health anxiety (hypochondria)
Health anxiety (sometimes called hypochondria) is when you spend so much time worrying you're ill, or about getting ill, that it starts to take over your life. It's an anxiety condition that is often housed within the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) spectrum of disorders.Those affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea that they are currently (or will be) experiencing a physical illness.
Those who are affected by health anxiety/illness phobia are convinced that harmless physical symptoms are indicators of serious disease or severe medical conditions. For example, if a person experiencing health anxiety feels their chest is getting tight, they may believe that they are having a heart attack. Those with health anxiety frequently misinterpret physical symptoms of anxiety as a sign of an impending physical health problem.
You may have health anxiety if you:
- constantly worry about your health
- frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain
- are always asking people for reassurance that you're not ill
- worry that a doctor or medical tests may have missed something
- obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media
- avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes
- act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities)
Anxiety itself can cause symptoms like headaches or a racing heartbeat, and you may mistake these for signs of illness.