Hello Brave One!

Here is this week’s spotlight on Health Anxiety/Hypochondriasis:

Health Anxiety is characterized by recurrent and persistent intrusive (unwanted) thoughts, urges or images about one’s health along with compulsive, repetitive behaviors or mental acts aimed at reducing anxiety/distress or preventing a feared outcome from happening, all of which cause distress and impairment in functioning.

Common Health Anxiety Obsessions:

  • Fear of getting or currently having a specific health problem such as dementia, cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, herpes
  • Fear of having an unknown illness that hasn’t even been discovered yet
  • Fear of having mental health disorders outside of OCD (schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder)

Actual Health Anxiety Triggers/Intrusive Thoughts Reported by Clients:

  • What if I’m seeing things that aren’t actually there?
  • What if I forget things because I have dementia?
  • What if my pain never goes away?
  • What if my headaches mean I have a brain tumor?
  • What if I can “catch” a disability just by seeing someone who has the disability?

Common Health Anxiety Core Fears:

  • Death, missing out on life
  • Loss of love, ending up alone
  • Fear of feeling pain forever
  • Loss of identity
  • Loss of meaning/purpose, feeling helpless/hopeless

Common Health Anxiety Compulsions:

  • Checking yourself for symptoms of illness/disease
  • Google-searching your symptoms
  • Researching illnesses/diseases
  • Repetitively going to the doctor/”doctor shopping” (excessive doubt can manifest as feeling you can’t trust any one doctor but need to get multiple opinions to be sure)
  • Persuading your doctor to administer specific tests/procedures, getting re-tested excessively
  • Avoiding going to the doctor
  • Ruminating about symptoms/disease
  • Reassurance-seeking/self-reassurance
  • Telling/confessing any even slight symptoms to a loved one
  • Testing to see how you feel/if symptoms are present
  • Avoidance of saying certain words related to the illness
  • Avoidance of watching/reading content about the illness/disease

**Please note: themes help us get more information out to individuals suffering with OCD, but anything can become obsessive and/or compulsive and themes can overlap. It’s also important to remember that the content of OCD is not important, it’s all the same mechanisms responding to different triggers. We recommend working with a therapist trained in ERP.

Stay Brave!

– The OCD MN Team