Living With Health Anxiety Disorders – Excessive worrying about sickness can become a sickness and the experience of it could be very disabling

Nosophobia could be defined as the persistent, irrational fear of contracting a specific serious illness like cancer or AIDS

While it is natural for us to get concerned for our health once in a while but what if this concern starts to interfere with our daily life activities? Do you often find yourself looking up some disease online and thinking you might have that? Are you always dissatisfied when your medical reports come out to be negative? Do you visit your doctor too often or not at all? If the answer is yes, then you might be suffering from an illness anxiety disorder or health anxiety disorder. The health condition can cause otherwise healthy people to be worried about their health to the extent of causing crippling fear of contracting some serious illness like AIDS and cancer. People affected by the condition can spend days worrying about their health when clinically they are absolutely fine.

Health Anxiety Disorder as recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can have some variations. You could be specifically fearful of contracting one disease for instance cancer or you might be generally fearful of all diseases. Sometimes you might develop some symptoms with no diagnosable cause. The three conditions can be recognized as nosophobia (fear of a specific illness), illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder. Excessive worrying about sickness can become a sickness and the experience of it could be very disabling.

Nosophobia: Fear of a specific illness

Nosophobia could be defined as the persistent, irrational fear of contracting a specific serious illness like cancer or AIDS. The number of people affected by the condition saw a spike during the pandemic. Affected people mostly fear life-threatening illnesses. The factors contributing to the development of the sickness could be a family history of a certain sickness, having a traumatic health experience in the past, or exposure to too much health-related news. The disease is also called medical students’ disease as it might also develop as a result of spending too much time doing research or reading about a disease. A person affected by the condition might have additional phobias like a fear of getting cancer or a heart attack. Sometimes the subconscious fear of death could also contribute to the fear.

Illness Anxiety Disorder versus Somatic Symptom Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder earlier called hypochondria unlike Nosophobia involves more general worries around illness. People affected by this condition might not think about one particular illness but they exaggerate minor symptoms such as the sore throat or gastrointestinal disturbances as serious illnesses which other healthy people might not take notice of generally. For instance, they might think of a minor headache as a symptom of a brain tumour.

There is yet another psychological condition that might have similar symptoms. In Somatic Symptom Disorder, you might have the same overwhelming thoughts about your health, however, you might also develop symptoms without any diagnosable cause such as pain, weakness or shortness of breath. In most cases, medical reports might show no clinical evidence of any condition but the person might have physical symptoms due to persistent distress.

How to know if you have health anxiety disorder?

When you develop a cold and all you can think about is cancer or if you find yourself uncontrollably self diagnosing yourself with conditions you searched for online, then you must know that you might be suffering from health-related anxiety. The following might be some other symptoms-

  1. You seem to overanalyze normal bodily functions such as heartbeat, bowel movements and others.
  2. You might develop a fear of minor abnormalities like a cold or sore throat
  3. You might find yourself regularly checking signs of illness
  4. You find yourself excessively talking about your health
  5. You are never satisfied with an all-good health report
  6. You might fear visiting a doctor in fear that they might find some serious illness in you
  7. On the contrary, you might be paying too frequent visits to your clinician for reassurance
  8. You might avoid people or places that might pose a health risk of some sort. Home Page

Living With Health Anxiety Disorders

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