Subscribe

Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis
[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Counselling, Psychotherapy, CBT & Mindfulness in Central London & Online

Health Anxiety Therapy in London and Online

COVID-19 notice: Online and Telephone Health Anxiety Counselling, Therapy and CBT are now provided for continued care, support and safety. Get a free 15min consultation or book a session here.

We’re here to help. No matter what.

It is common to worry about your health from time to time. It can even be helpful as it can drive us to make changes to improve our health, such as making good changes to our diet, stopping smoking and getting more exercise. 

However, some people worry excessively about their health which can become overwhelming and it can take over their lives. This is called health anxiety or hypochondria. If this is something you are experiencing you do not have to keep suffering on your own. Our therapists at Therapy Central can help you tackle this anxiety to help you get your life back on track. 

The medical term for health anxiety is hypochondria. However, due to its negative connotations we prefer the term health anxiety which will be used from now on.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Health Anxiety?

Health anxiety involves worrying excessively about your health when there is no or very little medical reason to do so. You may worry you have cancer, you are having a stroke and/or you have HIV/AIDS when there is no medical evidence to support this. 

There are various behaviours that often characterise people with health anxiety. You may relate to all or just some of the following:

  • Often seek reassurance from others (GP, family, friends) about your health concerns
  • Regularly research your symptoms online 
  • Check your body frequently
  • Avoid anything associated with illness, such as your GP surgery, hospitals and being around people who are unwell

Worrying excessively about health and engaging in some/all of the above behaviours can begin to significantly interfere in various aspects of people’s lives, such as work, relationships and leisure activities. This can lead onto other emotional problems, such as depression. It is also common for people to experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) alongside health anxiety.

What Causes Health Anxiety?

There are various experiences that can increase the likelihood of developing health anxiety:

  • Having experienced a serious physical health problem yourself or someone close to you has had a serious physical health problem
  • Death of someone close to you
  • Having a family member with health anxiety
  • Hearing negative/worrying information in the media e.g. hearing about people being misdiagnosed and hearing of serious and unpleasant illnesses

The above experiences can lead people to feel that they are vulnerable and this can trigger people to worry lots about their health. 

What Keeps Health Anxiety Going?

Let’s now look at some of the ways in which health anxiety can be maintained:

1- Anxiety can bring on various unpleasant and seemingly strange physical sensations in the body, such as an increase in heart rate, tingling sensations, muscles tension and difficulties concentrating. Additionally, aside from anxiety, we all experience minor discomfort in our bodies from time to time, such as a reduction in energy, pain and a lump or bump.

If a person is already worrying a lot about their health they may misinterpret the above physical sensations as a serious illness. This can, in turn, increase anxiety and then the physical sensations can intensify. Moreover, when we worry excessively about our health, our attention on internal physical sensations heightens and so the physical sensations mentioned above are noticed more easily! To add to this, it is a well-known phenomenon that the more we focus in on a physical sensation the more the sensation intensifies! 

2- It is common to want to seek advice and reassurance from others about physical sensations that are worrying you. You may have received the message from those around you that the physical sensations you experience, such as tingling and pain, are “all in your head”. When seeking medical advice your physical problems may have been brushed aside. This may then lead you to worry that your physical problems have not been thoroughly investigated which feeds your anxiety even more. Alternatively, it could be that your Doctor agrees to arrange medical investigations and they show that there is nothing medically wrong. This may be reassuring, however this is short lived. People may then worry that something has been missed and continue to worry excessively. They then increasingly seek reassurance to feel that short term sense of relief.

How Does Therapy Help Health Anxiety?

In the early stages of therapy, your therapist will help you to gain an in-depth understanding of your health anxiety; how it developed and how it is being maintained. This in itself can be empowering and can also inform how to take steps to overcome it. You can use the therapeutic space to explore your worries and the challenges they present, including the detrimental impact it has been having upon your life in a supportive, non-judgemental environment. Your physical sensations are very much real. However, if medical causes for the physical sensations have been ruled out and you are continuing to worry excessively about your health, you will be helped to learn that rather than being a sign of a serious illness they are often due to your normal physiological responses. Your health anxiety therapist can also help you to learn various coping strategies to tackle your health anxiety.

What are the Best Therapy Approaches for Health Anxiety?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the therapy approach of choice for health anxiety. This is because lots of research and clinical experience suggests many people with health anxiety benefit from it. In CBT for health anxiety, the behaviours you engage in due to your worries will be explored. You will most likely learn that although they help you to cope with your anxieties in the short term, they worsen your anxiety in the longer term. You will be helped to challenge your worries and discover that your anxiety surrounding health contributes to you feeling unpleasant physical sensations, as opposed to being attributable to a serious illness. Over the course of therapy you will become better equipped to manage your health worries. This will enable you to return to living your life whilst not being held back by your worries. Below is a common vicious cycle that people with health anxiety experience which is based upon CBT:

1- Trigger: feeling unwell

2- Thoughts/Thinking processes: Hypervigilance to changes in the body, Increased attention on detected changes in the body, “I have cancer, I am going to die”

3- Feelings: Anxiety, stress, overwhelmed

4- Behaviour: Seek reassurance from friends, family and medical professionals, check symptoms frequently by checking for lumps, search symptoms online (Reduces anxiety in the short term but this is short lived)

5- Physical: increased heart rate, tension in the body, lumps/soreness appearing (due to excessive prodding!), fuzzy head, tingling

Other psychological approaches which have shown to be helpful for people with health anxiety include, mindfulness-focused therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). 

What are the Benefits of Therapy for Health Anxiety?

You do not have struggle with health anxiety on your own. Research and clinical experience shows that therapy for health anxiety can lead to various positive improvements including:

  • Reduction in worries
  • Improved mood
  • Improved quality of life
  • No longer avoid difficult situations due to your anxiety
  • Ability to engage in more social activities

And even better news is that evidence suggests that the benefits listed above are often long lasting.

How long Does Therapy For Health Anxiety Last?

The length of therapy depends upon the severity of health anxiety. Some people can make significant improvements in six sessions. Usually people can benefit greatly from six to twenty four sessions in total.Managing Anger brings back balance

Health Anxiety Counselling, Therapy & CBT in London and Online

If you are looking for health anxiety therapy in Central London or Online, at Therapy Central we can help you learn the strategies you need to start controlling your anxiety and understand its causes. As a result, you’ll be enabled to make the crucial changes to bring balance and fulfilment  back into your life.

It’s not easy to recognise that you might have a health anxiety issue, but remember that you are not choosing to feel anxious, and thus it’s largely not your fault to feel the way you do. You are not alone. 

Start Beating Health Anxiety in London and Online today

Get professional help with Health Anxiety in London and Online today. Contact us for a free 15 min consultation with a Health Anxiety Therapist to see if our help would fit your needs. You can also get in touch via email at info@therapy-central.com or call us at (+44) 020 348 82797.

Our comfortable and confidential therapy rooms are conveniently located 3 min walk from Oxford Circus station, in Central London (see map below). Change starts with Talking!

 

 

Authors:

Dr Raffaello Antonino, Counselling Psychologist

Dr Amy Smith, Counselling Psychologist

 

Image Credits:
Background vector created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com
Business vector created by dooder – www.freepik.com
Home vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

members of:

Call Now Button