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Health Anxiety

Health anxiety, sometimes referred to as hypochondria, is broken down into two formal disorders: Illness Anxiety Disorder and Somatic Symptom Disorder. Both involve a constellation of worry thoughts, anxious habits, and preoccupation with physical symptoms. Sometimes those with health anxiety will seek out reassurance from doctors who will run tests or give confirmation on a feared health outcome.

Symptoms: Illness Anxiety Disorder

  • anxiety based on the belief that physical symptoms are a sign of serious illness

  • inability to put the fears aside despite medical clearance or reassurance

  • there is no diagnosed medical issue, but the fear is based on everyday body sensations and misinterpreting them as illness or disease

  • the anxiety around the fearful belief is the main distress rather than the physical symptom itself

  • seeking out doctors for reassurance or conversely avoiding them for fear of bad health news

  • experiencing little relief from doctors visits and medical tests (uncertainty persists)

  • searching the internet for possible diagnoses and/or for reassurance

  • hypervigilance around body sensations

Symptoms: Somatic Symptom Disorder

  • verified physical symptom present, like pain or chronic dizziness, that usually carry a diagnosis

  • frequent and persistent worry about the physical symptoms

  • overestimating danger or risk

  • doubting the usefulness/helpfulness of medical care and interventions based on experience

  • fearful view of body sensations, and everyday pain and discomfort

  • frequent body scans and checks

  • unusually sensitive to side effects of medication

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