Health anxiety sufferers become obsessed by their physical self. Sufferers find it impossible to divert their thoughts away from constantly monitoring their body for aches, pains or strange sensations. Health anxiety causes sufferers to check their pulse, listen to their hearts, take their blood pressure and study medical information, surfing the internet to find explanations of each and every symptom, sensation or thought which arises.
Health anxiety is very destructive. It causes the sufferers to focus on themselves, disregard others, their work, their daily routines and even their personal hygiene. Sufferers often become withdrawn from society, developing social phobia or agoraphobia to prevent exposure to anxiety provoking situations.
Sufferers become concerned that ‘something else’ is wrong with them, that they might have an undiagnosed or unrecognised condition, which is secretly ‘attacking’ them.
Health anxiety is most common amongst sufferers and is caused solely by the ‘what if’ thoughts caused by the underlying anxiety disorder. ‘What if’ thoughts are often also called ‘fear of consequences’ thoughts; these are the thoughts, which present to you a negative, anxious scenario, which represents the absolute worst case.
Many anxiety sufferers experience a variety of scenarios created by ‘what if’ thoughts; these can often be about health but may also be about harming oneself or another person or maybe about sexual themes. All of these thoughts are the product of the anxiety reaction and should not be feared.
The brain produces these ‘what if’ thoughts as a result of an overreaction of the ‘flight or fight’ response and once the sufferer has ‘practiced’ these thoughts, by reinforcing them with behaviours such as researching and constantly monitoring their body, it becomes habitual.
This health anxiety habit is powerful, infiltrating every element of the sufferer’s life.