imbalances.
Unfortunately, a person with health anxiety will always jump to the worst possible conclusion when they next have a headache after seeing that headline. In severe cases, not even negative tests or advice from experts can ease their worries.
Managing Health Anxiety
To help alleviate symptoms of health anxiety, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is effective. This is a talking therapy which helps people recognise the negative thoughts causing them anxiety and gives them the tools to try to break the cycle. The process involves talking to a or psychologist or counsellor, and weighing up the chances of the fear happening, to put things in perspective.
The therapist works with the patient to breakdown that initial thought into; the thought, feelings, emotions, behaviours, and the consequences of that behaviour. This then breaks down even further into; weighing up the for and against of the thought and coming up with a more rational one.
For instance, a young man talks to his counsellor about worrying that his heart will stop, or he’ll have a heart attack. The counsellor works through a table, like the one below:
Trigger (feelings, thoughts)
Intensity – Percentage (0-100%)
Unhelpful thoughts (How convinced? Percentage? (0-100%)
Behaviours – What you did/didn’t do?
Alternative responses (rational and balanced- fact or opinion?)
re-rate anxiety (0-100%)
What was helpful?
|Sitting down||Reading articles, palpitations||80%||Worried about dying from a heart attack (90%)||Hide away
Called a doctor
Notice more palpitations
|I am young, healthy. These are normal and common symptoms. I am unlikely to suddenly die||50%
Thinking about how common and harmless symptoms are really helped
Try to create a table of your own with the same or similar structure next time a thought comes into your head, and see how you feel afterwards.
The very best thing to do is to try to keep busy and distracted, and keep away as much as possible from the news, media & medical programs. And don’t Google your symptoms! If you really must do any research then at least stick to reputable sources of information, such as NHS patient information.
You could also join a forum about anxiety to let you know you are not alone, one of which is www.Nomorepanic.co.uk
Based in Eastbourne, East Sussex, our team of practitioners cover everything from chiropractic care and sports therapy, to podiatry and nutritional therapy, and have treated thousands of patients across their careers.
If we can help with any of the above please call Lushington Chiropractic on 01323 722499.
By James Revell
6 responses to “Health Anxiety”
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